Customer Reviews

118 Reviews
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:
1 star:
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review

64 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute joy to read
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...
Published on 21 Feb 2012 by CN

95 of 110 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Far below par for Alain de Botton
I really like Alain de Botton and his accessible, absorbing approach to philosophy. But I really didn't enjoy this book, I'm afraid.

The structure of each chapter the book is very formulaic:
a) Identify a positive aspect of religion
b) Muse that this is lacking in modern society
c) Propose a secular solution

The majority of his...
Published on 5 July 2012 by Dr. Simon Howard

‹ Previous | 111 12 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

23 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Creating Dissension for no Reason, 2 Feb 2012
De Botton has not only written a totally unnecessary book with the sort of title geared to help the mouse clicks, he has made a media splash by publishing his desire to build a church for atheists. All this apparently to counter inter alia Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett.

I cannot believe that this self-styled atheist who is obviously looking for a higher media profile cannot see the problems he is causing for atheism and secularism and is playing right into the hands of the religionists. It saddens me that this man who can be entertaining has not grown up much since his first book. Nor has he anything to say that has not been said before. Dennett reads better and Stenger is more forceful than Dawkins.

Atheists do not want nor need the cringe making public display of a (£1 million and only the first of a series) monument when there are repositories of learning throughout the land that provide talks and reference material to all rationalists, atheists, agnostics and philosophers everywhere. Museums, libraries, art galleries and Conway Hall will do for the non-religious community.

The medieval churches are done and dusted - no repeat performance - and have survived the ravages of time. Their grandeur, architecture and artistry have inspired and delighted people from all over the world.

Sad as it may be but I won't be losing any sleep over this author's ideas and scribblings. I will consign De Botton to the bottom of the garden where he can wallow and cool his blood. I won't be reading any more of his stuff. I certainly wouldn't visit an 'Atheist Church'.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

4 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very good but not for Kindle, 10 April 2012
A. Rothwell (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've only given this book one star because of a glaring problem. De Botton does write well; is always entertaining and never boring - aware that he uses quite a lot of illustrations. He speaks about them in a pretty detailed fashion and the standard of picture representation on the Kindle is, not to put too fine a point on it, poor. Now that I've finished reading the book I shall have to nip down to Waterstones, (no apostrophy now, notice!), open a hard copy and try to see what he was on about. His ideas about museums and art galleries are particularly pertinent and make the book well worth the price, though.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

12 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars stealing is good ?, 28 Feb 2012
M K "kad" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
a book that encourages stealing religious values?, the author seems to still be sub consciously christian because he is picking and mixing as christians have been doing for thousands of years anyway, this is just the modern day version of a christian....nothing new at all
truly he is encouraging you to be religious in all but name, quite hypocritical and contradictory
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

3 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Atheism is dead, 26 Feb 2013
trini "HWS" (Hertfordshire, England) - See all my reviews
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When amazon delivered my copy of Alain de Botton's `Religion for Atheists' a couple of weeks ago, I read the first chapter, `Wisdom without Doctrine', a few days before I went on to read the rest of the book. This first chapter struck me as the worst-presented argument I had ever read. I am absolutely astonished at the case which de Botton presented there, and which, as I later read through the book, he repeats and repeats and repeats and then summarizes in his final chapter on `Institutions', in which he tells us that Auguste Comte (1798-1857) had anticipated much of what he (de Botton) is now proposing and recommending, but which Comte failed to implement and which de Botton seems to have no hope of being able to implement either.

de Botton ends his introductory chapter with this paragraph: " ... this book ... tries ... to examine aspects of religious life which contain concepts that could fruitfully be applied to the problems of secular society. It attempts to burn off religions' more dogmatic aspects in order to distil a few aspects of them that could prove timely and consoling to sceptical contemporary minds facing the crises and griefs of finite existence on a troubled planet. It hopes to rescue some of what is beautiful, touching and wise from all that no longer seems true" (p. 19).

In this unbelievably blinkered book, de Botton makes a number of statements which are so naïve and unproved and unprovable and hopelessly cloud-cuckoo-land-ish that one must wonder how any publisher (here, Penguin) would publish it.

