Culture Fit

Photograph of Alain de Botton

Over the course of this term, my main takeaway from those who subscribe to religions is, it’s not so much about God and the answer to the source of everything, but more about an establishment, providing support. This is an idea I have heard many times throughout my life but never come to appreciate — as there is such a great emphasis from Atheists of the negative consequences of abiding by and misinterpreting the messages in religious scriptures.

An individual who has approached this issue from an alternate, constructive perspective is Alain de Botton. An author and philosopher who speaks on many matters, providing solutions to many of lives wicked problems, now routed through his School Of Life, and in 2012 provided his solution to the religion debate. In a sea of mostly hollow debate, based on emotion and principle guiding individuals answers to the existence of a higher being or not — de Botton deviates with an alternative way of thinking.

He claims to be taking the conversation a step further by diverting his focus on the abstract practices and values of religions establishments in general, rather than the highly contentious messages and practices.

However, here is no reason to say that should this idea be carried through and these abstract values would then be a source debate as there is just as much to dispute about their abstract practices as there are already debated in broad societal structures such as Capitalism and Socialism.

But this is not what de Botton is trying to do, his core premise revolves around his idea of ‘cherry-picking’ what he believes to be beneficial practices and values from religions in general to be applied in a secular society. He names this concept Atheism 2.0, in which he supposes the debate over the existence of religion in over, and encourages us to ‘engage with some of the ambitions of religion’.

Any topic of contention would yield enthused angst, however, religion is in a sub-category of topics taboo for many to speak critically of. On the face of it, de Botton appears to be mindfully respectful of the religious customs he is cherry picking, but by diving deep into specific values of religions, he dismissed the holistic embodiment of a given practice in one’s lifestyle.

Cherry picking is a common practice in the design industry during the creative process, thus it may appear an ideal approach. However, design practice is highly experimental with the consequences in many cases being sandboxed with a limited reach for damage.  I feel this idea plays too closely to the Fail fast approach, attempting to take the shortest possible path to a superficially effective result. What de Botton identifies as successful customs in religions, works within these groups, and his assumption that they can be applied in the secular world.

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