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 Atheists Suggests That Rather Than Mocking Religions, Agnostics And Atheists Should Instead Steal From Them Because They Re Packed With Good Ideas On How We Might Live And Arrange Our Societies Blending Deep Respect With Total Impiety, Alain A Non Believer Himself Proposes That We Should Look To Religions For Insights Into, Among Other Concerns, How To Build A Sense Of Community Make Our Relationships Last Overcome Feelings Of Envy And Inadequacy Escape The Twenty Four Hour Media Go Travelling Get Out Of Art, Architecture And Music And Create New Businesses Designed To Address Our Emotional NeedsFor Too Long Non Believers Have Faced A Stark Choice Between Either Swallowing Lots Of Peculiar Doctrines Or Doing Away With A Range Of Consoling And Beautiful Rituals And Ideas At Last, In Religion For Atheists, Alain Has Fashioned A Far Interesting And Truly Helpful Alternative 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 use of photographs and white space makes this series of essays something of a secular illuminated manuscript, a book of meditations on being human.As the best religions do, de Botton s book appeals not only to the mind, but also opens a human response through aesthetic beauty, playfulness and an appeal to the emotions and imagination De Botton envisions a world both free from religion s superstitions and open to the needs of humans for community and inspiration I enjoyed dreaming along with him. 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 religionb Muse that this is lacking in modern societyc Propose a secular solutionThe majority of his arguments collapse at stage b For example a Churches get strangers talking to one anotherb Restaurants don tc Set up new restaurantsThe problem, of course, is that the assignment of this quality to restaurants is arbitrary There are plenty of secular places and events, from knitting circles to Skeptics in the Pub, where strangers are encouraged to talk and interact I simply don t accept the premise that this is a function of religious society that is absent from secular society Similarly a The church guides us on practical life skillsb Universities teach fact based courses like history, with little regard for life skillsc Change universities curriculaI studied at a university with an Institute for Health and Society and a Campus for Ageing and Vitality I don t accept the premise that universities only offer impractical courses And so it goes on Almost every chapter is built upon one of these illogical leaps and, not only that, but the structure of the book gives little expression to the downsides of the prescribed form of living encouraged by religion, and its secular reversioning encouraged by de Botton Overall, this was a disappointing and frustrating read from one of my favourite authors I sorely hope he returns to form nsana kendi benimsedi i d nceleri sorgulatan kitaplar seviyorum Atesitler i in Din de biraz yle nsana hem inanc n hem de inan s zl n sorgulat yor Bununla birlikte sek ler ve ya inan s z insanlar b y k dinin m sl manl k hristiyanl k musevilik hangi zelliklerinden faydalanabilir, hangi retilerini kendine ilke edinebilir ve bunlar niye yapmal bunlardan bahsediyor Alain de Botton Bunu yaparken de ne dinleri sert e ele tiriyor ne de inan s zlara dini i bir ekilde sunuyor Dinlerin birle tirici, affedici, insan erdemli biri olmaya iten retilerini hep sevmi imdir Farkl l klardan beslenmek her zaman g zel 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 Thinker and rewarded with speaking engagements His arguments are unsubstantial, and when he seems to be coming close to actually saying something, he throws out a red herring and runs off in pursuit It was thus very amusing to me to find out that he did a TED Talk about this book almost immediately after it was released.The most cringe inducing example of this has got to be Chapter VII, Perspective He says that Job should be an important text for atheists He recaps the plot of the Book of Job, quotes from it, and gives a cursory summation of its implications We then jump to talking about Spinoza He concludes this section by saying, Our secular world is lacking in the sorts of rituals that might put us gently in our place Which alright, fine, whatever, I don t agree but go on He mentions Jewish rituals which might gently put us in our place in the cosmos He says that we should look to distant galaxies for a sense of scale Then, apparently frightened by the notion of having to explain how this would be implemented and how it might affect society, he babbles about how far galaxies are from us for three paragraphs I don t know, maybe if you re in search of profundity it sounds pretty good I can see the byline for his speeches now, An effortless synthesis of Old Testament faith, secular Judaic thought, and Sagan like secular philosophy But if you re just a guy skimming through a book a Christian on Facebook told you to read it s not very impressive The parts of this that I actually found personally irritating were the bizarre assumptions of what naturalists feel about the world For some atheists, one of the most difficult aspects of renouncing religion is having to give up on ecclesiastical art and all the beauty and emotion therein What Who says this No one says this Either source someone saying, I do not enjoy Bach because he is a filthy deist or call the book, Judeo Christian Tradition for Idiots, because I can t think of a prominent atheist thinker saying that they dislike religious art because it is religious That said, the chapter is somewhat redeemed by his hilarious position that avant garde is bad because you have to have a grounding in art history to enjoy it, and that we d be much better off if we just stuck with circa Renaissance realism.Oh, speaking of Judeo Christian, that s the other thing There s no Islam or Hinduism here, I guess because as a secular Jew from a Christian society writing about anything else would require research, which is hard There s some nods towards Buddhism, but I got the feeling it was an afterthought, like oh, I need to incorporate a third religion so I can claim to be comprehensive.That is actually a good summation of the book, it is a bunch of subjects cobbled together in a sleight of hand attempt at appearing wise and far reaching I recommend reading it if you want a few inadvertent laughs and a mild headache. 