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

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  5,188 ratings  ·  614 reviews

What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense? The long-running and often boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved forward by Alain de Botton’s inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are entirely false—but that it still has some very important things to teach the secular world.


Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2011)
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Tulpesh Patel
With Religion for Atheists, De Botton’s intention appears to be to reinvigorate Auguste Comte’s project for a new ‘religion of humanity', but seems to think that if atheists steal all the best tools for indoctrination from religious tradition without calling it ‘religion’ then it’s all fine.

Chapter one is titled Wisdom without Doctrine, yet one of the most common ideas presented throughout the rest of the book is that atheists should adopt the highly prescriptive approach of religions, which dic
"Hi, my fellow atheists, my name is Alain and I'm a Philosopher."

"Hi Alain. Sounds like a fun job."

"You have no idea. And when I say 'my fellow atheists', I include you lot over there who may believe in something in general but don't live actively religious lives."

"Uh, really? OK, hi."

"I wanted to talk to you about something I'm sure you, as atheists, can relate to. You know how life without religious faith is grey, stressful, depressive and focused solely on selfish personal gain? And we all ag
In the arc of human history, religion was the source of moral and ritualistic doctrine until the Enlightenment when reason eclipsed it. Alain de Botton asks if on the altar of reason, secularists have forgotten the subtle, complicated, and intelligent aspects of religion which should not be abandoned along with the doctrine, but revitalized with the imprint of secularism.

The author identifies some of the lessons of religion including communal support, cultural influence, and financial power. He
Simon Howard
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 arguments collapse at stage b. For example:
a) Churches get strangers talking to one another
b) Restaurants don't
c) Set up new restaurants

The problem, of course, is that the as
T.D. Whittle
There are many things to like about Botton's book, for both religious and irreligious readers. He has a beautiful way of noticing and explaining the value of religion, and why it is a great loss to humanity to toss out the wisdom and traditions of the Church, along with beliefs in the Divine. His argument is that one need not embrace the supernatural in order to benefit from what religion has offered human beings over many centuries: a life of unified purpose, a sense of community, a focus on ot ...more
Mary Johnson
"Religion for Atheists" tackles questions of the soul in a secular world. As someone for whom religion once structured my worldview (I was a Catholic nun for twenty years and have since left religion altogether), I agree with Alain de Botton's analysis that religion has much to offer unbelievers--not for its stories of the supernatural, but for its response to genuine human needs through community, art, education, and architecture over millennia.

De Botton's prose is lucid and precise. The book's
This book made me think of an essay I read a while ago by a fellow named Morozov about the market for pop-nonfiction which has arisen to satisfy the demands of TED Talks. He found Hybrid Reality to be a string of absurdities, cloaked in irrelevant factoids and incorrectly applied buzzwords; his critique of their book seems to me equally applicable to Religion for Atheists. Botton writes with the meandering fatuousness of a man who doesn't have much to say about much but would like be thought a T ...more
Happy Easter and all of that. I've been writing, I want to say working but that would be disingenuous (this is more like logographic vomiting than a worked on review), review for weeks now. I'm going to try to cut it up (I mean edit, it) and maybe add something new and call it a review. This will possibly be the last time I make mention to the fact that I'm writing this now, as opposed to a few weeks ago when most of this was written. Any mentions to Easter that might pop up were probably writte ...more
Alain de Botton suggests that if you are an atheist with an open mind, you may still see some benefits of religion. It may be possible to construct a humanist religion, as suggested by Auguste Comte--that lacks faith in a supernatural being--but supplies some very real benefits of organized religions. In particular, de Botton looks closely at Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. He shows how these religions are ideally organized to attract members, and that atheists can learn from these structure ...more
Jun 06, 2012 Kristina rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one. Alain de Botton is obnoxious.
Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton is one of the most horrible, annoying, anti-atheist book I have ever read…and de Botton is an atheist (or so he claims. I suspect he is a secret Christian). Throughout this book, de Botton reveals himself to be a smug upper-class Brit with nothing but disdain for people in general. I find it unbelievable that he is an atheist because the whole premise of this book is based on the most egregious misconception ...more
Sarah Clement
This is a beautifully written book, with some wonderful sentiments. This is not a book for people who struggle to see the positive aspects of religion and focus instead on its negative influences. I understand that view, but it certainly gets tiring, and reading this book was a refreshing change. This is also not a book for the extremely pious, who would balk at the suggestion that humanity can pick and choose amongst the teachings of religion, and translate them to a secular society. However, i ...more
Adam Higgitt
Many people say they believe in some sort of higher being or essence but reject organised religion. Alain de Botton flips this on its head, arguing that religious rituals are important in helping us to be live better lives but insisting that God is a fiction.

de Botton's basic idea is one I personally find attractive. The triumph of secularism certainly appears to have shorn us of a variety of ways to reflect on our places in the universe and connect more meaningfully with others. His example of
Clif Hostetler
This book is written by an atheist for atheists. The author bases his comments on the premise that supernatural claims of religion are false, but that religion still has many things to teach the secular world.

