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Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

How and why did we choose this "secular sermon" for our podcast. A bit of behind-the-scenes insight that answers these questions — and a chance to watch the full sermon from The School of Life.

Acknowledging a spiritual dimension may have more positive effects on physical and mental health than most people realize.

Watch Steve Martin with the Steep Canyon Rangers sing a special song, since they say atheists don’t have any.

Read highlights of Krista's interview with Alain de Botton, and experience his philosophy in Twitter-form.

Our senior editor's five-word acceptance speech for our Webby Award was highlighted as one of the better speeches of the night by USA Today, PC Magazine, Yahoo News, and Stephen Colbert. Watch it here.

Are non-believers moving out of churches and affiliating with one another like people choosing to speak the same language?

The Senior Religion Editor for the Huffington Post reflects on the death of author and journalist Christopher Hitchens.

Robert Sapolsky asserts that humans have one trait that best defines and distinguishes us from other species: the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in our head, and yet continue on in the face of it.

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A woman reads a rotating placard in the window of The School of Life in London.

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Thank you. I hope that you and Mr De Botton are aware of Secular Humanistic Judaism -- Judaism without God, God language, or prayer. I grew up without any kind of religious experience and raised my son that way. In my early 60's I discovered Secular Humanistic Judaism, which was only founded in 1963, and was happy to find that I could embrace my Jewish heritage and culture without feeling compelled to do or say things in which I could never believe. What a joy!

Once I again, I sit here feeling happily "fed", with new ideas and perspectives to gnaw over the coming days. Often, I come to On Being when I need the reminder that we can speak of any topic with respect and intelligence and curiosity. The questions and conversations you bring to this show affirm humanity and leave me buoyant and ready for another week. Thank you, thank you, thank you for creating this sacred space.

The Catholic dogma of original sin is correct, we are indeed broken, still good but damaged and with tendencies to evil. But about perfectability: we can't be perfect in this world. Yet Jesus told us: "Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect." How can this be? We can't make this world perfect, the world to come is perfect. We can be perfect because we can live with God, and He will perfect us.

Day of Atonement: they say 'sorry' to God mainly, next to each other.

No, many people love the liturgy first.

Not bad, but your view of religion is skewed. Jesus said to Peter 'You are rock, and on this rock I will build my church'. Jesus said the He would build it, i.e. the Catholic faith (and other faiths to the extent that they are true) are not clever things men have put together, but are things people have helped put together by their obedience, obedience to God who is building the Church himself. Religion is not a creation of man but man's response to God.

Jesus said that if you give up everything you will have all these things a hundred fold, and eternal life in the world to come. So you are pointing out the good things God showers on his beloved. You like these things, which is wonderful, and maybe one day you will come to know God.

You're not insulting to believers, you are complimenting the beauty of the life of faith as best you can. Let's pray that one day you will encounter God, which it seems you are preparing yourself for.

Pelikan was a great man. Yes, atheists have a creed, an atheistic creed. Let's hope they remain open to God.

Here you are incorrect: atheism is a dead-end. It won't develop. It has no answer to death or life's problems, and no power to solve them. You are certainly welcome to the wisdom of religion in these areas to address them.

God loves atheists too. Atheists do have souls because every human being has a soul, like it or not. It's not 'the deeper sides' but is the immaterial part - the intellect, free will, memory, etc.

When the soldiers came to John the Baptist and asked what they should do, he told them to be content with their pay, avoid serious moral evil, etc. To an atheist one would say the same: just live a moral life, and even without belief you can be acceptable to God, and perhaps be given the gift of faith.

It doesn't make a spash because it's not an attack on God, which the God delusion was, as ridiculous as it is.

You didn't know that atheism was about attacking religion, now you know. You seem to be an honest atheist. More hope for you.

One would wonder: if you see the beauty of the Vatican, and the goodness of the Church's work around the world, one might conclude that this is only possible because what it believes is true. It reminds me of Malcolm Muggeridge: he wanted to believe in God, and saw the goodness, but couldn't. Then he met Mother Teresa.

I would suggest, if you're interested in wisdom, that you read the encyclicals of the popes- Pope Benedict, Pope Francis, Pope John Paul. If you want to find wisdom to apply to life, you will find a lot there, and it's available to all.

This is very appealing. Who wants to start something in Boston?

I thought that this was a fantastic show, thank you very much.

I listened to the interview with Mr. Botton with interest, but with growing irritation. He began by saying that the most boring think you can ask about any religion is whether or not it is, "true", a position I wholeheartedly agree with, because it exposes what I take to be the basic category error of confusing inner and outer "truths". But then he spent the rest of the talk dividing everything he described between "belief" and "non-belief". So, to me he stopped short of applying the logic of his initial premise fully, which would actually eradicate those categories (belief and non-belief) altogether. If there is no point in asking religion whether it is "true", what sense does it make to speak of belief and non-belief? To me that further move makes all the difference, or at least it makes the difference between breathing new life into existing traditions that are thousands of years old, conserving their accumulated wisdom but ridding them of the mistake of applying a materialistic standard or question of truth to them, thereby rendering them open to the truly liberal and spiritual way forward, and on the other hand the necessity of creating new "secular" religious traditions by picking and choosing what he likes from existing religions, a path which leads more or less to narcissistic self-indulgence, as characterized by his own example of Comte. If only he would follow out the logic of his own conclusions. This discussion seemed not to take into account the enormous integrative work of Ken Wilber on this topic, or the writings of Don Cupitt. They have already shown a more comprehensive way forward. This conversation ultimately disappointed me. Thanks.

How interesting it is to listen to someone who doesn't believe in "God" intensively searching for the experience and good of God.

Thank you for this story on the School of Life. I was listening while driving to work and had one of those moments where I thought I'm going to quit my job and pursue building a School of Life in my town. Thankfully, I quickly realized that I like paychecks and health insurance but it made me think. In many ways listening to On Being is my own little School of Life. It's filling the need I have to learn about living and thinking about being human in spiritual ways that may or may not involve a particular religious background. Thank you for that.

I don't see the need for a "secular temple". If I want to sing with others, I can join a choir. I can go to a cafe or pub or friend if I want to drink & chat. I can turn to my CD collection if I want to listen to Bach. There's nothing stopping me entering a cathedral, or museum, or castle, if I want to encounter great architecture. There are sermons everywhere. This radio programme is partly a sermon, so are de Botton's books.

Great, the emergence and outing of atheists is long overdue.
Where can I find it in London?

very interesting

I wish I could convince you that God exist or maybe I can...?!


Voices on the Radio

De Botton is the author of Religion for Atheists and How Proust Can Change Your Life. He's also the founder and chairman of The School of Life in London.

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