A Temple For Atheists?

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 ;)

[H/T Dezeen]

______________________

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.

Comments

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Delaiah's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
3 days 18 hours

We're talking twelve/thirteen stories here!

OK. At the link the graphic appears to show something strangely akin to a smokestack! Someone in the atheist community needs to stop him NOW.

What kind of feeling is he trying to evoke? Being lost at the bottom of a dark hole? Wait until it is pointed out that the "Temple of Atheism" is a giant, narrow, dour ediface with nothing inside it! Perhaps he will be fortunate to remain unfunded?

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

From what I gathered, the idea is to convey 'perspective'.

Maybe the guy went for the tower approach because he wanted to show how Man's ingenuity has allowed him to reach incredible heights?

But in all honesty, and taking into account the history of obelisks and towers in global architecture, Methinks this guy is just wanting to embark into a 'manhood size' contest ;)

Some of the comments in the Dezeen page were actually pretty good. One person who professed to be an atheist thought it would be better to design a place where Nature would be the predominant element. That I can agree with. Why not a park instead of a tower? A gathering place where they (the atheist community) can organize concerts and gatherings and an a friendly exchange of ideas.

Oh wait —did I say 'friendly'? :P

In the end it doesn't matter. The point is that with these sort of approaches, the atheist movement further confirms what we our critics have been saying all along: that they too are a religious movement.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Delaiah's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
3 days 18 hours

I could envision something with a symbolic maze, maybe a meditation garden, some artwork, and a library. You could even use a tower, but I think it would need an ascent with some eye candy along the way and an observation deck near the top.

A theme of ongoing human accomplishment would seem to be in order, executed in a bright, cheery fashion. The visitor would be encouraged to think, learn, and strive with little "rewards" along the way.

I like the idea of a gathering place.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

I think the Dawks should hire you and I to propose them a better project ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
Last activity:
1 year 6 weeks

Now THAT'S an excellent idea :3

Active instead of passive architecture. Playful, even.

(this makes me think of a character in the Xanth books, that of Humphrey the Magician, who was a big mucky muck who made it so that you REALLY HAD TO WANT TO FIND HIM to even find where he lives and then you had to get past 3 different defenses that were catered to your particular person)

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

Inannawhimsey's picture
Member since:
14 April 2009
Last activity:
1 year 6 weeks

Excellent! A world where everyone can hawk their particular spirituality (what they find to be meaningful) and more fodder for ontological terrorists :3

---------
All that lives is holy, life delights in life.

--William Blake

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

May the biggest pocket wins ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

Rick MG's picture
Member since:
2 May 2004
Last activity:
1 day 3 hours

I can't help but feel Alain de Botton is taking the piss out of his fellow atheists. ;-)

It's also unfortunate for the Church of Atheism that the name Scientology is taken. Besides, don't atheists already have their places of worship? They're called museums, libraries, universities.

~ * ~

@levitatingcat

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 43 min

When I hear someone these days describe themselves as an "atheist" I am almost embarrassed for them. To me it sounds so quaint and childish that anyone would express so much righteous certainty about something they have no way of knowing one way or the other. Nearly all of the self professed atheists I personally know do not do much digging beyond noting that life is a bitch and therefore there can be no higher power. They might as well be announcing that god sits on a golden throne surrounded by angels.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

You know, i don't think I've ever had the chance of encountering one of those in my personal life. Even the people I know that are deeply against organized religion and condemn the crimes of pedophile priests and such --and I share that sentiment!-- never seem in the mood to convince the rest of their friends that following this or that religion is foolish. They just like to laugh at the hypocrisy of the institutions, not the moral views of people.

In that sense they show a respect for the intelligence of religious folks that militant atheists lack.

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

Many of the people commenting on Dezeen came to the same conclusion. Why spend money on a temple, when you can try to improve the education of the masses?

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

cnnek's picture
Member since:
28 June 2006
Last activity:
1 year 19 weeks

Red Pill,

I can understand libraries, not temples! On the other hand, Atheism is a belief system about the unknowable, like the belief systems of other religion. As such, Atheism is a religion. So, on the other hand, Atheism probably needs temples and rituals.

Personally, I don't believe in anything! So, I really don't care!

