Alain de Botton about religious & secular life. / by Romain Vennekens

human bones

"I want to look at the way religions go about things as an inspiring starting point for thinking about what secular culture is lacking and still needs."

"I think one of the most interesting things about religious belief is that clearly it comes from a place of vulnerability. [...] That pain and vulnerability does not disappear once you decide the belief is no longer true. So you're still left with this huge question.

" I think we have to remember what some of the best features of religion are, and recognize that there can be secular alternatives. Religions, for example, remind us of our common humanity, a humanity shared across races and geographical boundaries. There are hints of this within Christianity, and there are hints of this in Buddhism.

The tribalism is obviously problematic, but I think at their best what religions do is present the stranger in a new light. They offer us a kind of universality, a cosmopolitanism of the mind. This is a move that can take place outside of religion.

Churches and synagogues and mosques are seen as safe places where once you are in them, things can happen that wouldn’t happen outside of the precincts of this space. So they’ve become spaces where the stranger is welcomed, where all kinds of things that might be frowned upon outside are acceptable within, and in that sense, religion acts as a kind of host introducing humans to one another, humanizing them in each other’s eyes.

This seems to me a very valuable exercise, because secular modernity is anonymous. It’s built on the concept of anonymity and that the family is hugely important and the lover is hugely important, but beyond that other forms of association don’t really exist."

Read the full interview here.