Making Room for Religious Concepts in Secularism

A good collection of writings at the New Statesman about accommodating the positive attributes of religion into a secularist society.

After God: What can atheists learn from believers?

There is so much talk of the god-shaped hole, it is easy to forget that the challenge of our times is not to measure it, but to try to fill it…

Psychoanalysis and priests (Alain de Botton):

There is also, in a serious sense, an issue of branding. Therapy is hidden, unbranded, depressing in its outward appearance. The priests had far better clothes, and infinitely better architecture.

Imagination and culture (Francis Spufford):

The world cannot be disenchanted. Even advocacy for disenchantment becomes, inexorably, comically, an enchantment of its own, with prophets, with heresies and with its own pious mythography.

Morality (Jim Al-Khalili):

… what I, and many other atheists, take issue with is the arrogant attitude that religious faith is the only means of providing us with a moral compass – that society dissolves without faith into a hedonistic, anarchic, amoral, self-gratifying decadence. This is not only nonsense, but intellectually lazy.

Religion as a stepping stone (Karen Armstrong):

Religion is a form of practical knowledge, like driving or dancing. You cannot learn to drive by reading the car manual or the Highway Code; you have to get into the vehicle and learn to manipulate the brakes. The rules of a board game sound obscure and dull until you start to play, and then everything falls into place.

Self-perpetuating arguments (Richard Holloway):

The big frustration is how to deal with the circularity of the claims that are made by the exponents of revealed theology. If you ask them how they know that the words they quote came from God and not just another human being, the answer comes back, “Because the Bible or the Quran or the Whatever tells us so” – and we are no further on.