Alan de Botton's Ten Commandments for Atheists


So, they weren't really commandments, for atheists or anyone else. They were more like The Foundation For A Better Life billboards.

"Resilience." It's a good thing. Sure it is, Alan. But what are you going to say to the inevitable next question, which is "why? Why should we keep going if there's no afterlife?" Me, I'm fine with it, but lots of other people are definitely not.

And if you're going to call something "Ten Commandments for Atheists," maybe you should shoehorn in a couple of specific suggestions for how to be a good atheist as opposed to the asshole stereotype.

How about this: "Don't evangelize! That's one of the two major problems with religion. Besides, it's silly to think that other adults haven't been asking themselves these same questions and haven't -long ago- reached some fairly solid conclusions. So don't preach: that's what the people you don't want to be like do."
Got another one! "Don't let emotions rule your life! They will anyway, so the real challenge in this world isn't to 'get in touch with your feelings' so much as it is knowing when to tell your feelings to shut the fuck up because logic has a job to do, too."

Ahh! Gimme a book contract!
As a list of universal virtues, it's fine. I wouldn't necessarily consider it an improvement on Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues, but I suppose Botton's version is a bit more modern.

The title is very problematic, however. Penn Jillette's Ten Commandments for Atheists is more apt. He takes the ten commandments and finds the universal principle in each in order to adapt them to nonbelievers.

By taking a list of higher order, universal virtues and framing it as a decalogue for non-Judeo-Christians, Botton is insinuating that religion is already teaching its followers patience, tolerance, respect for other beliefs, etc. and that atheists are lacking and in need of direction in that regard.

If anything it's the other way around. He should call this ten new and improved commandments for believers. Or better yet, refrain from judging whether its believers or atheists that are more in need of a reminder to be nice and just market his list to all society, as Benjamin Franklin did.