David's Reviews > Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton
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Mar 17, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: english-lit
Read in March, 2012 , read count: 1

I heard Alain de Botton on the radio and was curious about this book. I enjoyed his Week at Heathrow booklet and like his writing style.

The title is intriguing and he lays out his premise right away. The secular world has pushed religion out of the way and offers little in regards for compassion, spirituality and something to look forward after death. De Botton comes from Jewish parents who were not very religious and from his tone, is an atheist. He believes that various aspects of three main religions (Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism) can offer something for the secular world and he lays it out nicely with such topics as Kindness, Education, Tenderness, Perspective and Art. The use of images help but I do find the proposed images a little too contrived for my liking. And do I agree with David Brooks in his New York Times Book Review that " many of his ideas seem silly".

Do I buy his premise? In a way, yes. De Botton does make the secular world out to be a rather cold place whereas relgion has all that history, art and beautiful buildings....something for everyone. I don' t value organized religion much but he has some valid points worth reconsidering from a secular point. This book is not for everyone and even the title may bother both sides of the conflict....but why is there a conflict? Both sides draw a line and de Botton stands in the middle and takes from both sides. I like that. There is one religion notably absent but the times explains why?

Where he scores for me is on Art and Education. Here I totally agree and see religion as something to look at and to borrow or steal as he implies. I like his proposed museum based on themes rather than art periods. He also notes that advanced education has become too lofty while trying to be too practical refering to all those lawyers and business types who managed to manipulate the last economic melt-down based on greed. Yet he does generalize a bit too much and this is where the book falls down. I enjoyed the read and pondering his ideas.
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