The philosopher and writer Alain de Botton is proposing to build a 46-metre tower to celebrate a “new atheism” as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins’s “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to non-belief. Alain de Botton’s idea is to borrow the idea of awe-inspiring buildings from religion to give people a better sense of perspective on life.
He plans to build a £1m “temple for atheists” among the international banks and medieval church spires of the City of London. De Botton said he chose the country’s financial centre because he believes it is where people have most seriously lost perspective on life’s priorities.
“Normally a temple is to Jesus, Mary or Buddha, but you can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good,” he said. “That could mean a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective. Because of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens atheism has become known as a destructive force. But there are lots of people who don’t believe but aren’t aggressive towards religions.”
The temple features a single door for visitors who will enter as if it were an art installation. The roof will be open to the elements and there could be fossils and geologically interesting rocks in the concrete walls. Details within the temple aim to evoke more than 300m years of life on earth. Each centimetre of the tapering tower’s interior has been designed to represent a million years and a narrow band of gold will illustrate the relatively tiny amount of time humans have walked the planet. The exterior would be inscribed with a binary code denoting the human genome sequence.
The philosopher said he has raised almost half the funds for the project from a group of property developers who want to remain anonymous. He hopes to find the rest of the money with a public appeal, and construction could start by the end of 2013 if permission is granted by the Corporation of London.
De Botton has insisted atheists have as much right to enjoy inspiring architecture as religious believers.
Within my project I am going to take some of Alain Botton’s ideas of a new atheism forward through my ‘Quasi-church’, but looking to develop a project in France as they continue to grow as one of the leading nations turning their back on religion.
Below is Alain de Botton’s TED talk on Atheism 2.0.