I quote: " ... let us bluntly state that of course no religions are true in any God-given sense" (p. 11). What proof does de Botton produce for this statement? None whatsoever, neither here nor anywhere else in his book. He goes on: "Tough-minded critics of religion have found much pleasure in laying bare the idiocy of believers in remorseless detail, finishing only when they felt that they had shown up their enemies as through-going simpletons or maniacs" (p.11). de Botton never mentions the huge scholarly arguments which thoroughly disprove the atheists' case and show that it is the atheists who are the enemies of philosophy, common sense, and science. The verdict which de Botton passes on the believing `simpletons and maniacs' is simply correctly attributable to de Botton himself.

I quote from a review of a book similar to de Botton's, by his fellow-atheist AC Grayling, `The God Argument: the Case against Religion and for Humanism'. The review of Grayling's book says: "People are still debating whether or not `Life of Pi', book or film, can make you believe in God. The novel didn't have that effect on me. AC Grayling's book came much closer: his `case for humanism' made me begin to long for faith ... What's most lamentable about this book [Grayling's] is not the quirks of tone, the Infelicities of emphasis or the inconsistency, indeed occasional lack, of method. It's the façade of appreciating how believers have created great art, without recognizing the imaginative process behind it, and indeed behind faith". [The review is by Tom Payne, and appears in the Daily Telegraph's Saturday magazine supplement `Review', of 23 February 2013 - before the Oscars considered the film `The Life of Pi'.]

I can quote in the same sense Lord Rees (the Astronomer Royal), and the philosopher John Gray and Richard Dawkins, all atheists (or nearly so), who all agree that random atoms cannot account for the great art and music and literature of the Christian tradition - but they can offer no alternative explanation. They simply expect us to believe that in some mysterious way the random atoms MUST be able eventually to explain this fact.

De Botton goes on: "The premise of this book is that it must be possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless find religions sporadically useful, interesting and consoling, and be curious as to the possibilities of importing certain of their ideas and practices into the secular realm" (pp. 11,12). Notice the absurdity of de Botton's case. He does not say that his book will show how it is possible to remain a committed atheist and nevertheless ..." He tells us instead that IT MUST BE POSSIBLE TO REMAIN A COMMITTED ATHEIST AND NEVERTHELESS find religions sporadically useful ... ". But this is an act of blind atheistic faith. It is what his book should be attempting to prove. But he offers not one shred of proof. WHY MUST IT BE POSSIBLE TO REMAIN A COMMITTED ATHEIST AND NEVERTHELESS ... "?

de Botton goes on: "We can then recognize that we invented religions [trini asks: did `we' invent Jesus Christ and the New Testament?] to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: first, to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses. And second, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise. God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes" (p. 12). One simply cannot take de Botton seriously as a thinker. He seems unable to perceive any link between effect and cause. He tells us that 'religions' which we invented, created the answers to all human problems, but nevertheless religion can't have created these solutions, because religion doesn't exist independently.

He goes on: "I never wavered in my certainty that God did not exist. I was simply liberated by the thought that there might be a way to engage with religion without having to subscribe to the supernatural content" (p. 14). [Really?} And so on and so on. De Botton endlessly praises religion for providing all the answers to mankind's problems, but he goes on and on and on saying that religion `invented' these correct solutions, and that it is now up to atheism to provide the same solutions to these same problems, but without a `religious' base, and only after removing from these solutions everything that religion provided as the solutions (but which de Botton, with total illogicality, will not concede to be the very reason why these solutions worked). The trouble for de Botton, however, is that, as he everywhere recognizes, there is no sign whatever of purely secular, atheistic, humanistic concepts and purely atheistic, secular and humanistic `thinkers ` ever being able to make the required solutions work. For de Botton, the religious explanation (`plan A') must be eliminated, but over and over again de Botton concedes that his atheistic solution (`plan B') will not work with real human beings in the real world in which we live, and he has no `plan C'. (What about returning to `plan A'?)

