Looking at the title, you probably thought that this is a sequel of (often) controversial religion versus atheism debates. But when you watch the video thoroughly, you understand that it is much more different and worth discussion. In this Ted talk philosopher Alain de Botton suggests his upgraded version of atheistic philosophy: atheism 2.0. According to him, atheism 2.0 stands from ‘stealing’ useful elements from religions and at the same time being consistent to atheistic principles. He claims that atheism should go to the next steps and this philosophy should directly begin from “of course there is no God” phrase rather than debating existence of God. He gives examples of six aspects that ‘secular world’ could learn from religions: education, time arrangement, oratory, physical sermons, art and institutionalisation. While some of his examples are individual matters such as experiencing ‘spiritual moments without belief’, others aspects might carry social implications.
He suggests that modern education institutions should not be limited with teaching ‘information’ or ‘data’, but they also should help people with ‘morality, guidance and consolation’, like churches and mosques do. Also, he argues that universities should return from lectures (he defines it as ‘secular mode of delivery’ that gives ‘a bit of information) to sermon traditions (religious mode) where one can teach how to live. At the first glance, this very attractive opinion seems very objective and beneficial. However, how proper would it be if a public university is preaching morality or the way of living that one or some professors decided to be right? I think such so called ‘secular sermons’ would create a tremendous ‘opportunities’ for brainwashers to imbue any dogmatic ideology to their students. Time arrangement, oratory, physical sermons and art are indeed aspects that most religions embraced in a more natural way and this might be a lesson for modern secular world. Of course, one looking from religious perspective could argue its realization because de Botton excludes believing in the doctrine while religions usually develop them for worshiping purposes. Once it has relatively less social impacts when it is not used to promote dogmatic minds, here, de Boton’s version is undeniably personal choice to practice it or not.
In my opinion, word choice of the speaker in the video reflects his biased opinion. In the beginning of his talk, he prefers the word ‘stealing from religion’ for the benefits of secular world rather than saying ‘learning from religion’ or ‘religion could contribute’ to the whole society. He uncarefully uses the phrase ‘secular world’ without any explanation. Though the word secular obviously means being independent from religion or from any other supernatural beliefs, it does not necessarily mean ‘no religion’ or ‘only atheistic views’. Rather, in my opinion, the secularism and /or ‘secular world’ is usually understood as having multiple religions and non-religions without their influence on political powers. So, he views ‘modern secular world’ as a property of only secular people. Similar proposition is given in the his example of how people ‘replaced religion by culture’. Though he explains it as his personal conclusion from historical facts, he probably would not be able to prove it because religion (and atheism as well) is a part of culture rather than a different concept.
Despite my critical analyzes above, I agree to his central message of pluralism and open-mindness. The speaker’s bias shows how his focus is intended to only one audience. More in-depth explanation of how he views the idea in practice, more objective word choice and focusing on the benefits of the whole society rather than one group would make the message much stronger and fruitful.