Religion for Atheists

A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion

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Pub Date 06 Mar 2012 | Archive Date 19 Nov 2012

Description

From the author of The Architecture of Happiness, a deeply moving meditation on how we can still benefit, without believing, from the wisdom, the beauty, and the consolatory power that religion has to offer.

Alain de Botton was brought up in a committedly atheistic household, and though he was powerfully swayed by his parents' views, he underwent, in his mid-twenties, a crisis of faithlessness. His feelings of doubt about atheism had their origins in listening to Bach's cantatas, were further developed in the presence of certain Bellini Madonnas, and became overwhelming with an introduction to Zen architecture. However, it was not until his father's death -- buried under a Hebrew headstone in a Jewish cemetery because he had intriguingly omitted to make more secular arrangements -- that Alain began to face the full degree of his ambivalence regarding the views of religion that he had dutifully accepted. Why are we presented with the curious choice between either committing to peculiar concepts about immaterial deities or letting go entirely of a host of consoling, subtle and effective rituals and practices for which there is no equivalent in secular society? Why do we bristle at the mention of the word "morality"? Flee from the idea that art should be uplifting, or have an ethical purpose? Why don't we build temples? What mechanisms do we have for expressing gratitude? The challenge that de Botton addresses in his book: how to separate ideas and practices from the religious institutions that have laid claim to them. In Religion for Atheists is an argument to free our soul-related needs from the particular influence of religions, even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religion that will allow us to rediscover and rearticulate those needs.

From the author of The Architecture of Happiness, a deeply moving meditation on how we can still benefit, without believing, from the wisdom, the beauty, and the consolatory power that religion has...


Advance Praise

“This is a wonderfully provocative book. Its author, the accomplished essayist Alain de Botton, can only be described as a lapsed secularist. Raise as a ‘committed atheist,’ he remains skeptical of truth claims raised on behalf of religion . . . . De Botton excels at exposing the emptiness of contemporary self-congratulation. He has a fine eye for the senselessness of hypermodern urban life . . . ”
-- Globe and Mail

“Highly original and thought-provoking. . . . De Botton will no doubt annoy militant atheists who believe religion not only has no use but is essentially evil, but his well-reasoned arguments should appeal to the more open-minded nonbeliever. And de Botton is a lively, engaging writer.”
– Publishers Weekly, starred review

“For anyone fed-up of the Dawkins Delusion that rationality and science are the answer to the human condition, Religion for Atheists is a serious and optimistic set of practical ideas that could improve and alter the way we live.”
– Jeanette Winterson, The Times

“ . . . an elegant and witty inquiry into what we can learn from the glaring fact that religions continue to flourish even though most of their claims about the nature of things have long been shown to be, well, not really true.”
– Stephen Cave, FT.com (Financial Times)

“[de Botton’s] prose is lovely: clear, gently persuasive, light of touch – he would have made a marvellous preacher.”
– Richard Coles, The Observer

“This is a wonderfully provocative book. Its author, the accomplished essayist Alain de Botton, can only be described as a lapsed secularist. Raise as a ‘committed atheist,’ he remains skeptical of...


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ISBN 9780771025976
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