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Alain de Botton is a well known philosopher that recently published a new book called "Religion for Atheists". I have not read the book yet (I just ordered it and Amazon shipments are quite slow in Spain) but I would like to give some thoughts about its mains arguments as they appear in its very interesting TED Talk about it.

Alain de Botton thinks that beleiving in God is not ridicolous, I'm not that sure about it, what I am sure and probably thats Alain's point, is that religions as institutions are not ridicolous. They were and somehow they still are powerful giants. So, as far as I understand, the main topic is that just because religions are wrong that does not mean that we can not learn many things from them.

FIRST POINT: Right now religions as institutions are in decay, not good as an exemple were to learn from. The main failure of current religion institutions is THE FAILURE TO ADAPT, to new social circumstance, to new tecnology, political and social ideas, etc... To be rigid, jerarquic, static, etc. could be a good point before, but nowadays it's really bad. You must be flexible, adaptative, responsive, etc...

SECOND POINT: Nowadsay main RELIGIONS LOST THEIR MONOPOLY ON FAITH, and that's not easy to reverse. They have been very successfull in the past bc they had the monopoly on education, adoctrination, ideas, art, culture in general, and faith. Once there is competition (thanks globalization and secularization) there are many more (and new) religions, and churches, etc... than ever before and the old ones. In fact, the main problem for old religions as institutions are new religions, not atheism.

THIRD POINT: Religions have very DIFFERENT INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURES. I think that the conference should be better called "What we can learn from the Church or Christianism". What about Islam? The institutionalization of Islam is very different from Christianity or Hinduism, actually they don't have the rigid, jerarquic and monolithic structure others have. Islams seems to be doing better than the Catholic Church right now (maybe I'm wrong with that). But the main point is that they are different in its institutional structures.

CONCLUSION: So, religous institutions show many differences and are in decay because they are failling in adapting to new technology and social changes (globalization). And what we can learn from them we can also learn it from many other political and social institutions (not only organized, monotheist, religious ones); that are certainly more successfull right now. Every political leader knows how important is to have rituals and brands (rituals, flags, names, founding fathers, etc), how important is to communicate well (that's why they have directors of communication, and press cavinets, etc...) and how important is repetition (slogans, propaganda, etc.) and oratori, and art and artists, and... And the same could be said by the CEO of a multinational company, or the President of a Football Team, a Labour Union, or the General of an Army, etc... So yes, because religions have been very important and succesfull institutions we can learn from them, but I think that if they are in decay is just because other institutions have become more efficent and succesfull so we can learn from them even more. Nowadays, if you want to learn from institutions IT'S BETTER TO LEARN FROM GOOGLE, APPLE, THE STATE, CITY COUNCIL, etc.., or if you prefer very old ones, choose the FAMILY, much more successfull and old than monotheistic religions.


Some points in detail:

1-"I DON'T BELIVE IN RELIGIOUS DOCTRINE, BUT I LIKE THE RITUALS": rituals are social, of course you like them, we all like some of them, bc we are used to them. But, remember how light are nowadays those christian rituals if we compare on a century ago.
2- "BE HAVE SECULARIZED BADLY" I don't agree but I understand I'll have to read the book for further explanations (hopely). And so, point 3.

3- "RELIGIOUS GIVES US ASSISTANCE, GUIDANCE (AS CHILDREN), UNIVERSITIES DON'T"- True! But, should they? Or should this be done at schools and highschools? But the main problem is, how this should be done? What is to be teached/learned? Can we agree about a subject that includes values, thinking, spirtual guidance? Alain believes we are in a moral crisis, we need guidance, maybe some people do have this needs, but have to be all this imposed to everyone?. I see it from another point of view... We accept adoctrinantion for children about relgion and football, we think that's right to convert our children to christian, islam or Real Madrid's faith (and identity, of course) but we don't think its good for exemple to make them join the communist party. Why? Open dabate on eduacation. My point would be values have to be part of the education system, sure, not necessarily religious ones. Human rights, civism and responsability are a must, but I also should be mandatory to learn about rights and duties (children should learn how democracy works and their rights in its system).

4- "SERMONS WANT TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND CONFERENCES JUST TO GIVE YOU SOME INFORMATION": Not sure about that either. Sermons sometimes just want you not to change anything. Second, every political speech, commercial, etc.. is trying to make changes in your life. Third, and most important, information can change your life, can't it? It has happened to myself in many issues and I saw it happen many times in my students. When you learn about the global warming you are more oriented to behave ecologically. That's what learning is about.

5-REPETITION IS THE WAY TO LEARN: "We learn by repeating 10 times the same". I don't agree, we don't have time to think when we keep on repeating! That's what commercials are about, and adocrtrination. I don't think that's good. What about divergent or critical thinking? That's not moral decay!!!

6-CALENDARS: Of course calendars are very important. That's why there is the national day, the day against cancer, the labours day, etc..

7-LOOK AT THE MOON: if you are obligated to look at the moon there is no chance that you see anything. They need you to want to look. Soft power, batlle for hearts and minds, even Bush knew that. Commercials know how to do that much better, again.

8-ORATORI:"Convincing way of saying it, talk well". Form over information. Well, I think that all CEOs and TEDtalkers, and commercials know it. It tooks centurys for the Catholic church to accept messis not in latin and now I have not seen any with powerpoints!

9-ART IS ABOUT PROPAGANDA: Well, I think Andy Warhol already noticed that. Sad thought! Not all modern art is abstract and difficult, pop art knows it. But good idea to re-arrenge art exhibitions!!!

11- ORGANIZATIONs AND INSTITUTIONS: "They are powerfull, massive, multinational, collborative and highly disciplined." Religious became institutionalized and then they became political, not only moral and spiritual ones. As institutions they want to survive, to expand, to win, to impose. Like enterprises, football teams, banks or labour unions. I think that enterprises are much better at it than religions right now.

12- PILGRAMAGES: Travel, etc... Backpacking is about that! The Apalachian Trail, mountain hking,etc. Traveling is not a religous invention!!! If you say pilgrimages are good as an excuse for traveling I would say there are many more (and better) excuses for doing so.

13: RELIGIONS ARE TOO IMPORTANT TO BE LEFT TO THE RELIGIOUS ALONE: I understand it sounds good and plays with the "catch phrase" (war is too important to be left to generals), but I don't see the point. Nowadays religious institutions are in decay, we should learn from the successfull ones and left the decaying ones, decay in peace!

I can't wait to read the book!!!

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