27/01/2012 09:51 GMT | Updated 27/01/2012 09:51 GMT

Alain De Botton Calls For Atheist Temple, Prompting Spat With Richard Dawkins

Philosopher Alain de Botton is calling for a network of “atheist temples” to be built around Britain.

De Botton’s initial proposal for a £1m structure in the City of London prompted a spat with Richard Dawkins, who criticised the costs and declared the very idea of a temple to atheism a contradiction in terms, the Guardian reported.

In his latest book Religion For Athiests, De Botton, says: “You can build a temple to anything that’s positive and good.

“That could mean: a temple to love, friendship, calm or perspective. Why should religious people have the most beautiful buildings in the land?”

But Dawkins hit back with: “Athiests don’t need temples. I think there are better things to spend this kind of money on. If you are going to spend money on atheism you could improve secular education and build non-religious schools which teach rational, sceptical, critical thinking.”

De Botton claims to have already raised half the funds needed for the structure, and hopes to win the rest via public appeal.

The 46-meter high temple is meant to represent the age of Earth, with each centimetre of its height equating to one million years of the planet’s life.

A thin gold line will represent how long humans have been present on Earth.