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 about atheists we are incapable of compassion, kindness, morality, ethics and spirituality due to our inability to believe in miracles, gods, angels and other magical creatures and magical thinking Because of this, he posits that we atheists should and must adopt certain guidelines from religion in order to bring back those missing qualities into our secular lives minus the gods The book is divided into ten chapters which cover the areas of secular life that de Botton insists should be restructured to be meaningful Although I found this book to be incredibly offensive to the intelligent reader at every turn of the page, I will address only what I found most troubling Here is a summary of de Botton s consistent problems a Over generalization De Botton over generalizes everything Every person particularly atheists fit into the one category he created His world does not allow for variances in thoughts, beliefs or practices This is why I don t believe the man has ever spoken to another human being out of his own socio economic class He appears to have gotten his theories about other humans by observing them in a public market, as if we were zoo animals b He ignores the many negative aspects of religion and ascribes nothing but positive motives to religions many rules governing thought and conduct Apparently the idea that religions have excellent and unsavory reasons for controlling persons thoughts and actions never occurred to him.c The terms secular secularism and atheist atheism are used interchangeably These words do not have the same meaning. It is quite possible to want to live in a secular society and yet be a religious person For freedom of and from religion to be possible, we must live in a secular society d Here is de Botton s derogatory view of atheists We have grown frightened of the word morality We flee from the idea that art should be uplifting or have an ethical mission We have no mechanisms for expressing gratitude We resist mental exercises Strangers rarely sing together apparently he has never watched the many Youtube videos of flash mobs gathering in public locations to sing page 14.e The solutions de Botton proposes to adapt religious practices for secular society are so ridiculous and unpractical as to be useless He also manages to be offensive to both believers and atheists alike when praising what he views as a good aspect of religion but what seems to me to be its worst For example, he is impressed by how profitable religious organizations are when he compares the Catholic Church to the McDonald s fast food corporation and insists atheists also must have organizations that are big profit machines De Botton mourns the state of the secular community As far as he is concerned, we are all in our little worlds and no longer connect with our neighbors in meaningful ways We rarely see or speak to people who are different from us and because we don t interact with people outside of our own sphere, we dislike and distrust them as others Oddly enough, de Botton uses city life London as an example of this If he had used rural villages or small cities as an example, I would have somewhat agreed However, cities particularly larger cities such as London are prime examples of melting pots of many different kinds of people from all areas of the world living together To me, cities are the great leveling field of wealth and poverty On New York City s swanky Fifth Avenue, the wealthy must walk the same sidewalks as the poor or middle class Many of the city s inhabitants ride mass transit together, eat at the many excellent delis and interact with each other It s difficult to continue to think of the black Hispanic Middle Eastern man as other if you see him every day on the train and once in a while share a newspaper Large cities are the best example of strangers mingling on a daily basis However, according to de Botton, a successful community is a religious community and he cites a Catholic Mass as the perfect example De Botton says that no matter what a person looks like or what his native language is, he is accepted into the religious community This is clearly his idea of the perfect community strangers supposedly breaking bread together, singing together and greeting each other despite their possible differences This is a lovely idea but de Botton clearly overlooks the fact that these strangers all have one thing in common that overrides any differences of skin color or manner of speaking common ideology While the church may welcome the funny looking guy into their community, they do so because he believes what they believe If it is revealed that he perhaps doesn t agree with them on the question of abortion or homosexuality or another important tenet of that particular religion, he may be kicked out of that community as an other The religious community can be just as unforgiving, unfriendly and closed off as he perceives the secular community to be.His solution to the lack of connection and fear of the other within the secular community is to create Agape Restaurants At these restaurants, you are seated at long tables with strangers and the food is served by passing dishes around the table A guidebook, based on the Jewish Haggadah or the Catholic missal, will lay out rules of how to behave at the meal The Book of Agape would direct diners to speak to one another for prescribed lengths of time on predefined topics One would be privy to accounts of fear, guilt, rage, melancholy, unrequited love and infidelity that would generate an impression of our collective insanity and endearing fragility 46 This idea of having guidebooks to help us think, speak, act, and eat certain ways is a persistent theme throughout this book De Botton is clearly obsessed