Synopses & Reviews
From the author of The Consolations of Philosophy, a deeply provocative and useful argument about how we can benefit from the wisdom and power of religion—without having to “believe” in any of it.
What if religions aren’t either all true or all nonsense?
The sterile debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally advanced by Alain de Botton’s astonishing new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false—and yet religion still has some very important things to teach the secular world.
Religion for Atheists suggests that atheists shouldn’t trash religion, they should steal from it—because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we should live in and arrange our societies. In a highly original and readable tone that blends deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights on, among other topics, how to: build a sense of community, make our relationships last, dampen feelings of envy and inadequacy, escape the 24-hour media world, go traveling, get more out of art, and build new businesses geared around our emotional needs.
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, Alain de Botton, the author of the bestselling The Consolations of Philosophy and How Proust Can Change Your Life, has produced a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.
"In this highly original and thought-provoking book, philosopher and atheist de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) turns his critical eye to what religion does well and how nonbelievers might borrow from it to improve their own lives, institutions, and practices without believing in God. For example, de Botton praises religion for satisfying the universal needs for community, comfort, and kindness and for its recognition that all people are imperfect and in need of help and healing. Some of what he suggests seems unattainable: de Botton calls for colleges and universities to shift from preparing students for careers to training them in 'the art of living,' something he says religion does well. But other suggestions are more exciting for their plausibility would not a Day of Atonement, drawn from Judaism, benefit all relationships? 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. Agent: Nicole Aragi." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the author of The Consolations of Philosophy, a deeply provocative and useful argument about how we can benefit from the wisdom and power of religion—without having to "believe" in any of it.
Debates about religion have been hugely and in some ways boringly polarized in recent years: On the one side are those who argue that religion should be our sole source of truth and insight. And on the other side are those who propose (with equal intransigence) that religion is childish nonsense and should be discarded by all right-thinking people.
Into this increasingly sterile debate Alain de Botton now launches a revolutionary argument. He starts with a bold proposal: let's imagine that God doesn't exist, and yet that religion nevertheless has a lot to teach us. Why do we feel the need to choose between committing to belief in immaterial deities or letting go entirely of the consoling rituals and practices that belief carries with it and for which there is no equivalent in secular society? De Botton suggests that we separate meaningful ideas and practices from the superstitious framework in which religious institutions often embed them. He shows us what secular society can learn from religions in a range of areas, from education to art, travel to hostelry. In this dazzling work, Alain de Botton argues—with his singular, often startling persuasiveness—that our soul-related needs can be freed from the particular influence of religions, even as, paradoxically, the study of religion will allow us to rediscover and rearticulate those needs.
What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense?
The long-running and often boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved forward by Alain de Botton’s inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are entirely false—but that it still has some very important things to teach the secular world.
Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it—because the world’s religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we look to religion for insights into how to, among other concerns, build a sense of community, make our relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel and reconnect with the natural world.
For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing some peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. At last, in Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.
About the Author
Alain de Botton is the author of essays on themes ranging from love and travel to architecture and philosophy. His best-selling books include How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel and The Architecture of Happiness. He lives in London, where he is the founder and chairman of The School of Life (www.theschooloflife.com) and the creative director of Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk).
Table of Contents
I. Wisdom without Doctrine