The author, de Botton, in the book’s introduction recounts that he grew up in a atheistic family environment. I suspect that gives him the freedom to study the merits of religion free from a personal history of rejecting childhood religious teachings. He thus is perhaps able to objectively
The “purpose of this book,” writes Alain de Botton, “is to identify some of the lessons we might retrieve from religions.”

De Botton in this short and eloquent book attempts to underscore, for the secular world, what he sees as the value of religion for all of society. He does so in a writing style that befits a bemused and observant Montaigne in his tower. De Botton is ever the practical philosopher, extracting lessons where others see perhaps only a pedestrian or cement edifice.

The greatest p
I had worried that de Botton would not be a proper philosopher - that he would be vague, or not rigorous, or faddish - but this is a good and even important book.

The book might be summarised as follows. Religion recognises, and has ways to deal with, man's deep neediness; and secular society presently lacks those tools but could adapt them from religion - without itself becoming religious. De Botton makes a variety of concrete suggestions as to how this could be done.

The case is well made and m
Megat Hanis
This book attempts to demystify what secular realm used to argue by discrediting religion in all of its doctrines and practices despite their practical purposes. What i found intriguing by Alain's arguments is that, it opens up sheer narrowness of modern typical atheist for participating in useless ontological debates about God/Gods without paying much attention in it's functional value. By offering this useful functional framework of religions, vastnesss of religious ethical consideration and c ...more
Kasia James
Religion for Atheists is a fascinating book - although I confess it has taken me nearly a year to read it, and in some ways that is an appropraite way to read this book. Botton is obviously a man who thinks deeply about things, which is pretty refreshing these days, although I was glad to see that he confessed to the modern plague of short attention spans as well - that the human mind shrinks from considering seruious issues when we could so easily just update our social media.
The way he writes
Lauren Albert
I will always think of this as "Religion for Atheists and Believers: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion and a Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion in This Life (Rather than After). It is a lovely book--I am not an atheist but I have read and enjoyed many of de Botton's books. Even many believers have come to distrust those who claim to tell us what matters about religion and how to experience it. I figure that the things even an atheist can see as valuable in religion, might just ...more
Greg Linster
I think it is fair to say that humans cannot escape religiosity. Whatever the evolutionary reason, religion -- in the broadest sense of the term imaginable -- has arguably helped us humans flourish as a social animal.

The central premise of this book is that the religions that have managed to stick around (e.g., Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) clearly offer some survival benefits, even if the benefit is merely emotional and consolatory. We non-believers can actually learn quite a bit from these
I read a copy in Dutch. Disturbing new insights for people working in the academic world of art, literature, history, heritage and museums.
Russell George
Alain de Botton writes from a very good place. His overriding concern is that people live happier, more fulfilled lives, principally through becoming more self-aware and less prone to unrealistic dreams and illusions. He is, if you wanted to give him a job title, a philosopher, though his books are often more about reinterpreting classical philosophy for modern sensibilities, or so it seems. Anyway, he writes very well, and it’s difficult to finish one of his books and feel that you don’t see th ...more
I've had this book on my to-read list for sometime and finally stumbled across a copy. It has some interesting ideas even if I think the suggestions for what to do with them are somewhat naive. The basic thesis is that if we assume there isn't actually a god, why did humans invent religion anyway? Lots of reasons, and those reasons are still very valid ones from an atheistic perspective. De Botton goes beyond the traditional arguments of "community-building" to talk about religion's influence on ...more
Robert Bor
This author came warmly recommended by a friend, hence my attempt to delve into his work.

Let's assume you're an atheist, like I am. Besides the obvious question whether God exists, you may or may not believe religion is largely a force of trouble, or just may have more disadvantages than advantages.

