Religion for Atheists


De Botton looks around and sees a secular society denuded of high spiritual aspiration and practical moral guidance. Centuries ago, religions gave people advice on how to live with others, how to tolerate other people’s faults, how to assuage anger, endure pain and deal with the petty corruptions of a commercial world. These days, he argues, teachers, artists and philosophers no longer even try to offer such practical wisdom. “We are fatefully in love with ambiguity, uncritical of the Modernist doctrine that great art should have no moral content or desire to change its audience,” he writes. Museums were once temples for the contemplation of the profound. Today, he says, they offer pallid cultural smorgasbords: “While exposing us to objects of genuine importance, they nevertheless seem incapable of adequately linking these to the needs of our souls.” Visitors “appear to want to be transformed by art,” de Botton observes, “but the lightning bolts they are waiting for seem never to strike. They resemble the disappointed participants in a failed séance.”

more from David Brooks at the NY Times here.