There is the continuous insistence by de Botton, in every chapter, that every human need has been met by traditional religious (especially Christian) teachings and practices and institutions, but unbelievably he thinks it is now the task of the atheists to re-make and re-found all these dying (but essential) Christian practices and institutions with exactly similar (but atheistically founded) practices and institutions - which de Botton repeatedly admits will not and cannot work.

Nietzsche, God is not dead.
de Botton, atheism is dead.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Utopia For Dopes, 1 May 2012
Neutral "Phil" (UK) - See all my reviews
Atheism is a dishonest and hypocritical philosophy. According to de Botton he was "brought up in a committedly atheistic household, as the son of two secular Jews who placed religious belief on a par with an attachment to Santa Claus.......If any members of their social circle were discovered to harbour clandestine religious sentiments, my parents would.......regard them with the sort of pity more commonly reserved for those with a degenerative disease and could from then on never be persuaded to take them seriously again." De Botton admits these were "the doctrinaire principles with which I had been inculcated in childhood." Had he been brought up in a Christian household he would, according to Richard Dawkins, have been a victim of child abuse!! Similarly, while characterising believers in God as "thorough going simpletons or maniacs", he sets out to import certain religious "ideas and practice into the secular realm".

The underlying premise of atheism is materialism, thus importing practices based on non-material beliefs is contradictory. De Botton uncritically repeats discredited claims that early Christianity appropriated "the good ideas, aggresively subsuming countless pagan practices.....the new faith took over celebrations of midwinter and repackaged them as Christmas". His contention is ignorant, shallow and reveals a pitiful lack of historical knowledge. In making such claims, de Botton relies entirely on the pre-supposition that atheism is a matter of fact rather than opinion. He assumes God is a social construction, a myth to explain the inexplicable and a step along the historical road to secular liberalism. He does not understand that if materialism is a belief system so too is atheism. Atheists' claim they do not need to prove the non-existence of God (in whatever form it is expressed) is a "a priori" assertion masquerading as "a posteriori" knowledge.

The shallowness of de Botton's attempt to translate religious ritual into secular practice is shown by reference to the Catholic Mass of which he writes, "Much of the dialogue is either offensive to reason or incomprehensible. It goes on for a long time and rarely overrides a temptation to fall asleep". Having never attended a Catholic Mass I cannot test the accuracy of his claim. He suggests that within the physical and doctrinal walls of the Catholic Church there is a sense of community which atheists would do well to apply to a secular setting. He refers to the Last Supper, confusing it with the Agape feast and the Eucharist, apparently not realising the Agape and the Eucharist existed in tandem, nor that the latter was confined to baptised believers whereas the former provided the opportunity to distribute sustenance to the poor. De Botton's suggestion that secular society could provide a similar function by means of an Agape Restaurant, which would provide meals in accordance with agreed rules of behaviour is, to use his own phrase, "entirely daft". The Eucharist is not important for the ingestion of food, its purpose is symbolic, notwithstanding doctrinal claims of transubstantiation.

De Botton claims religion has survived two centuries of attacks by skeptics and freethinkers because believers continue to exist within large scale institutional forms. This provides a sense of belonging and assurance against the values of the secular world. De Botton suggests religions "have dared to assert coherent brand identities across a diverse range of areas, from the strictly intellectual and theological to the aesthetic, sartorial and culinary". He refers to the attempt by Auguste Comte to create a "Religion of Humanity" which would replace religions of the past by creating a new priesthood (of which Comte would be the Great Priest) teaching secular ethics, honouring secular heroes and realising the inevitability of progress. Comte's main problems were his mental instability and his conviction that "thanks to the discoveries of science, it would no longer be possible for anyone intelligent to believe in God". Thomas Huxley described Comte's religion as "Catholicism minus Christianty". De Botton suggests "that many of the problems of the modern soul can successfully be addressed by solutions put forward by religions, once these solutions have been dislodged from the supernatural structure within which they were conceived." That's all very well but if God does not exist why should humans have souls?