with the need to control people s thoughts and actions and is greatly impressed with religions ability to do so over many years Another side to community that de Botton thinks is important is harmony So of course you would naturally think of religions when you think of harmonious living, right He wants to promote a day of atonement apologies when we apologize to others for our hateful comments or wrongful actions He also thinks it is important to understand that life is difficult and full of rules and regulations that must be followed and that following the example of the medieval Feast of Fools in which persons were allowed to be drunk and sacrilegious for a day , certain days of the year should be designated as days to let chaos reign so we can be exempted from having to be rational and faithful I thought that s what the weekend was for As an example of this, there is a drawing on page 67 showing naked people fornicating and smacking each other with whips on a dinner table at the Agape Restaurant with this caption Yearly moment of release at the Agape Restaurant Uh, yeah As if atheists don t have enough problems He wants us to advocate having a day of debauchery That s ridiculous.Much of what de Botton writes is so ludicrous I think surely the man must be joking I even scribbled that at the top of one page Tell me this is a joke The whole book to me is one long gag, albeit a very unfunny one In his chapter regarding education, de Botton advocates doing away with fields like history and literature, ultimately superficial categories which, even if they cover valuable material, do not in themselves track the themes that most torment and attract our souls 121 Is it possible for me to express how much I despise this man Really, history and literature do not address the themes that torment our souls I find this hard to believe Perhaps not every aspect of history or every book taught is going to address everyone s needs, but surely even the most hard hearted person can take away something from those subjects of study He also believes that all professors drone and all students are bored and no one in a secular university is excited about learning The prescription to this is, of course, religion Humanities lecturers why just the humanities Is it okay to be bored in science class need to be trained by African American Pentecostal preachers so that lectures can be given in the same rousing style as sermons now tearful students fall to their knees, ready to let the spirit of some of the world s most important ideas enter and transform them 132 De Botton, please look up the word melodramatic in a dictionary.After reading this terrible book, I am struck by how delighted de Botton is with the idea of controlling people s actions and thoughts and having our daily lives organized based on one religious edict or another He clearly doesn t trust the great unwashed masses of secular humanity it s often difficult to know if he means atheists or people in general to be able to handle their own affairs, think for themselves, come to their own spiritual insights, or feel emotions without being told how and when to do these things Every one of his secular solutions involve rules, guidelines and some other form of control monitoring This to me is a scary idea one of the reasons I am an atheist aside from the whole supernatural aspect is I don t like how religious organizations try to control their followers thoughts and actions I am perfectly capable of thinking and feeling without religious guidelines The other overwhelming realization I gain from this book is how ridiculous de Botton is Not just for his idiotic solutions of Temples of Tenderness and travel agents who will study your soul and send you somewhere to revive your inner spirit, but how he oversimplifies and generalizes everything He has no respect for people in general and in particular his continued use of the word secular when he must mean atheist shows his lack of true sensitivity and understanding Here s a paragraph sneering at secularists It is the secular whose longing for perfection has grown so intense as to lead them to imagine that paradise might be realized on this earth after just a few years of financial growth and medical research With no evident awareness of the contradiction they may, in the same breath, gruffly dismiss a belief in angels while sincerely trusting that the combined powers of the IMF, the medical research establishment, Silicon Valley and democratic politics could together cure the ills of mankind 185.And this guy says he s an atheist I think he s a jackass In every chapter of this awful book, de Botton displays no understanding of atheists nor of the differences between secularism and atheism he insults the intelligence of the reader supposedly his target audience of atheists by insisting people cannot get meaning from art, literature, or architecture without some kind of religious inspired guidelines shows his creepy eagerness to develop guidelines and programs to control how people think and act in almost all life activities and completely ignores the negative consequences of religion on society He is smug, self satisfied in his own superiority and obnoxious This is the most aggravating book I ve read in a long time I don t recommend it unless you too want to see how extremely ludicrous he is This review could barely touch on the many instances of boorishness, idiocy and complete craziness contained within the covers of this deplorable book. 