Good for philosopher Alain de Botton, who has challenged atheists to consider what virtues they think might add up to a ‘good life’. That’s better than worrying about how to be wealthier, or more attractive.
He has come up with a list of ten:-
Problems? Yes, I think there are some problems with this approach.
First, there is the problem of definition. Sacrifice? – of what, to whom? Hope? – in what, or whom? And I have a major problem with ‘confidence’ as a virtue. Too many of us, I fear think we lack confidence when what we lack is something to be confident of. Julie Andrews singing “I have confidence in me” may work in the Sound of Music, but it doesn’t work nearly so well in real life.
Secondly, there is the problem of motivation. He is deeply mistaken if he thinks that for Christians the main motivators of vitue are hope of reward and fear of punishment. No: the main motivators for us are love and gratitude (towards our God and Saviour). But, as de Botton concedes, reasons for vitue wihin an atheistic world-view are much harder to find. He takes the lofty view that virtue might be an end in itself. But the Christian knows that with our deep-seated tendency to foul things up we need something, and someone, more than that to help us.