What do you think?

cnnek

{You Can Teach People How To Think Critically Or What To Think; But, You Can't Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think Critically!!!}

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 43 min

I believe in stuff but I try not to be so righteous about it. The righteousness of some organized religions is just as laughable. Honestly, when I hear someone declare they are an atheist they sound to me like someone saying they are a "Chevy Man" or a "Ford Man." Yeah, ok. Just please keep that to yourself will you. Expressing absolute certainty about something you cannot really know is so ludicrous sounding to me these days. I was a militant atheist as a teenager, but I was also kind of a dumbass too without much experience of life. I knew, as they say, just enough to be an irritating fool.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

So what event steered you away from it?

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

Well, weren't they supposed to be the opposite of Religious Fundamentalism? ;)

And Atheist ritual, by definition, entails and Atheist dogma, and therein lies the whole folly of this nonsensical project .

I try to get rid of as much beliefs in my life as I possibly can. Robert Anton Wilson's philosophy of 'Maybe Logic' appeals to me.

But even though one does not believe in anything, one must care, IMO. Because it is the yearning to know and find out the truth what propels us forward :)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 43 min

"So what event steered you away from it?"

Lately all of the better ghost hunting shows have convinced me that there is at least a side life if not an afterlife. I still have no absolute proof, but my hunches tend more towards the idea that something continues on after death. There is so much amazing evidence now that we can share on the net. However, i do not go around wearing a T-shirt that says "God is next" or something like that. I don't have any urge to cajole anyone into my particular belief system because just for starters the only way for them to be convinced would be for them to have the direct experience themselves. I have interacted with the spirits that used to haunt my father's ranch in Texas, and that was very amazing. I was just one of many people who had direct contact with entities who were supposed to be dead. They would throw stuff around, get in bed with you and screw around with the television remote. I could care less if anyone else believes that or not, but I do often suggest to fundamentalist skeptics that they spend the night in a haunted house and see what happens.

cnnek's picture
Member since:
28 June 2006
Last activity:
1 year 19 weeks

Emlong,

I simply never believed anything about the unknowable. And, as a child, I hated having to fake it; but, I had to play ball. So, that was that.

After life doesn't necessarily relate to religion. It may simply be mental evolution. Physical death may not be mental death. And, I've experienced some evidence that this may be true.

What do you think?

cnnek

{You Can Teach People How To Think Critically Or What To Think; But, You Can't Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think Critically!!!}

cnnek's picture
Member since:
28 June 2006
Last activity:
1 year 19 weeks
red pill junkie wrote:

But even though one does not believe in anything, one must care, IMO. Because it is the yearning to know and find out the truth what propels us forward :)

I meant that I don't care about what other people believe about the unknowable. Besides, what other people believe about the unknowable is none of my business.

Religious fundamentalists and evangelists drive me crazy when they are around. But, I don't have a problem with religious people as long as they can keep to themselves.

What do you think?

cnnek

{You Can Teach People How To Think Critically Or What To Think; But, You Can't Do Both! It Is Better To Teach People How To Think Critically!!!}

emlong's picture
Member since:
18 September 2007
Last activity:
7 hours 43 min

"After life doesn't necessarily relate to religion."

Exactly, but a common "association fallacy" tactic used by unscrupulous skeptics is to lump everything generally perceived as being woo woo into one tranche called "deluded people." It is an old rhetorical trick.

An afterlife is not even proof of "God" either. It just means that existence has more ramifications than we know although I must admit that the the usefulness of Christian exorcism in halting nasty hauntings gives me pause for thought. Time and time again I have witnessed christian iconography and encantations being successfully used to stop malicious hauntings. It could just be a question of the intent behind the ritual, and that other non-christian encantations would have worked just as well. In fact, I have watched some hauntings halted by the afflicted just putting their foot down and saying with heartfelt vehemance, "no mas." By demonstrating they were no longer afraid and just really pissed off the apparent evil left for other parts unknown. That doesn't always work out nicely though. Sometimes the madder you get the badder they get, and there are some entities against which nothing works except getting yourself the hell out of Dodge and hoping they don't follow you.
I have many friends who attend church regularly, and though I don't feel the need or read the Bible much I understand the attraction. One is among a throng of people collectively focusing their intent in good ways.

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
11 hours 48 min

Jesus said to his disciples that whenever 3 or more people gathered in his name, he would be there.

It's interesting to consider. Why not with just 2? or even 1? could this be a hint to the accumulation of intent whenever a sizable group of individuals meet and focus their minds on a common thought?

So in that sense one can appreciate the 'practicality' of communal rituals.

Of course, these type of things can be perceived in other type of gatherings, like a Rock concert for example ;)

It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie
_______________
@red_pill_junkie