Alain’s main thesis is to give a softer face to the atheism portrayed by Richard Dawkins et al. To do this he identifies aspects of religions that he sees as a positive benefit for individuals and society. While he starts his address with “of course there is no god’, he makes his choices on a pick n’ mix basis of the good/useful/insightful aspects of religions. He has been criticised for this approach but defends it by observing that as religions are a human construct – a reflection of culture, this is what we do with music and authors – we don’t just stick with one but enjoy the ‘best bits’ from each. His position is not a rejection of religious praxis, it is a rejection of theology. He aspects he admires from religious practices include: education – especially its repetitiveness, time based rituals – as they provide life with highlights, oratory, practices which involve all senses to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible, art, architecture, organisation – as good as the best of multinational businesses and building of community.
We couldn’t disagree that these aspects when done well, do contribute to a successful church but is that all? Is not a sense of ‘the other’, a sense of the spirit that takes us beyond ourselves to consider others, also an important aspect that Alain is missing?