Worshipping Humanity

Mary Midgley uses the philosophy of Auguste Comte, among others, to refute Hitchens' claim that "religion poisons everything":

Many people, no doubt, agree with Hitchens. But Auguste Comte, the founding father of modern humanism, would not have been one of them. For him, "humanism" was a word parallel to "theism". It just altered the object worshipped, substituting humanity for God. ... He thought – and many others have agreed with him – that the trouble with religion was simply its having an unreal supernatural object, God. Apart from this, the attitudes and institutions characteristic of religion itself seemed to him valuable, indeed essential. ...

These precepts, however, did not work out easily. Comte's new Christian-like institutions withered like alien vines once they were applied to their new objects, even though he carefully policed them and trained his priesthood in the newly-discovered skills of Sociology.

I once saw the still extant Comtian temple in Paris, a tidy little Victorian church with round (not Gothic) arches, its walls lined with statues of the Saints of Humanity – Plato, Newton, Shakespeare, Beethoven. I asked its gloomy concierge whether she thought anybody ever worshipped there but she replied, "Nobody. I think, never."

Why would anyone worship Plato when they could read him?