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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Of service to the secular and the religious world, 1 Dec. 2013
This review is from: Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion (Paperback)
Very commendable for its attempt in redeeming practices that are virtually only known in religious circles.

One of the most obvious pieces of critique one might have against de Botton, is that his book - and this one is no different - is superficial. It lacks the depth and breadth of analytical philosophical works. He does mention a few philosophers, but doesn't go into much detail on what they have said, how their lines of argument looked like and how his reflections do or do not fit within their frameworks.

But that is beside the point, since de Botton is not trying to write such a work. His work may be described as experiential philosophy. He takes some very practical and concrete (and thus recognizable) experiences, writes them down and muses a bit on what they might mean. This method is interesting, because it opens up the world as we know it in new and different ways. He helps his readers see new things and develop new insights, that can be used in daily life almost directly. If that's no philosophy...

There are many details that I don't agree with necessarily, but I won't go into those, since there is a larger objection to be made. One of the things religion does very effectively is bond people together. Be it through a shared vision on the afterlife, a shared vision of the good life on earth, the belief that God wants them to do certain things in life or act in certain ways, or something entirely different, but this shared vision bonds together. It makes people come to church or the mosque each week, it makes certain that dropping out of the religious community is no easy thing, and it makes the religious community look attractive because they do good.

Every religion has a story to tell about metaphysics and secularists do not, since for them it's only the current life that counts and is of value. For them, nothing exists outside of the here and the now. But if metaphysics are missing from a secular worldview and if a God who expects certain things in life from his followers is missing from that same worldview, why should individual people decide to stick to the behaviors and acts de Botton proposes? Why should people become loyal followers of this secular faith, if their only reward is that they will become better people?

I don't believe they will do so freely, because otherwise they would have already developed the behaviors, activities and institutes that de Botton proposes. It's not without a reason that the secular world (including its universities, museums and restaurants) look like they do right now, it's - at least partly- because earthly promises (money, wealth) seem to be better rewards then becoming a better person. In other words, if there is only a small group interested in becoming a better person, how will the new community of believers in this secular faith sustain its activities and institutes in the long run?

I belief this work to be of service to the world, both the secular and the religious world. I have highly enjoyed it and look forward - albeit skeptically - to the reformation of the secular world that this book proposes.
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