Religion for Atheists
What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense?
Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they're packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies.
Blending deep respect with total impiety, Alain (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into, among other concerns, how to:
~ build a sense of community
For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing lots of peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas.
At last, in Religion for Atheists, Alain has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.
Religion for Atheists by Alain De Botton
Pantheon Knopf Doubleday USA n.d.
Visit this page to read an excerpt from the book.
“[De Botton] demonstrates his usual urbane, intelligent, and witty prose, always entertaining and worth reading…this book will advance amicable discussion among both believers and disbelievers.” ~ Library Journal
“His approach, entertaining and enlightening, provides the thoughtful reader with endless enjoyment and an insight into de Botton’s beliefs as well as his generous appraisal of the beliefs of others…brings insight and understanding to how religion may enhance the lives of nonbelievers.” ~ Shelf Awareness
“Highly original and thought-provoking book….. de Botton is a lively, engaging writer.” ~ Publishers Weekly starred review
“A new book by Alain de Botton is always a treat…De Botton is literate, articulate, knowledgeable, funny and idiosyncratic.” ~ Forbes.com
Book review: Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
Alain de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) has written another provocative consideration of one of life's conundrums: the significance of religion in the lives of nonbelievers. "This is a book for people who are unable to believe in miracles, spirits or tales of burning shrubbery," he says on the first page of Religion for Atheists, and then proceeds to extol the wisdom of religions, if not their doctrines, focusing on eight significant areas where religion has a great deal to offer nonbelievers: community, kindness, education, tenderness, pessimism, perspective, art and architecture. ...
In this way, de Botton, an unrepentant atheist, goes through his eight categories of human behavior and endeavor. His approach, entertaining and enlightening, provides the thoughtful reader with endless enjoyment and an insight into de Botton's beliefs as well as his generous appraisal of the beliefs of others.
Here's a reader's review from the Amazon.com page for the book. It was written by Michael, an Australian, on March 1, 2012.
I had the fortune to listen to de Botton talk about this book at a session in Brisbane in February 2012. His hour long talk was brilliant ~ his humour, insight and sheer intelligence shone through. Buying the book was a no-brainer, and reading it didn't take long.
The essence of his argument is that religion has been good at meeting a range of material and social needs, and just because you don't believe in god is no reason to dismiss the things that we can learn from several thousand years of established religious practice.
But then he applies the theory to what a future day to day world might look like for a religiously informed atheist society. It is hard to know if his suggestions are serious or are teasers to get us thinking ~ a quarterly secular 'day of atonement' where we all admit the harm we have caused others, or an 'Agape Restaurant' where diners follow an atheistically refined version of the early Christian Eucharist? I wasn't convinced.
De Botton is necessarily selective in the religions he canvasses ~ Christianity, Judaism and Zen Buddhism are the three pillars upon which he builds his argument. It is easy to understand and accept the limited field that de Botton sets himself, but it left me wanting more. His intent was never to be a study of comparative religion, but if he ever does a second edition then two additions might be made.
The first is to include Islam ~ a religion replete with its own wisdoms and insights that mirror and build on those of the three religions that de Botton bases his arguments on.
Secondly not all religions are defined by their artistic, written or architectural legacy.
I put this book down knowing that I will read it again. The agnostic in me (not atheist) finds it hard to look at the 'good things' in religion without taking into account the evils that have been committed in the name of their deities.
There are many more reviews of this important book online.