De Botton's case is that individuals do not need God to be good. He argues we live in a libertarian State based on the theory "that public space should be kept neutral". He suggests religious rituals provide an opportunity to purge and exorcize humankind's tendency "towards Narcissm, jealousy, spite, promiscuity and wanton aggression." He attaches undue importance to the medieval Feast of Fools as a means of giving expression to these tendencies. He appears to overlook the implications for social control and financial rewards the Feast provided to the medieval Church which could sell indulgences to wipe out the sins of the fools.

In noting the desire of nineteenth century liberalism to replace scripture with culture, de Botton returns to the nature of the soul "within us a precious, childlike, vulnerable core which we should nourish and nurture on its turbulent journey through life." This is pure liberal pantomime - wishy washy, as are his redesigned universities of the future with their proposed Department for Relationships, Institute of Dying and Centre for Self-Knowledge. Janet Reno's educational programmes for individual sexual awareness seem sane by comparison. He claims "an end to faith must inevitably mean an end to the possibility of temples" yet raises temples to kindness, serenity, reflection, forgiveness and self-knowledge. The transition of the Dome from a beacon of light into a commercial venture has passed him by.

Anyone finding spiritual uplift from de Botton's lifeless discussion is in dire need of psychological help. His future society is devoid of meaning, the City of God without God, Utopia for Dopes. He should study the role of "Reason" in the French Revolution. The substitution of one set of values is not progress it's pathos. The result is pathetic. Three stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

1 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Theisma, 23 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As an atheist, thought provoking and highly readable. Would love to have made it to one of the recent live talks in Oz.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

2 of 53 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Problems, 4 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Did anyone else hear about that row between Greek Orthodox and Armenian clergy in the fairly humble church in Bethlehem that is supposed to mark the place where Jesus was born? Apparently it involved broomsticks, and was stormed by the police - and it was all over who was responsible for paying for the upkeep of this little church/chapel.

The fact that people from the Greek Orthodox Church were involved seems in my mind to link back to Greece - all that cultural heritage/importance and it seems it is of no relevance at all when it comes to cash for the people living there. It reminds me of Sid Meyer's Civilisation game, where if you manage to build up your land sufficiently you are allowed to 'acquire' the Pyramids, or some other cultural monument to try and boost cash-flow.

What if, though a bit ruined now, the tree at Dodona is really special? Not just historically - but/somehow metaphysically?

According to the internet 'Arcadia' is now a big site for trying to generate electricity....

I must admit, like Killjoy I haven't yet read this book - and I have it on order and I'm sure I'll be pleased. My star system is thus flawed. There are, however, aspects that are worrying me from the information I have gleaned about the book so far - mixed in with the general world situation.

UPDATE: I would just like to add that probably the most profound point Alain de Botton makes in the book is to point out our ability to forget things - to think 'that is going to change my life' then forget and conveniently move on. No doubt that is the sort of reason (so obviously entrenched) that makes the right wing Fox think it is completely safe to keep running the Simpsons. The butt of the joke no doubt rests on the earnest Lisa Simpson.
Similarly we can all watch a movie like 'Avatar' and do nothing whatsoever to try and save the rainforest, and keep consuming paper at the speed of light.

NEW UPDATE:(12th May 2012) This may seem as if I'm going off on a tangent again, but I think I've mentioned something in these discussions about Philemon and about information on my computer seeming so strangely apt to a topic that it seems suspicious, but I just thought I'd let you all know I have now been told about Saint Sergius and Bacchus (Wikipedia website - at present at least - [...]

I have to say that besides supposedly at least having a tale to tell about homosexuality I also find it strange that there should be two Dionysuses in Greek mythology (the God and the religious man) and two Bacchuses i8n Roman termination (one the God and one, at least according to this article, a religious bloke.

This apparent revelation furthers the fact that, again, according to Wikipedia at least, I seem to have found out about St. Maurice and decimation and how awful it must be for soldiers who don't want to do what they are asked to do, and can't see something that may be opposed to their own conscience as patriotic duty - but I realise it is difficult to deal with people who won't do as they're told (all the children caught up in looting shops recently and all that outrage etc) - and that it is generally better to try and find some kind of co-operative medium way.

