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Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion Paperback – 7 Feb 2013

134 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (7 Feb. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141046317
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141046310
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Alain de Botton is the author of Essays in Love (1993), The Romantic Movement (1994), Kiss and Tell (1995), How Proust can Change your Life (1997), The Consolations of Philosophy (2000) The Art of Travel (2002), Status Anxiety (2004) and most recently, The Architecture of Happiness (2006).

Product Description


"A serious but intellectually wild ride. . . . One has to appreciate his pluck as much as his lucid, enjoyable arguments." --"Miami Herald" "Commonsensical and insightful. . . . The wealth of knowledge and felicity of phrasing that de Botton brings to his task make for a stimulating read." --"Seattle Times" "Quirky, often hilarious. . . . Focusing on just three major faiths--Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism--he makes a convincing case for their ability to create both a sense of community and education that addresses morality and our emotional life." --"Washington Post" "Compelling. . . beautifully and wittily illustrated." --"Los Angeles Times" "A wonderfully dangerous and subversive book." --"San Francisco Chronicle" "A new book by Alain de Botton is always a treat. . . . De Botton is literate, articulate, knowledgeable, funny and idiosyncratic." --"" "De Botton writes at his best when he confronts our abiding human frailty. . . . If only all writers wrote with such unabashedly kind intentions." --"Huffington Post" "Provocative and thoughtful. . . . Particularly noteworthy are de Botton's insights on what education and the arts can borrow from the formats and paradigms of religious delivery." --"The Atlantic " "The eminently quotable de Botton holds forth on the deliberately provocative premise that ancient traditions can solve modern problems. . . . The premise he is testing is a worthy one: The secular world worships consumerism, optimism, and perfection to its doom, and would do well to make room for a little humility, community, and contemplation instead." --"Boston Globe" "[De Botton] demonstrates his usual urbane, intelligent, and witty prose. . . . This book will advance amicable discussion among both believers and disbelievers." --"Library Journal" "Highly original and thought-provoking. . . . De Botton is a lively, engaging writer." --"Publishers Weekly "(starred review)y p

About the Author

Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland, in 1969. He is the author of Essays in Love, The Romantic Movement, Kiss and Tell, How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel, Status Anxiety, The Architecture of Happiness, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, A Week at the Airport, Religion for Atheists, How to Think More About Sex, Art as Therapy, and The News: A User's Manual. Alain is a bestselling author in 30 countries. He lives in London, where he runs The School of Life and Living Architecture. Alain de Botton's first novel in nearly two decades, The Course of Love, will be published in April 2016.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By StuartM on 20 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a really engaging, funny and intelligent book. A manifesto for non supernatural religion.
De Boton is an atheist (like me) who has written a book in praise of religion, or rather the very powerful and important things that religion does well. He left me realising that as an atheist I have a void in my life which should be filled, if only I could get over the supernatural stuff which I cannot believe.
More importantly, he points out that secular societies as a whole have many voids which have been left by the retreat from religion.

But he goes further: he sets out how these voids could be filled if there was a will to do so, using the art, architecture and intellectual and creative capital of our societies. It would involve us not backing away from the big questions in life, or understanding that we all face dilemmas and fears, but harnessing secular ideas to tackle them. Could museums and galleries become places themed around the big issues in life rather than the period of origination? Could luxury hotels be spiritual as well as physical retreats? Could restaurants be places where people are encouraged to meet and welcome strangers? Could we harness nature and great art to give us all a sense of perspective and peace?

I had a lovely moment this morning while walking the dogs where I was confronted by a beautiful natural scene, and realised this book had made me determined to be more aware of quasi-religious moments.

The author concludes accurately: if only we could find another word, instead of the heavily loaded 'religion', many more of us could embrace these ideas.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By finchy on 29 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The basic tenet is that the expressions of religious beliefs have a lot ideas the secular world can usefully take up in terms of their structures and rituals, art and architecture, and sense of 'community'..

There are many assumptions about human responses - for example, I am not sure that knowing the incredible distance of the nearest galaxy will make the depressed amongst us standing on a railway bridge feel less suicidal? Thinking of the effect on the train driver might just do that. And for some people watching a 'flickering screen' e.g. a scarey but not too scarey film can help them to sleep - not keep them awake as de Botton contends. Reading Montesquieu savouring every sentence does not always work (eg The Cannibals chapter ). There is mention by de Botton of tragedies in "every " life - but some people suffer a great deal more than others and cannot, as he ruminates, think back to being comforted by a parent if they never were.

Ideas are scattered along the way of this book and to be useful all need to be developed much further - such as that "hope" causes grief - this is a very interesting idea though it is the death of hope which does that. And that beauty can help us to feel better: this is a good notion however there is a massive assumption that it makes us better people: (you may be more likely to get an act of kindness/neighbourliness in the ugly back streets of a poor city than in a picturesque commuter village but making one corner of your room cheery can be life enhancing) . Love seems to conflated with instinct e.g. the love of your own infant is very different from the decision to continue to love a person in your life who is being very difficult, or to befriend an isolated stranger.
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75 of 83 people found the following review helpful By CN on 21 Feb. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This really is a wonderful, engaging book that was an absolute joy to read. I had a religious upbringing but have been an atheist since my teens. I've always felt ambivalent towards Christianity, because there's so much about it I can never accept, and yet I've seen firsthand the sense of community it provides, the consolation it brings in times of trouble, and the acts of kindness that faith can inspire. Like many people, I can't relate to Dawkins' harsh dismissal of everything spiritual, despite agreeing with him about the non-existence of God, so Alain de Botton's book was a revelation as to how atheists can benefit from the wisdom of religions while rejecting their intolerances and superstitions.

The book aims throughout to demonstrate how the best aspects of religion might be transferred into a secular community. For example, the author proposes the concept of the Agape restaurant, the secular equivalent of a church feast, where one can eat with and talk to strangers, be accepted with kindness, and discuss the things that really matter in life, all within a structured framework. It appealed to me as an alternative to the alienating experience of trying to make friends at a party, where every question is loaded with judgement, `what do you do', and so on. I also loved his idea of reintroducing a Feast of Fools, based on a historical festival from mediaeval Christianity that provided an outlet to release tension by indulging in unrestricted drunken or sexual behaviour and letting go of adult responsibilities just for one day.

I was fascinated by de Botton's ideas on the importance of teaching ethics and relevant life skills via literature, art and philosophy (the secular alternatives to religious doctrines).
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