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 objectively search the field of religion for insights into how they can build a sense of community, make our relationships last, overcome envy, survive feelings of inadequacy, and reconnect with the natural world.The following chapter titles indicate the areas of human endeavor that the book examines 1 Wisdom without Doctrine, 2 Community, 3 Kindness, 4 Education, 5 Tenderness, 6 Pessimism, 7 Perspective, 8 Art, 9 Architecture, and 10 Institutions This book comes across much as an extended essay that is probably not all that convincing to dedicated atheists However, those readers who truely appreciate the merits of poetry, music, art, literature, and study of history will be the individuals most likely to comprehend the message of this book That is because those are the people who can appreciate the ways that the liberal and fine arts along with religion can enhance the human experience even though they do not sustain corporeal life in a direct tangible way.Interestingly, and unbelievably, this book has many photographs scattered amongst the text I d guess there are about a hundred different photos I think the author is trying to stimulate the reader to ponder beyond the text In other words, read between the lines.Below are some quotations from the book that caught my attention The most boring and unproductive question one can ask of any religion is whether or not it is true p11 We learn from religion not only about the charms of community We learn also that a good community accepts just how much there is in us that doesn t really want community p66 Christianity is focused on helping a part of us that secular language struggles even to name, which is not precisely intelligence or emotion, not character or personality, but another, even abstract entity loosely connected with all of those and yet differentiated from them by an additional ethical and transcendent dimension and to which we may as well refer, following Christian terminology, as the soul p113 The secular are at this moment in history a great deal optimistic than the religious, a something of an irony given the frequency with which the later have been derided by the former for their apparent naivety and credulousness It is the secular who s longing for perfection has grown so intense as to lead them to imagine that paradise might be realized on this earth after just a few years of financial growth and medical research with no evident awareness of the contradiction they may in the same breath gruffly dismiss a belief in angels while sincerely trusting that the combined powers of the IMF, the medical research establishment, silicone valley, and democratic politics could together cure the ills of mankind p183 A pessimistic world view does not have to entail a life stripped of joy Pessimists can have far greater capacity for appreciation than their opposite numbers for they never expect things to turn out well and so may be amazed by their modest successes which occasionally break across their darkened horizons Modern secular optimists on the other hand with their well developed sense of entitlement generally fail to savor any epiphanies of everyday life as they busy themselves with the construction of earthly paradise p188 It is telling that the secular world is not well versed in the art of gratitude p188 For atheists one of the most consoling texts of the Old Testament should be the book of Job which concerns itself with the theme of why bad things happen to good people A question to which entreatingly it refuses to offer up simple faith based answers Instead it suggests that it is not for us to know why events occur in the way they do That we should not always interpret pain as punishment, and that we should recall that we live in a universe riddled with mysteries of which the vagaries and our fortunes are certainly not the largest or even among the most important p196 Our secular world is lacking in the sorts of rituals that might put us gently in our place p200 The following is the author s own description of the purpose of this book It has been the purpose of this book to identify some of the lessons we might retrieve from religions how to generate feelings of community, how to promote kindness, how to cancel out the current bias towards commercial values in advertising, how to select and make use of secular saints, how to rethink the strategies of universities and our approach to cultural education, how to redesign hotels and spas, how better to acknowledge our own childlike needs, how to surrender some of our counterproductive optimism, how to achieve perspective through the sublime and the transcendent, how to reorganize museums, how to use architecture to enshrine values and, finally, how to coalesce the scattered efforts of individuals interested in the care of souls and organize them under the aegis of institutions p311 The following link is to an interview with the author, Alain de Botton, from the public radio program On Being with Krista Tippett following quotations are not from this book Nevertheless I include them here because they speak to the same subject If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him Voltaire I think religion is so much than belief in God It is about community, it s about being moved by certain historical narratives, it s about self identity within the group, it s a place to bring your existential dilemmas Although I reject a belief in God I accept the many impulses that bring people to a religious community Rebecca Goldstein, author of the book, 36 Reasons for the Existence of God a Work of Fiction , spoken on the Here and Now radio program on 4 22 10 An interesting link Why Losing God Hits Some of Us Harderhttp www.patheos.com blogs godlessi Hi, my fellow atheists, my name is Alain and I m a PhilosopherHi, Alain Sounds like a fun jobYou 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 livesUh, really OK, hiI 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 agree that the world was better back when nobody was poor and everyone always helped each other out, and that religion in particular catholicism, since they have shiny shiny robes without exception brings out the best in man and would be the perfect basis of society if not for the annoying factual detail that God doesn t exist, am I rightDo you need a hugOK, let s start in this end For thousands of years, we invented religions to fill basic needs of community, moral guidelines, inner balance, etc And just because some of us don t believe in God any, those needs don t just go away overnightThat s probably a good point Which is why weSo I came up with this brilliant idea Since there is absolutely