Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Writer pens atheists' commandments

A writer's 10 commandments for atheists provide an alternative to the Christian version

Writer Alain de Botton has created a set of 10 new commandments for atheists.

The best-selling author said he was unveiling his Manifesto for Atheists in an attempt to promote overlooked virtues including resilience and humour.

De Botton, whose work includes a stint as a writer in residence at Heathrow Airport, said he came up with the idea in response to a growing sense that being virtuous had become "a strange and depressing notion", while wickedness and evil had a "peculiar kind of glamour".

He said: "There's no scientific answer to being virtuous, but the key thing is to have some kind of list on which to flex our ethical muscles. It reminds us that we all need to work at being good, just as we work at anything else that really matters."

The 10 commandments for atheists are: Resilience. Keeping going even when things are looking dark; Empathy. The capacity to connect imaginatively with the sufferings and unique experiences of another person; and Patience. We should grow calmer and more forgiving by getting more realistic about how things actually tend to go.

The list continues, Sacrifice. We won't ever manage to raise a family, love someone else or save the planet if we don't keep up with the art of sacrifice; Politeness. Politeness is very linked to tolerance, the capacity to live alongside people whom one will never agree with, but at the same time, can't avoid; and Humour. Like anger, humour springs from disappointment, but it's disappointment optimally channelled.

It concludes, Self-Awareness. To know oneself is to try not to blame others for one's troubles and moods; to have a sense of what's going on inside oneself, and what actually belongs to the world; Forgiveness. It's recognising that living with others isn't possible without excusing errors; Hope. Pessimism isn't necessarily deep, nor optimism shallow; and Confidence. Confidence isn't arrogance, it's based on a constant awareness of how short life is and how little we ultimately lose from risking everything.

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