As any of you who follow @Alaindebotton on Twitter will know by now, the pop-philosopher-cum-architectural proselytiser has been doing fewer 'consolational' tweets than usual lately. First there was his 'A Space for London' project, which cranelifted a fishingboat onto a top of a building at the Barbican, and mighty fine it looked too. That was a cultural, artistic, musical venue though. This time he turns his focus on the more quietly contemplative end of things. Atheists need devotional areas too, even if they're not entirely sure of where that devotion should be directed.
Author Alain de Botton has announced a bold new plan for a series of Temples for Atheists to be built around the UK.
'Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?' he asks. 'It's time atheists had their own versions of the great churches and cathedrals….As religions have always known, a beautiful building is an indispensable part of getting your message across. Books alone won't do it….You can build a temple to anything that's positive and good. That could mean: a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective.'
De Botton has begun working on the first Temple for Atheists. Designed by Tom Greenall Architects, this will be a huge black tower nestled among the office buildings in the City of London. Measuring 46 meters in all, the tower represents the age of the earth, with each centimetre equating to 1 million years and with, at the tower's base, a tiny band of gold a mere millimetre thick standing for mankind's time on earth. The Temple is dedicated to the idea of perspective, which is something we're prone to lose in the midst of our busy modern lives.
De Botton suggests that atheists like Richard Dawkins won’t ever convince people that atheism is an attractive way of looking at life until they provide them with the sort of rituals, buildings, communities and works of art and architecture that religions have always used.
'Even the most convinced atheists tend to speak nicely about religious buildings. They may even feel sad that nothing like them gets built nowadays. But there’s no need to feel nostalgic. Why not just learn from religions and build similarly beautiful and interesting things right now?'
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle