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Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion [Hardcover]

Alain De Botton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 6 2012
From the author of The Architecture of Happiness, a deeply moving meditation on how we can still benefit, without believing, from the wisdom, the beauty, and the consolatory power that religion has to offer.
Alain de Botton was brought up in a committedly atheistic household, and though he was powerfully swayed by his parents' views, he underwent, in his mid-twenties, a crisis of faithlessness. His feelings of doubt about atheism had their origins in listening to Bach's cantatas, were further developed in the presence of certain Bellini Madonnas, and became overwhelming with an introduction to Zen architecture. However, it was not until his father's death -- buried under a Hebrew headstone in a Jewish cemetery because he had intriguingly omitted to make more secular arrangements -- that Alain began to face the full degree of his ambivalence regarding the views of religion that he had dutifully accepted. Why are we presented with the curious choice between either committing to peculiar concepts about immaterial deities or letting go entirely of a host of consoling, subtle and effective rituals and practices for which there is no equivalent in secular society? Why do we bristle at the mention of the word "morality"? Flee from the idea that art should be uplifting, or have an ethical purpose? Why don't we build temples? What mechanisms do we have for expressing gratitude? The challenge that de Botton addresses in his book: how to separate ideas and practices from the religious institutions that have laid claim to them. In Religion for Atheists is an argument to free our soul-related needs from the particular influence of religions, even if it is, paradoxically, the study of religion that will allow us to rediscover and rearticulate those needs.

Frequently Bought Together

Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion + The Architecture of Happiness + Art Of Travel
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  • Art Of Travel CDN$ 16.00

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"This is a wonderfully provocative book.... De Botton excels at exposing the emptiness of contemporary self-congratulation. He has a fine eye for the senselessness of hypermodern urban life." Globe and Mail

"[De Botton's] thoughtfulness encourages atheists and believers alike to ponder the accrued knowledge and insight that all religions can offer to a troubled world." Vancouver Sun

"A compelling, thought-provoking work." Edmonton Journal

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 Essays in Love, How Proust Can Change Your Life,The Architecture of Happiness, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, and A Week at the Airport. He lives in London and founded The School of Life and Living Architecture.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
de Botton details some of the customs that organized religion has cultivated over the millenia, and he suggests ways in which secular society could become more sustainable by copying them. He looks at everything from community to architecture. And he also does a pretty good job of criticizing libertarianism while he's at it.

In terms of what allows a society to survive, I found that this book (and its readability) ranked right up there with works by Amitai Etzioni, Robert N. Bellah et al, Jared Diamond and Francis Fukuyama.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Religion for Atheists - optional Oct. 12 2012
I'm going to make a suggestion that the best way for an atheist to understand the beauty of a religion is not by reading this book but by reading the primary text of that religion. But I'll admit that it does sometimes require seeing someone with a love for the subject before you can appreciate it yourself. So perhaps Religion for Atheists is useful in that regard. Even so, the textbook formula may address how society can benefit from the ideas of a religion, but it fails to give you that inner understanding of how a religion can be beautiful. For that, you are better off reading The Razor's Edge (Somerset Maugham) or The Life of Pi (Yann Martell). Otherwise, the book is easy to read and comprehensive in the different areas that it inspects.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hey, whatever, we atheists like Christmas too May 7 2012
By Mary Lavers TOP 500 REVIEWER
The perfect antidote for devout atheists who think Dawkins and Hutchins are kind of dicks but who don't want to get their spiritual advice from Penn Jillette or Ricky Gervais. Finally, a new voice for the non-confrontational atheist who knows very well that religions aren't handed down by some fictitious Sky Man but who also secretly enjoys singing Christmas carols.

For more, please visit my blog, CozyLittleBookJournal!

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Religion's Not All Bad Dec 6 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
We read and hear so many negative things about religion these days; it was refreshing to read of the many positive influences religions have on daily life. Very thought provoking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars brilliant ! Oct. 4 2014
By Maryam
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed it immensely, particularly the first half. I only found that at times it was redundant . Overall it was a great read.
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