Secularism has not solved human needs

It is when we stop believing that religions have been handed down from above or else that they are entirely daft that matters become more interesting.

We can then recognize that we invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise.

God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes.

Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists, Hamish Hamilton, 2012, p.12

De Botton assumed that God was ‘invented’ (he doesn’t provide a scintilla of evidence for this). Whilst he is on shaky ground there, he is on sure footing when he points to the needs that remain for the non-believer. An atheist may reject God because of the problem of pain, but he must still experience pain in this world. His admission about the selfish nature of humans fits better with the Christian idea of Original Sin not of naturalistic humanism.

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