Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion Paperback – 6 Sep 2012
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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
About the Author
Alain de Botton 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, The News: A User's Manual, and latest novel The Course of Love, among many others. Alain is a bestselling author in 30 countries. He lives in London, where he runs The School of Life and Living Architecture.
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a lifelong Christian.
The book looks at the many benefits bestowed on those belonging to a religion, such as a supportive social network, realisation of our importance in the world as a whole, a source of comfort, beautiful architecture etc. It then discusses how we can provide those benefits within a secular state.
For me there was much food for thought. The best topics were probably at the start of the book and I found it tailed off rather towards the end. Well illustrated though, which was rather nice.
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.
There is maybe a touch of romance about religion especially references to the Catholic church - the structures can help but like all institutions there are those who 'belong' more than others (e.g. arguably, democratisation favours the bold - the fight for gender equality will seldom change social class structures which are becoming more rigid) The comments about the need for people to have more realistic views of marriage - child raising not happiness- is another idea cast on the waters. But whilst happiness may not be a valid objective a happier parent may be better able to manage the child raising.
In summary I found this to be book of personal, roughed-out ideas and themes on creating happiness and community with less about the how and who decides what is "good" The large number of photo. reproductions are not so good. The effects of religion on creating community a touch historical and maybe overestimated ('outsiders' remain outsiders for most churches) and the notion of having "psychoanalytically trained travel agents" to suss out our needs may be an intrusion too far with potentially startling consequences (and lots of divorces?)..But this would be a brilliant starter for a discussion on the many topics covered - a good work for a secular non fiction book /philosophy group - or church meeting - and an engaging read for the rest of us.
A huge thank you to the author for relieving me of part of my burden that I am the only freak who cannot cope and for shedding a bit of light on my journey.