NEW UPDATE: 21st May 2012

If this is some kind of orchestrated attempt to gain some kind of (revenge..?) because of what I said about the recorder (upsetting someone) I would like to explain that such comments came on the back of experiencing a Christmas Eve service in York Minster where we were all asked to pray to the memory of Freddy Mercury. I'm not commenting on that fact, I'm just stating a fact.

I was also so stupid that although I managed to avoid falling into the trap of buying Alain's latest book (the one published in May) - loyalty to another literary figure (Alan Bennett)led me blindly to purchase and read his latest book which has given me awful nightmares as I see that the fabric of society is falling apart. Then I have to remind myself that Foucault has already done that before, when he published all that stuff about Victorian times. I was lately present at a lecture where someone said that Mary Whitehouse was stupid not to realise that there was an OFF button on the TV. I hope it wasn't to do with an OFF button from life because no one wanted her criticisms. I was also told that several young men (they didn't mention women) have killed themselves in the United States recently just because they're gay. It could have been that the priest at the Minster was being blackmailed, even.

Also, I have lately found out about codex and codicils (I can't remember exactly what the application I made is with this - but it was in the context of logic about the Christian faith....If by being crucified Jesus saved everybody from ever having to go to Hell, no matter what they'd done, then why is that deal broken with the threat of the Lamb coming and judging everybody later on?)

UPDATE - 1st June 2012

I feel under some pressure to comment again - as round the corner an industrial estate has just been (renamed0? (I never noticed before) THE FORUM. I suspect there are a load of people laughing at me. Nevermind. I would like to explain that whereas I have learned about EGEGESIS and CODA before, linking this to CODEX was indeed a new thing for me, and I hope I haven't unduly upset anyone by doing so.

I have just been directed (either by Fate or bugs on computer, I don't know, to the Wikipedia website that deals with the sign of Aescalpius (the medicine symbol) and Cadeuceus (which it claims is a false symbol on Wikipedia at least, but used a great deal in the United States.

This led me to reflect that our morality as a society is indeed linked to our finacial system. If we are not successful in exploiting people elsewhere, chopping down rainforests etc would our medical ethics be threatened by lack of cash? If we hijsck Christianity then we could easily slide into such calculations without even a conscience to worry about....all this disturbs me greatly - and I hope I'm not making things worse by talking about it - Alain de Botton has shops that sell what could be seen as modern indulgences or a spiritual fix in his imaginary universe - I hope it won't come to that....

His work could be seen as a sort of New Age document for the 21st century - offering some hope in a time that we are all hoping won't be purely dystopian - or it could be taken in the spirit of a Juvenal satire. I really don't know which it is...


I've had someone point out to me that what could be a better place to think about the Virgin Mary than not a new built temple but the ready-made site in Walsingham? I was also introduced to some books by Rosamund Yates that suggests that the place wherein things are placed in relationship to one another, both in old buildings and no doubt in newer museums, can read as significant and full of meaning in itself. (I must admit, I did borrow some books by her but was worried about getting trapped in an academic fantasy land if I read them all cover-to-cover) But, having said that, I was told by the Internet that the code at the end of Alan Garner's Red Shift refers somehow to St Bertonline's Church in Barthomely - which was apparently sacked at one point by Byron himself - even put on fire by him it said at one point (and I do think they mean literally). I am also slightly worried that the study of relationships in Universities may lead to some kind of completely prescriptive way of being. I am also wondering how much this has to do with the new humanitites university led by A.C. Grayling - I wonder how many of Alain de Botton's ideas may or may not be taken up there.

Also, a friend of mine has recalled the words of Julian of Norwich, where she says that it will all end well - but says that must be in the beseeching. I'd once read the Waste Land in that way myself, and am now told that lines in Little Gidding (in the Four Quartets) also have to do with that. I hope it doesn't all go by and then we're too suddenly in the Rose Garden. I have just been reminded that there are white roses, as well as red (I'd forgotten all about those and don't mention it to try and get back into a War of the Roses lark, but remember they are intertwined in bridges about my home city.)

