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Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion Hardcover – 26 Jan 2012

3.9 out of 5 stars 143 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 26 Jan 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hamish Hamilton; First Edition - Later Print Run edition (26 Jan. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0241144779
  • ISBN-13: 978-0241144770
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 2.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 144,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Praise for "Religion for Atheists" "Highly original and thought-provoking book..... de Botton is a lively, engaging writer."--"Publishers Weekly" starred review "Quirky, often hilarious ...Focusing on just three major faiths -- Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism -- [de Botton] 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 " "One has to appreciate his pluck as much as his lucid, enjoyable arguments, and this book, like his previous titles, is a serious but intellectually wild ride. If anyone can 'rescue some of what is beautiful, touching and wise from all that no longer seems true, ' it's de Botton." -"Miami Herald" "[De Botton] demonstrates his usual urbane, intelligent, and witty prose, always entertaining and worth reading...this book will advance amicable discussion among both believers and disbelievers." "--Library Journal" "His approach, entertaining and enlightening, provides the thoughtful reader with endless enjoyment and an insight into de Botton's beliefs as well as his generous appraisal of the beliefs of others...brings insight and understanding to how religion may enhance the lives of nonbelievers." -Shelf Awareness "In earnest and lyrical prose, de Botton illuminates the practical functions of religion in a secular context...compelling." -"Kansas City Star" "A new book by Alain de Botton is always a treat...De Botton is literate, articulate, knowledgeable, funny and idiosyncratic." -Forbes.com "[De Botton] is a master of the well-heeled, chatty and above all reasonable tone..."Religion for Atheists" is provocative and well-intentioned." -NPR "A wonderfully dangerous and subversive book." -"San Francisco Chronicle " "De Botton writes at his best when he confronts our abiding human frailty...I can't help but wholeheartedly recommend de Botton's new book. It pr --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Alain de Botton was born in 1969 and is the author of non-fiction essays on themes ranging from love and travel to architecture and philosophy. His bestselling books include How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, and The Architecture of Happiness. He lives in London and founded The School of Life (www.theschooloflife.com) and Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk). For more information, consult www.alaindebotton.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have tried to read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens books about atheism in the past and struggled to finish them because they were so angry with religion. It's true that religion has done a lot of harm over the years, but Alain De Botton's approach in this book is much more palatable.

Rather than attack the faithful with frothy mouthed invective, DeBotton looks at what religion has to offer when you strip away the magical fantasy elements and look at the tangible things religion has provided over the years. This includes a form of community, consolation when things go wrong and a set of rules to live our life by.

An argument is made for an atheistic religion which puts aside the implausible bits about a religious faith but extract the socially useful things. I expect that this could be insulting to the devout but probably only those that actively seek out things to offend their delicate sensibilities.

As an aside, the kindle version of the book is left aligned all the way through, rather than justified, which makes it look a strange. Given that the cost is similar to the print version it seems a little sloppy of the publisher but its not a massive problem.

This is a relatively short book, but there are plenty of ideas crammed into the pages and I found it an excellent read.
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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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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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent lateral thinking from a great writer and philosopher who makes a great case for retaining some of religion's best features to help us cope with - and possibly change - modern society even if we don't believe in the supernatural.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a book less about religion than psychology. Alain de Botton examines in turn aspects of religion that have secular equivalents - eg community, art, institutions, architecture. He analyses how the religious version is often deeper and richer in the way it serves humanity than the secular version. For example a pilgrimage can be more satisfying than a package holiday because it combines rest, relaxation, travel and stimulation with the express desire for spiritual renewal.

There is plenty of evidence that religious people are healthier and happier than those that aren't but whether that's causal is impossible to say.
A modern misconception is that religion is about 'belief'. I heard this discussed by Karen Armstrong on R4 who argued that the essence of being religious is more to do with behaviour and world outlook - ie it's more external than internal. Alain de Botton's book essentially takes those aspects of religious life and detaches them from specific belief, whilst still alluding regularly to Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism.

I found myself agreeing and saying, yes, exactly, and so skipping rather towards the end. I can see how this book will simply infuriate fundamentalists - both religious and atheist - by its practical approach.
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