Religion for Atheists

Alain de Botton

Religion for Atheists

Alain de Botton's new book argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false - and yet that religions still have important things to teach the secular world. Rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them - because they're packed with good ideas on how we live and arrange our societies. Here, de Botton (a non-believer) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into how to build a sense of community, make our relationships last, get more out of art, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, and much more. 3.1 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Religion for Atheists

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Religion & Spirituality
Format Hardback
Pages 320
RRP £18.99
Date of Publication January 2012
ISBN 978-0241144770
Publisher Hamish Hamilton
 

Alain de Botton's new book argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false - and yet that religions still have important things to teach the secular world. Rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them - because they're packed with good ideas on how we live and arrange our societies. Here, de Botton (a non-believer) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into how to build a sense of community, make our relationships last, get more out of art, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, and much more.

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Reviews

The Financial Times

Stephen Cave

Smart and stimulating … To those who wrestle with their faith, [his] insouciance will seem arrogant. But one accusation often made against such attempts by intellectuals to impose a faux-faith — that it patronises the masses — cannot be levelled against de Botton: the book does not so much suggest that the unruly rabble needs religion, as that he himself desperately misses its comforts and consolations.

20/01/2012

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The Sunday Telegraph

Tom Payne

De Botton writes with the elegance and wit so admirable in someone who is committed to making his insights relevant to a wide readership. But he keeps using the word “libertarian”, and not in a nice way ... Still, if the author’s charm has a purpose (and everything needs a purpose, after all), it’s to make the disciplines of faith seem lovely and life-enhancing, rather than fearful and humbling.

27/01/2012

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The New Statesman

John Gray

[A] spirited and refreshingly humane book … De Botton has done us a service by showing why atheists should be friendly to religion. Where he could have dug deeper is the tangled relations between religion and belief. If you ask people in modern western societies whether they are religious, they tend to answer by telling you what they believe (or don't believe). When you examine religion as a universal human phenomenon, however, its connections with belief are far more tenuous.

16/02/2012

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The Evening Standard

Hermione Eyre

A faux-naif style is a trademark of De Botton, and it has helped him, in the past, to write freshly about the oldest problems in the book — love, work and Proust. This manifesto feels equally gripping, because it is so bizarre. When De Botton recommends we resurrect the medieval Feast of Fools by joyfully copulating with strangers on the tables of the Agape restaurant, a feeling that we are being hoaxed creeps over us. That is confirmed when he suggests we should imitate medieval pilgrims and "deposit wax versions of our anxieties" at shrines across the world. In the final chapter, he blithely tells us he has been following in the footsteps of the French sociologist and founder of the secular "Religion of Humanity" Auguste Comte, "visionary, eccentric and only intermittently sane". In other words, the manifesto we have just read is a jeu d'espirit, a self-satire, a paper dart intended to sail between the two warring, intransigent camps of believers and atheists, confusing and annoying both of them.

19/01/2012

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The Independent

Boyd Tonkin

Packed with tantalising goads to thought and playful prompts to action, Religion for Atheists nonetheless suffers from the thinness of its historical topsoil. It sounds as if addressed to some nightmarish ideal reader of a commitment-free yuppie who seeks to fill his howling inner void. Yet many irreligious people will have been brought up within or close to institutions designed to serve just the needs this book highlights. It has little to say about schools (as opposed to universities), libraries, sports clubs, charities, campaigns, political parties — all that rich mulch of civil society that, in Britain, spread as the churches emptied, and took over many of their roles.

20/01/2012

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The Spectator

A.N. Wilson

Very many readers, including this one, will be thankful for de Botton’s hope that the human race could become a little nicer. It’s just that some readers will think he is being a bit optimistic. He suggests the establishment, for example, of ‘Agape’ restaurants, in which relative strangers meet at a common table and are encouraged to make conversation. ‘Sitting down at a table with a group of strangers has the incomparable benefit of making it a little more difficult to hate them with impunity.’ When did he last dine at the High Table of an Oxford college?

21/01/2012

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The Observer

Richard Coles

His prose is lovely: clear, gently persuasive, light of touch — he would have made a marvellous preacher ... He recommends the erection of temples to secular virtues, structures — like mosques or Stonehenge or St Mary the Virgin, Finedon — in which our values and aspirations are "solidified and celebrated". That makes sense, and some illustrations are provided; but to me — and here is where we part company — they look like pavilions from a minor Baltic expo. Could a Temple of Reflection or Campanile of Perspective or Henge of Higgs Bosons ever do for us what Lincoln Cathedral or the Al-Azhar mosque did for our ancestors?

22/01/2012

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The Guardian

Terry Eagleton

What the book does, in short, is hijack other people's beliefs, empty them of content and redeploy them in the name of moral order, social consensus and aesthetic pleasure. It is an astonishingly impudent enterprise. It is also strikingly unoriginal.

14/01/2012

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