UPDATE 8th June 2012

I'm sorry to keep on at this, but I notice that people are no longer free to post things on BBC messageboards without them being filtered - so, though this may seem slightly off topic, I'm taking the risk of posting things here. Also, I wrote to Laurie Taylor about his conspiracy theory programme (the one aired in June) and received an e-mail back with loads of 'shmtl' addresses on them - don't know the difference between 'html' and 'shtml' - but because of that, don't know whether Laurie ever received the e-mail or not.

First of all, just to try and keep things on topic I was earlier on really taken with the Rolling Stones album 'Sympathy for the Devil' - but when I think about it, you'd think the Devil would be more interested in letting people off the hook for stuff - but he is actually (frighteningly) the more stricly moral of the whole four figures (God, Jeusus, Holy Ghost, Devil) - and if he catches you in a weak moment will not ever let you off the hook.

Secondly, was any one else worried about the Guardian advertisement where they ended up blaming the little pigs for insurance fraud rather than the wolf? Does that mean thst the Guardian has secretly swapped its allegiance?

Thirdly - (back to the BBC) - did anyone else note that in the final of The Apprentice nothing was really divulged about the business plan that Lord Sugar decided to ally himself to in the Final? The only clues we got were ....Recruitment...Bio medicine - someone of a suspicous slant like my own (given the current financial (let's hope not idiological) situation .....: quite frightening.

Fourthly - a friend of mind once mentioned she'd made some mistakes in her tax return forms. That is, she had put a comma where there should have been a decimal point, or vice-versa (I can't remember which) - but with the electonic banking system whose to know whether that is happening or not, or whether less financially stable countries are doing that - or it could be the seeminly better off countries that are doing that. Who is actually going to check everything is in the coffers that they say there is/say there's not?

I wouldn't do this unless I was really worried.

UPDATE - I was wrong about the BBC Messageboards - I was looking under the Points of View BBC1 messsageboard - can see now that there are others still there...

UPDATE 10th June 2012

I'm sorry if this is getting a little ridiculous, but I have thought more about how I treated Scott Hannigan's review (Scott from Australia that is) and feel as though I have to try and make amends. Scott pointed to the passage in which Mr De Botton talks about sitting down to dinner - about our likelihood of suspecting any stranger may be a thief or a murderer. I said to Scott that Mr De Botton was probably doing a Ben Elton at that point, without thoroughly taking into account that Mr Hannigan had actually stated that he came from Australia. Since many of the Australian's deported from Britain must have some sort of criminal record at one point, or might have done something less or more worrying - the Australian's nevertheless had to 'get on with it' and forge a community and society from that kind of situation - and broadly seem to have managed it.

Secondly, in the review and comments that Scott deleted because he was in the end so upset I had mentioned all the Secret societies that are operative in Britain and had joked that the Tesco Clubcard was in parody of such a set up and that in a way there was something partially democratic about just caring about the money rather than who the person was with the money to do with avoiding prejudice. At the time of writing I was aware not only of the Masons but of the Oddfellows - recently I have been made aware of a load of Livery organisations operative in London - which help choose the Mayor (don't know how that works exactly if it is now done through public vote.) Among the organisations was the Socity of Worshipful Apothecaris, which according to Wikipedia have the rhino as their symbol (hope I'm not being out of order if I remember the rhino's horn as being some kind of aphrodisiacal powder at one point?) - but anyway, a strong aura of religion and ritual seems to be included in the ceremonies etc. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia at least the Socity of Worshipful Apothecaries were the first people to actually plant cotton (wondering how that connects to illness and cure...)

Furthermore, the Americans have just directed me to one of their films called 'Skulls' about divided loyalties and the power of friendship - and about the way friendship and power can be in league, or sometimes clash. I was shown in a psychology lesson how many American Universities seem to be promoting the idea of college loyalty and fraternities and secret societies etc...


It was my understanding that modern capitalism as directed by the thoughts of Adam Smith believed in 'The Guiding Hand' or 'The Invisible Hand' - that was, something to do with God directing Fate. If no one believes in the Guiding Hand or questions the assumptions of the Guiding Hand anymore, where does that leave us?

