If you’ve read our book, Coffee Shop Conversations, you will remember that today’s “spirituality” and “boutique religion” is driven by secularism. This secularism allows a picking and choosing of favorable aspects of religion that appeal to us or are useful to us because, ultimately, those religions aren’t true and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
Alain de Bottom gives a talk at TED on Atheism 2.0. And you can hear this idea in the opening minutes. He lets the cat right out of the bag. It’s refreshing when secularism admits what it’s doing.
But listen to the talk. Hear all the “usefulness” of religion that atheism can borrow. In an era in which people are walking away from religion and all of it’s “rituals,” the secularist and the atheist are discovering that rituals are important for human life. Without it, secularism has “gaps,” Bottom admits.
In the Q&A, Bottom says that, while the missing ingredient for atheists in borrowing form religion is a higher spiritual being and mystery, he says that isn’t important. It’s not about the HIGHER BEING, it’s about the FEELING that can be gained through science and pondering the dizzying size of the universe.
Here are his words:Absolutely. I, like many of you, meet people who say things like, “But isn’t there something bigger than us, something else?” And I say, “Of course.” And they say, “So aren’t you sort of religious?” And I go, “No.” Why does that sense of mystery, that sense of the dizzying scale of the universe, need to be accompanied by a mystical feeling? Science and just observation gives us that feeling without it, so I don’t feel the need. The universe is large and we are tiny,without the need for further religious superstructure. So one can have so-called spiritual moments without belief in the spirit. [italic mine]
Notice the shift: religion says there’s actually something going on that is more than the material world. Bottom turns that thing into a feeling. He says, “One can have so-called spiritual moments without believe in the spirit.” Talk about redefining terms… a spiritual experience without the spiritual? Is that akin to a wine experience without the wine or a friend experience without a friend? Is that the point? Does that coincide with honest human experience? Would a man who lost his legs in war be just as happy to know he hopped into a simulator and had a walking experience without actually walking? If it’s a feeling you are after, the secularist simply says “look at big things and you’ll get the spiritual feeling.”
In Christian terms, this is weird and unworthy of us. At the end of the day, when the world is against you and you have no feelings at all, you can know there is Someone who loves, who sees, and who will bring justice. Looking at the universe will not bring you this any more than buying a wedding ring for yourself does not mean there is a marriage partner who loves you. Buying a picture of a judge to hang on your wall doesn’t mean real justice took place for the man who kidnapped your child.
This is classic secularism at work, setting up a flat cardboard look-alike without any substance. Ultimately it sounds hollow because it lacks the big thing that religions offer: this world is here for a reason and, apart from the will of other men, you have a place in it.