Home > Uncategorized > The “Flatland” of Atheism?

The “Flatland” of Atheism?

The New York Times columnist David Brooks recently reviewed the latest book from Alan de Botton, Religion for Atheists, which is an exploration of the religious practices that de Botton believes non-theists could adopt to make their lives “richer.”  Brooks concludes his review with this statement:  “Many of us would rather live frustrated in the company of the believers than fulfilled in this flatland of the atheists.”  (New York Times Book Review, March 18, 2012, p.30.)

Well, that’s an incongruous sentence if I’ve ever heard one.  Life is more “fulfilling” with the atheists, but Brooks would prefer hanging out with people who believe in fairy tales because that is somehow more interesting than the “flatland of the atheists?”  I don’t get it.   If you understand this, please enlighten me by sending in a comment.

In his review Brooks seems to suggest that by jettisoning religion we lose some dimension of joy or transcendence or whatever it is we could keep on  having if we continued to believe the crazy metaphysical claims of religion.   Brooks is dragging out the old canard that if you get rid of God, you are deprived of some sense of joy or transcendence that only religion can offer.

I beg to differ.   Speaking strictly from personal experience of course, I have tried both paths.  I have been both very religious and, now, very non-religious.  And I can tell you I have consistently experienced more wonder and joy about life as a non-theist than I ever did as a theist.  Just last night I had the pleasure of attending an amazing lecture by the biologist, E.O. Wilson.  In the course of the evening Professor Wilson led the audience on an amazing survey of the history of life on this planet, the emergence of eusocial species,  the evolution of the hominid species and how all this impacts who we are today.  His ability to synthesize diverse areas of study was simply jaw-dropping.  Here’s one gem from Wilson’s lecture last night:  “History makes no sense without prehistory.  And prehistory makes no sense without biology.”  That one sentence contains more wisdom than anything I have ever read in the Bible.

So if that’s the “flatland of atheism,”  I’ll take it any day over Brooks’  preference to dwell in the land of make-believe.



  1. April 5, 2012 at 6:21 am

    I wish I could offer the answer to the question you posed but for the same reasons you state I simply cannot. Implying that ‘not’ following a religion will make you feel bad/burdened/alone/ or even uglier, lost, is just another comforting lie shared among believers as far as I am concerned, mostly because it’s scary to believe such things without others around you to worry and feel similar misery. That may be a harsh perspective, but having freed myself from the ‘burden’ of religion, I can honestly say, just has you have, that the wonders of the geology, biography, cosmology and other similar studies have provided me with endless, unburdened, wonder without fear, and that is the most unrestricted feeling I have ever known.

    Thank you for your post!

  2. April 5, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Preacher, I’ve been saying your latest post about biology my whole life. If people understood we grew out of the planet and weren’t put here, it would be a different world. This whacky plutocracy is robbing humanity of Paradise. There’s enough food, shelter, clothing, education, love… to go around, yet the needy go without basic needs. There’s a connection.

    Religion has made life surreal.

    Rich Goscicki, author of Mirror Reversal, now available on Kindle for free.

  3. Jesus
    April 5, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    For fun:

    For serious:
    Mr. Aus, you may be in a relatively unique position in our movement to help explain to the rest of us why theists think the way they do. Do recall, at what you might call the peak of your theism, what would have been your opinion and impression of atheists?

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