From my friend Patrick Mitchel, in Dublin, who heard a lecture from Daniel Dennett:
Daniel Dennett, while proclaiming with utter certainty the end of all religion, is a very religious atheist indeed.
As the evening wore on, it felt more and more like listening to a rather optimistic, naive, kind-hearted yet legalistic preacher in church.
Moral Behaviour: the entire thrust of his talk was an exhortation to good and decent and moral behaviour. These are the sorts of values that should shape our behaviour and our world, let’s commit to and work for them.
Mission: he talked of the need to build a missionary movement. Let’s take the secular good news out to the world and make it a better place. His closing words were ‘Let’s do it’. The good news bit was negative – the end of all religion.
Worship: he wanted to inspire us with hymns and get us emotionally inspired, excited, joyful and happy.
Community: Dennett offered the vision of democratic networks emerging of people working towards a common vision of improving the world. He even suggested that this new atheist movement might consider buying defunct churches in which to meet (he didn’t say what they would do there. Sing atheist songs?).
Eschatological Hope: his whole lecture was built around a narrative of hope – a future vision of a better world (without religion) to inspire us to work passionately in the here and now to bring it about.
Doctrine of Man: Dennett has great faith in humankind. He asserted (while also describing himself as an ‘objective engineer’ of the human consciousness) that ‘People just want to be good.’ Wow.
This is simply a particular religious discourse wrapped up in secular garb. It is all about purpose, identity, meaning beyond ourselves, morality and ethics.