The world needs religion even if it doesn’t need God

Thursday 24 January 2013, 8.42pm | The Tabernacle

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God is dead and man has no need of the myths and false consolation that religion offers. That’s the battle-cry of Richard Dawkins and other tough-minded critics of religion. And yet millions cling to their faith, finding value and meaning in the concepts and rituals they adhere to. But is this dichotomy all we have to choose from – prostration or denigration? Some would argue that there’s another way, that it’s possible to remain an atheist and still make use of certain ideas and practices of religion that secular society has failed to engender – the promotion of morality and a spirit of community, for example, and the ability to cope with loss, failure and our own mortality. But is this “religion for atheists” something that would ever catch on? Without belief in the numinous and some form of authority wouldn’t it all fall apart? And do atheists really need sermons and reminders to be good?

Speakers for the motion: Alain de Botton, Grayson Perry

Speakers against the motion: Anne Atkins, Dom Anthony Sutch

Chair: Tony Curzon-Price