I have come across Alain de Botton’s lecture on religion today and I felt a pang in my heart as in front of a snobbish shallow output of how a British (with a French name) considers religion. Basically, Alain de Botton cuts across the tender funny jokes of the British “constituency” and the tough edges of pure spiritual calls, which enraged and disgusted me simultaneously. Tinged with the mild common sense of the same Anglo-Saxon Bildung, religion resembles more a heresy of codified rights intertwined with the worldwide imperialism of tolerance and the self-postulating supposition of innate equal human beings before the rights conferred to them by laws. Alain de Botton mismatches citizenship for humanity and he is so excited and exhilarated by his naïve “discovery” that he coins it vulgarly as a sort of Atheism 2.0 – what’s that to be an atheist in the Internet age? Does it mean anything beyond the crispy surface of mere words?
Alain de Botton pleads for a peculiar kind of distilling religion, separating what it is supposedly useful out of it from what is menacing, namely the deep dogmas and the sheer fanatic belief instilled in religious dogmas. For crying out loud: don’t you find it embarrassing to apply the rules of vulgar utilitarianism for the sake of preserving the beauty of the Renaissance artists or the magnificence of Shakespeare’s works? Do we employ religion as a means to yield more esthetic satisfaction? What sort of distorted ill-bred religious spirit are we talking about? That is not even close to religion: it is more a bewildering mystical satisfaction which does not have anything in common with the hard-boiled feelings of real religious persons. Snap out of it: Alain de Botton’s sermon cogently pursues a non-religious adaptation of religion itself. No sane human being would take his advice for granted! The common folk would just separate the uses and abuses of religion and cast the genuine religious spirit aside. I felt enraged by Alain de Botton’s call for what I would reckon as another Hawkins-like disparaging account of religion.
He is shallow and meek. De Botton cuts right through the heart of the matter: believing in God and holding tight to one’s enlightened view of religion, in other words, safeguarding what is best left from religion: the cultural relics poured into secular works of art. Rembrandt was not a propagandist of the Christian faith: he was an artist in a Christian world. His mindset was not set to prove anything since he wasn’t paid by the clergy in the name of an outrageous propaganda fide. Rembrandt painted as an artist and didn’t give it much thought if he was a Christian artist or not. He breathed Christianity through all his body. Unfortunately, Alain de Botton must have never read Hegel’s Esthetics.
I won’t say more about the cheap self-assurance, the intellectual self-gratification of Alan de Botton’s spiritually-deprecating short lecture, which has plenty in common with the Northern Oxford rhetoric he so much (or so little) alludes to and disparagingly scorns at.
How revolting the last seconds of his exposition are: all seems to have been settled once and for all. The public is satisfied, hands are warmly shaken, there is no room left for doubt and paradox. The roadway to heaven has been cleared off. Praise be the name of Alain de Botton! Of course God does not exist. I pity you Strelnikov as I admonish you as a friend and honor you as an enemy. At least we stepped into a brand new truth: we shouldn’t have other gods before Alain de Botton.