What the author does, is to delve into the aspects of religion that he deems benign forces for which secular society has no proper answers. Yet. Mr de Botton proceeds to outline a number of secular in
This book was a real eye-opener for me. While I wouldn't describe myself as particularly religious and I wouldn't call myself an atheist either, I found the ideas and suggestions Alain de Botton puts forward in this book to be incredibly thought-provoking. He describes with eloquence and humor the ways religions have, in the past, provided guidance and support for mankind and how we, in the 21st Century, are lacking much of this. There is a void that has opened up that needs to be filled where t ...more
Martin Pribble
After all the negative press I’d heard about the latest book by Alain de Botton, I was less than eager to read it. Sure it was about atheism and religion, so in theory it should be right up my alley, but the reviews I’d heard from people, combined with de Botton’s TED talk, “Atheism 2.0″, and the apparent reports that he intended to build a “Temple to atheism”, had me wondering if this book was worth reading at all. I have read work of his in the past; “The Art Of Travel” and “The Architecture o ...more
Christopher Myrick
I don't disagree with de Botton's overall points about the value of art, tradition, family, ritual or community. However, neither do many other atheists (nor, for that matter, do his other boogieman... those dreaded libertarians). Much of his thesis is built on straw-man arguments about how the secular and materialists devalue these lofty and important things. He not only lacks evidence for this, but doesn't even back his personal musings with any particularly useful anecdotes. It is true that m ...more
Despite the title, Religion for Atheists is in no way an attempt to convert non-believers. Stated bluntly, and up front, de Botton writes that “of course no religions are true in any God-given sense.” As such, there are no arguments about the truth of religion; de Botton begins with a basic assumption of atheism, and from there proceeds to examine religious traditions and rituals with an eye to incorporating them into secular culture, in order to enhance community, compassion, education, art and ...more
peiman-mir5 rezakhani
درود بر دوستان گرامی
کتاب نسبتاً خوبی بود ... آقای الن دو باتن در این کتاب مشکلاتی که جوامع مختلف درگیرِ اون هستن را بیان کرده، و پس از اینکه بیان میکنه ادیان مثلاً چگونه سعی در حل این مشکلات داشتن، راه حلهای سِکولار و غیر دینی رو برای حل این مشکلات ارائه میده... ولی به هر حال بحث در مورد همون سؤال مسخره و تکراری هست که، آقاااا اصلاً دین واقعیت داره؟؟ این کتاب برایِ اینکه اعصابِ خواننده رو به هم نریزه، از همون ابتدای کار، از این بحث گذر میکنه.. چون هر انسان خردمند و آگاهی میدونه که هیچ دینی از جا
Susan Leonard
I was really looking forward to reading this but wish i hadn't bothered. I've read 1 other book by Alain which i thought was amazing so had high expectations, and as an atheist who already agrees with the central idea - that secular society can learn from religions - was looking forward to reading Alain's ideas.
For me, Alain protests too strongly the positive benefits he thinks society should adopt from religion, but misses half the argument ie any negative aspects (eg pedophilia scandals, atti
There is so much wrong with this book that I scarcely know where to begin.

Let's start with the poor editing. I've never seen a book so poorly edited in my entire life. Double spaced, large fonts, thick margins and a picture every second or third page all seem to deliberately inflate the page count. Sometimes the pictures have nothing to do with the text, rarely to they have captions, and never do they actually illustrate a point or add anything to the text being presented. For example a
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Alain de Botton is a writer and television producer who lives in London and aims to make philosophy relevant to everyday life. He can be contacted by email directly via

He is a writer of essayistic books, which refer both to his own experiences and ideas- and those of artists, philosophers and thinkers. It's a style of writing that has been termed a 'philosophy of everyday lif
More about Alain de Botton...

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“[T]he unsympathetic assessments we make of others are usually the result of nothing more sinister than our habit of looking at them in the wrong way, through lenses clouded by distraction, exhaustion and fear, which blind us to the fact that they are really, despite a thousand differences, just altered versions of ourselves: fellow fragile, uncertain, flawed beings likewise craving love and in urgent need of forgiveness.” 16 likes
“It is one of the unexpected disasters of the modern age that our new unparalleled access to information has come at the price of our capacity to concentrate on anything much. The deep, immersive thinking which produced many of civilization's most important achievements has come under unprecedented assault. We are almost never far from a machine that guarantees us a mesmerizing and libidinous escape from reality. The feelings and thoughts which we have omitted to experience while looking at our screens are left to find their revenge in involuntary twitches and our ever-decreasing ability to fall asleep when we should.” 13 likes
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