Writer Alain de Botton has announced plans to build a series of temples for atheists in the UK. The first will be a 46 metre-tall black tower designed by Tom Greenall Architects and constructed in London to represent the idea of perspective:
‘Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?’ he asks. ‘It’s time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals’.
Alain de Botton has laid out his plans in a new book, Religion for Atheists, which argues that atheists should copy the major religions and put up a network of new architectural masterpieces in the form of temples.
‘As religions have always known, a beautiful building is an indispensable part of getting your message across. Books alone won’t do it.’
De Botton argues that you definitely don’t need a god or gods to justify a temple. ‘You can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good. That could mean: a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective.’
De Botton has begun working on the first Temple for Atheists. Designed by Tom Greenall Architects, this will be a huge black tower nestled among the office buildings in the City of London. Measuring 46 meters in all, the tower represents the age of the earth, with each centimetre equating to 1 million years and with, at the tower’s base, a tiny band of gold a mere millimetre thick standing for mankind’s time on earth. The Temple is dedicated to the idea of perspective, which is something we’re prone to lose in the midst of our busy modern lives.
De Botton suggests that atheists like Richard Dawkins won’t ever convince people that atheism is an attractive way of looking at life until they provide them with the sort of rituals, buildings, communities and works of art and architecture that religions have always used.
‘Even the most convinced atheists tend to speak nicely about religious buildings. They may even feel sad that nothing like them gets built nowadays. But there’s no need to feel nostalgic. Why not just learn from religions and build similarly beautiful and interesting things right now?’
A black tower, eh? Now what does that remind me of...
Well, I'm sure Dawkins would look stunning in white robes ;)
UPDATE: Tom Greenall, one of the architects who designed the temple(?) explains the project:
Temple to Perspective
Standing 46-metres tall and in the heart of the City of London, the temple represents the entire history of life on earth: each centimetre of its height equates to one million years of life. One metre from the ground, a single line of gold – no more than a millimetre thick – represents the entire existence of humankind. A visit to the temple is intended to leave one with a renewed sense of perspective.
OK, so it would seem the obelisk is one big middle finger raised against Creationism, huh? Funny, since I thought that quarrel was mostly contested on the other side of the Atlantic.
As a designer, I feel it kind of odd to put the golden band that represents mankind at the bottom, although obviously by placing it at the top would make it impossible to see. So how about a thin glowing strip illuminated by LEDs at the top?
Frankly it would have been better if they had designed a wall that mimicked Sagan's Cosmic Calendar, but I guess there were space limitations in the project.