Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion ” as Want to Read:
Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  9,833 ratings  ·  988 reviews
What if religions are neither all true or all nonsense? The boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on by Alain's inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false – and yet that religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world.

Religion for Athei
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published February 12th 2012 by Hamish Hamilton (first published September 1st 2011)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Religion for Atheists, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Religion for Atheists

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.62  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,833 ratings  ·  988 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
Tulpesh Patel
Mar 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk
"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 a
Literature For Religionists

Like de Botton, I am an admirer of religion and a despiser of religious organisations. For me, religion is a primary motivator and source of ontological poetry, that is, language which seeks to relativise language by pointing out that language does not capture what is not-language. Religious poetry in all its forms - speech, liturgy, architecture, music, and literature - makes a consistent point regardless of sect, culture, or epoch: Reality, whatever it is, is not con
Simon Howard
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion, atheism
The bottom line (and also the closing sentence) of this book is simple: "Religions are intermittently too useful, effective and intelligent to be abandoned to the religious alone". A self-proclaimed atheist who - spread over 300 pages and illustrated with numerous photographs - delivers an extensive eulogy to religion: what a provocation! And it doesn't stop there: this book also is a merciless settlement with modern secular thinking. Constantly de Botton points to the great shortcomings of athe ...more
Mary Johnson
Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Mar 24, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  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
Nov 15, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
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 an 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 objectivel
Apr 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, philosophy
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
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
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
T.D. Whittle
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Hanieh Habibi
It was not that much fascinating for me cause I already knew lots of things he mentioned. And also, if atheists follow all details in the religion, of course with other reasons, what is the difference between them and theists? I mean maybe the attitude of not caring about these issues makes them what they are!
A.G. Stranger
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
De Botton, always the stunning thinker, will teach you through this book the undeniable and timeless wisdom of religious beliefs and institutions and how secular societies might adopt it instead of haughtily dismissing it under the pretext of its irrational premises. An essential read for both religious and atheists thinkers.
Sarah Clement
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
First of all – and this might seem like a foolish complaint, but it bothers me so, so much – I have to address the title. “Religion for Atheists”? ”Religion for Atheists”?? Really?! Self-help gone sophisticated! When is “Biology for Priests” coming out? No, I know, the title is not supposed to change your taste for the book, and it didn’t, I’m not saying that it deterred me in any way (it was absolutely neutral in this case, I picked the book up because of the author), but it just feels like it’ ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lauren Albert
Aug 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, religion
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
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, religion
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
Russell George
Nov 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Ian D
An interesting, albeit controversial and, at times cringe-worthy, read. I value Alain de Botton's work although I don't always agree with his viewpoint. In this essay, that could have been alternatively titled "Judaocatholicism for not-entirely convinced Atheists", the author draws a comparison between religious traditions and secular life with the generous dose of cherry-picking and correlation-causation that it implies. Not unexpectedly, he comes off as a religion apologist rather than a voice ...more
Adam Higgitt
Feb 09, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Ruxandra (4fără15)
*mini-review coming soon*
Martin Pribble
Oct 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Jeffrey Howard
Alain de Botton will make uncomfortable the most pious religionists and unyielding atheists in his endeavor to bring them into harmony with each other--they need one another. Just as religion needs to be redeemed from the religious, humanism must be salvaged from bombastic atheists like Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens.

He admits that this book is not the "first attempt to reconcile an antipathy towards the supernatural side of religion with an admiration for certain of its ideas and practices; nor
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
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
Megat Hanis
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
If you're new to atheism, try this reading this book at a later date. If the only atheists you've read are Dawkins or Hitchens, you'll find a more relaxed approach here. The author can appreciate why people feel the need for religion and explains how the secular world can learn something from it. ...more
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
I read a copy in Dutch. Disturbing new insights for people working in the academic world of art, literature, history, heritage and museums.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
London is more religious than the rest of Britain? 2 2 Jun 24, 2020 12:15AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton l Summary & Study Guide
  • The School of Life
  • How Are We to Live?: Ethics in an Age of Self-Interest
  • Self-Knowledge
  • Amurgul gândurilor
  • A World Without Ice
  • The Book of Queer Prophets: 21 Writers on Sexuality and Religion
  • A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond
  • Bir Şeyler Eksik: Aşk, Cinsellik ve Hayat Hakkında Bilmek İstemediğimiz Şeyler
  • Self-Knowledge (Essay Books)
  • The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire
  • A Phoenix First Must Burn
  • How to Stay Sane
  • Bully: a True Story of High School Revenge
  • Living in the Light: A Guide to Personal and Planetary Transformation
  • De anatomie van het geluk
  • Survival of the Friendliest: Why We Love Insiders and Hate Outsiders, and How We Can Rediscover Our Common Humanity
  • De joodse messias
See similar books…
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 li

Related Articles

Adolescents who can't get a date are in a uniquely privileged position: They will have the perfect chance to get grounding in world literature....
36 likes · 4 comments
“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.” 33 likes
“[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.” 25 likes
More quotes…