nothing in secular society to fulfill those needs, we can simply steal them wholesale from religions Let s build atheist temples, let s introduce atheist saints for instance, fashion designers and bankers and build new organisations with dogma that s as fixed and immutable as that of the Catholic church or McDonald s, to tell us how we should act towards ourselves and others Clearly this freedom thing isn t working out, as I m sure we all agree, and what we need is a stern parent to tell us exactly what s good for us and what s forbidden If it works for five year olds, it has to work for adult society tooWait, whatAnd build restaurants where you have to follow a liturgical script and tell the waiter about your deepest doubts to be allowed to order And tell married women they re no longer allowed to say no to us in the bedroomBecause marital rape is happiness, gotcha And us I thought you were speaking to all your fellow people here, not just 50%What s your point Oh, and as a gold star for those who follow my rules, at the end of every year we get an ORGY where we get to have sex with anyone we wantYou re jokingAbsolutely not Look at this picture in my book where a young woman blows an older man at a huge party Look how happy he isYou re not jokingAnd what about the universities What kind of society are we building, anywaysYou mean how they just focus on careers and professions and not enough on humanitiesAu contraire Did you know I couldn t believe it myself at first when I visited an actual university, I tell you, I was shocked that we teach university students to think critically about things like literature and history That s obviously got to go Today s literature is completely, to quote myself, ungodly, and all that modern culture teaches us is to think in abstracts and question structures rather than just give us clear and simple rules on how to live Christianity, on the other hand, has realised that people must be toldFine So what do you, as an atheist philosopher, suggest we readWell, quoting myself again, twelve verses from Deuteronomy should be enough Oh, and artists and film makers and writers shouldn t be allowed to think for themselves just because they know how to paint or photograph or turn a phrase, but just like when the Pope ordered the Sistine Chapel from Michelangelo, they should get all their motives handed to them fromLet me guess self appointed philosophersCouldn t have said it better myselfI really really believe that So basically, you want to combat the increasing polarisation of society into various dogmatic cults by starting a dogmatic cult of your ownOh no My suggestions are perfect for allAnd by all you mean Alain , don t youNo, it s just as generally applicable as well, how everyone would choose Natalie Portman over Scarlett Johansson since Natalie s eyes reflect the calm we never got from our hypochondric mother Uh, mothersOh dear godWell, if you insistOK, efuckingnough Honestly, you have a few interesting points somewhere, but your argumentation is ridiculous Your versions of both secular and religious society are as parodically exaggerated as those of any religious fundamentalist You pull arguments from thin air and apply copypasted out of context bits of religions you happen to find personally appealing like you were selling snake oil, with no hint of acknowledgment of how well they ve worked or gone wrong during the past few thousand years, or why a lot of us have put considerable effort into moving away from a society controlled by arbitrary rules made and imposed by the few Basically, you come across as terrified that society might change, and that if people stop listening to the pope, they might stop listening to you as well, and you re making a hell of a good case for doing so without even realising it Honestly, your contempt for humanity at large doesn t bother me nearly as much as your contempt for your readersIt s interesting you should say that, because after reading the reviews of my book, I ve come up with ten commandm uh, virtues of modern men Look, politeness is number five HA Now what do you have to say Hey Where are you going What about my temple 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 structured organizations.What are these benefits A most important benefit would be a sense of community A church synagogue temple acts or at least, should act as a gathering place where people are welcomed, even strangers A sense of belonging is nurtured, without degrading those people who choose not to belong, the others In contrast to fundamentalists, de Botton s approach requires a large degree of tolerance Another benefit is to learn how to cope with pain, suffering, and strong emotions Such coping skills are possible even without belief in a supernatural being, or in a predestined plan De Botton is not interested in defending religious beliefs or atheism He certainly does not try to prove or disprove the existence of a supreme being He assumes that atheists do not believe in such a being, so he starts from there He develops ideas for how secular institutions might fill in the gaps in religious institutions For example, many corporations have a culture, or an ethos Why can t household name corporations run de Botton wonders a therapy unit or a liberal arts college And what could such corporation run schools teach Well, de Botton mentions that it is not difficult for a university to teach as much physics in a few months as Michael Faraday ever knew So, why shouldn t it be possible to teach wisdom, leading to insights related to the self aware and moral stewardship of the soul De Botton presents lots of ideas such as these These ideas sound wonderful, but are they practical My main question about this book, is whether it is really possible for secular institutions to fill the gap of religious institutions Perhaps they can we won t know until such ideas are tried.The book really hit home, as I sat in an airplane bound for Portland, with a connecting transfer at Chicago, It can be hard to stay hopeful about human nature after a walk down Oxford Street or a transfer at O Hare.