UPDATE 20/06/12

The frequent equivoal nature of 'fellow sinners' and alarming 'lapses' in memory: Does this have anything to do with 'talking the talk' and 'walking the walk'? (or doing one, but failing to do the other?) - and 'pas devant les enfants'? I am equally to blame, as I keep falling into the trap of making/buying hot drinks when 1) it's a waste of electricity/gas 2) I tell my daughter to avoid them 3)It's the middle of summer...

UPDATE 1st July 12

Someone I know who's a vicar alarmed be by interceding in prayers to God to make us not care that much (probably if someone dies as he no doubt has to supervise a lot of funerals) - and I could understand it in that context - as grief and depression are not necessarily that helpful - but I was worried he may even mean it in a wider context because perhaps he is angry. The whole point about the Christian religion is surely that even after hundreds of years we still care about what happened to Jesus. These thoughts led me to wonder again when Alain de Botton makes the point about forgetting things. Surely no one would be so daring/callous/computer like that they would openly declare that actually, they didn't give a toss what happened to Jesus. But I suppose our attitude speaks volumes to those dying every day in places like Somalia, or crippled in India. Not to mention our own personal losses - people who we know have died of cancer or aids or some other of the whole manifesto of potential problems. But we can't, surely, just pretend we think like computers and dismiss it as though it's not as important as the next shopping fix. I think that what I am suggesting is that it's not just the people with 'psychiatric' problems like 'depression' that need help - there could be something wrong with pretending that everythings OK, thank you very much, -as well. I listenened to some pieces of music today on the Observer webpage, one of which was entirely, supposedly, composed by a computer - and you had to take this test afterwards and I chose the first piece placed, which seemed the most human of the lot in some ways (and I was aware that computer programmes like Finale are often used anyway)- but it was as though you were at a funeral and then turned all chirpy. I also read an article in one of the papers from some time ago where some Gypsy girls were found dead on a Greek Island beach and everybody just ignored it and kept on swimming and enjoying the sunshine...I don't know the answers, but hope I haven't fouled up too much by trying to identify what may be a problem...

LATER ON - 1st July

I'm beginning to worry now about what I've just said. There is nothing worse than a circle of remembered grudges going on and on and leaving everybody in misery. Sometimes it is wise to look towards the future - at least trying to do that as effectively as possible without denying that there were problems in the past. Toshiba has just reminded me I'm on one of their computers - the only thing I know about Japanese relgion is something to do with cherry blossom...

UPDATE 9th July

I see that in the book 'Status Anxiety' which I think may partner this book reference is made to Chamfort. I am aware that when people are talking about 'Champagne' they may also be referring to 'cham pain' with 'cham' being short for chamber either in the inner circles, in music, or in bodily terms. Also, Professor Grayling told me that there is some reckoning by which 'virtue' as it is presented in Menos etc (I have heard of that but haven't read it as yet) - has something to do with the word 'vir' - as in man/male. This seemed highly worrying as by that reckoning the word 'virgin' turns out to be a dirty joke ....

UPDATE 11th July 2012

Actually, I have a real problem now as I have been given highly apparent evidence of life after death by an insect. I found this insect about a week ago in my bedroom apparently dead, with all its legs drawn up to its body as though it was dead. I meant to bury it, but lost track of where I put it. The other night when I was on the computer I suddenly found it in my lap. I picked it up and examined it, and then suddenly thought - 'I wonder whether insects have hearts'. At this, it started moving one of its legs. I was not extremely shocked. I therefore put it in the garden but did not bury it with earth. I don't know whether it is suffering or whether something made it respond to the thought of wondering whether insects have hearts. According to the internet some insects have hearts and some don't - but if some of them don't have a heart how do they work?

I am worried that there are many incidents like this, and many miracles that are going unreported - in labs with animals - and even the fact that once you cut a chicken's head off it may go on reacting for some time. How COULD I just pretend that everything was normal again, when I knew it absolutely wasn't? Was this a crime/choice not to tell everyone about all this as soon as it happened? Is this an example of an 'inconvenient truth'?

