Auguste Comte: Atheist Pluralist

Auguste Comte. Inventor of sociology and positivism. Yeah, yeah. Here’s what really impressed me:

Although we tend to think of atheists as not only unbelieving but also hostile to religion, there is a minor tradition of atheistic thinkers who have attempted to reconcile suspicion of religion with a sympathy for its ritualistic aspects. […]

Comte’s thinking on religion had as its starting point a characteristically blunt observation that, in the modern world, thanks to the discoveries of science, it would no longer be possible for anyone intelligent or robust to believe in God. […]

At the same time Comte recognised, as many of his more rational contemporaries did not, that a secular society devoted solely to financial accumulation and romantic love and devoid of any sources of consolation, transcendent awe or solidarity would be prey to untenable social and emotional ills.

Comte’s solution was neither to cling blindly to sacred traditions, nor to cast them collectively and belligerently aside, but rather to pick out their more relevant and secular aspects and fuse them with certain insights drawn from philosophy, art and science. The result, the outcome of decades of thought and the summit of Comte’s intellectual achievement, was a new religion: a religion for atheists, or, as he termed it, a religion of humanity.

Radical.

Dude was way ahead of his time. Prominent modern atheists like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett are so shrill in comparison. Where’s the room for reconciliation in today’s discourse? The respectful space required for reverence and community for non-religious people?

[Alain de Botton @ New Statesman via The Browser]

[photo via Wikipedia]
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July 27, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Reading.

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