UPDATE 1st August 2012

I have now found out about John Napier, who -according to Wikipedia- had some kind of pet spider. More than that I have found out about 'Natural logarithms' - at least the version given again in Wikipedia: they sound very myterious indeed. I don't know how these could work and possibly work out processes of decay when according to the main article Napier thought that it was going to be the end of the world a long time ago - and it obviously wasn't. But interestingly he is not particularly ridiculed for that mistake.

UPDATE 7th October 2012

I don't really know whether I should be saying this...but I've just found out about 'Triumvirates'. According to the article I have just read on this subject on Wikipedia they were strongly prevalent in Ancient Rome, with Julius Caesar being himself part of the first trimvirates (in Rome) and Mark Anthony also being part of one later. On Wikipedia at the moment it says about the latter:
The Second Triumvirate was recognized as a triumvirate at the time. A Lex Titia formalized the rule of Octavian, Mark Antony, and Marcus Aemilius Lepidus. The legal language makes reference to the traditional triumviri. This "three-man commission for restoring the constitution of the republic" (triumviri rei publicae constituendae) in fact was given the power to make or annul law without approval from either the Senate or the people; their judicial decisions were not subject to appeal, and they named magistrates at will. Although the constitutional machinery of the Republic was not irrevocably dismantled by the Lex Titia, in the event it never recovered.[10] Lepidus was sidelined early in the triumvirate, and Antony was eliminated in civil war, leaving Octavian the sole leader.

Also, according to that article - many Roman feasts were actually organised by civil triumvirate partnerships, who were often in charge of administration. The article goes on to list triumvirates in China, for instance, Israel, Greece and New Grenada.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

11 of 318 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kiljoy is here, 25 Jan 2012
That's right I've not read the book... or at least I've only read a little bit (namely his interpretation of the Feast Of Fools, its applicability to our modern world). Vent your spleen if you must but you've been warned.
My reason being... a variation on Burke might help - I think society fails in proportion as it is inclined to ignore the writing of Theodore Dalrymple, and to quote him (just google for TD source/essays)

"The problem of upholding virtue and denouncing vice without appearing priggish, killjoy, bigoted, and narrow-minded has become so acute that intellectuals are now inclined either to deny that there is a distinction between the two or to invert their value. There is no higher word of praise in an art critic's vocabulary, for example, than "transgressive," as if transgression were in itself good, regardless of what is being transgressed. Likewise, to break a taboo is to be a hero, irrespective of the content of the taboo. Who is more contemned than he who clings stubbornly to old moral insights?"

Curiously although in Dalrymple's essay Sex And The Shakespeare Reader you'll find a certain amount of agreement with what de Botton seems to recommend (Agape Restaurant) "The service that Mistress Overdone provides is fine--indeed, needed--as a safety valve, but as a model of all intimate human relations it is the primrose path to earthly perdition." I think that if you read TD more generally, not least All Sex All The Time, you'll find considerable divergence of mind.

Basically I'm inclined to think there is something of a serious... Achilles Heel in de Botton's book, his thinking in general.

Also I'm thinking of his appearance on Faulks On Fiction (The Lover), and what appeared to me at least to be his delight in discussing Flaubert's state of arousal when writing Madame Bovary etc.
And more tellingly, I think, how on the same episode this "disabused intellectual elite" mindset seemed to be epitomized by Rowan Pelling discussing Lady Chatterly's Lover - she sums up by saying "Shameless is good". Yes well, there might be something in that but I'd be failing in my kiljoyness if I didn't refer people to this

I don't wish to be killjoy... but honestly, humans, on the whole, seem to be hellbent on proving how underserving they are of the gift of sex. Perhaps in a paradoxical kind of way de Botton miraculously achieves something of a remedy for this sorry state of affairs (I've appreciated some of his writing in the past) but I doubt it, you can read it to find out, I bloody ain't!

Here for what appears to me a much better assessment of the Feast Of Fools
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

‹ Previous | 111 12 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion
Used & New from: £2.19
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews