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

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

Book rating: 05 Hardback

By (author) Alain de Botton

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  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 135mm x 201mm x 33mm | 499g
  • Publication date: 3 June 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0307379108
  • ISBN 13: 9780307379108
  • Edition statement: New.
  • Illustrations note: B&W ILLUSTRATIONS THROUGHOUT
  • Sales rank: 24,729

Product description

"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. "Religion for Atheists "suggests that rather than mocking religion, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from it--because the world's religions are packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we look to religion for insights into how to, among other concerns, build a sense of community, make our relationships last, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, inspire travel and reconnect with the natural world. For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing some peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. At last, in "Religion for Atheists, " Alain de Botton has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.

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Author information

Alain de Botton is the author of essays on themes ranging from love and travel to architecture and philosophy. His best-selling books include "How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel" and "The Architecture of Happiness." He lives in London, where he is the founder and chairman of The School of Life ( and the creative director of Living Architecture (

Customer reviews

By James Hodson 30 Mar 2012 5

This book certainly does generate many different trains of thought. De Botton starts with the assumption that there is no god: this book is not about the facts of the existence of a god. He then looks at all the things Christianity (and to a lesser extent Judaism, Buddhism and Shinto) got right.

One example is his idea that art galleries are the "secular churches", although he points out that these art galleries do not instruct us on a moral level, and are not imperative, but often passive. A similar idea with learning institutions.

This is not a sweeping comparison of all religions to atheism, not religion-bashing. It's very readable, and positively constructive. Be prepared to think!

Review quote

Praise for "Religion for Atheists" "[De Botton] demonstrates his usual urbane, intelligent, and witty prose, always entertaining and worth reading...this book will advance amicable discussion among both believers and disbelievers." -"Library Journal" Praise for "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" "Exquisitely written . . . A perceptive philosophical meditation on work, with its extraordinary claim to provide, along with love, the principal source of meaning in our lives." "--The Boston Globe" "The workplace as subject matter brings out the best in de Botton's writing . . . His wit and his powers of ironic observation are on display throughout [this] stylish and original book." "--The Sunday Times "(London) "Like a combination of Joan Didion, David Foster Wallace and pop philosopher Thomas Moore, de Botton's dense, pensive prose expresses a palpable preoccupation with finding better ways of living in our bewilderingly estranged age."a

Table of contents

Contents I.      Wisdom without Doctrine II.     Community III.    Kindness IV.    Education V.     Tenderness VI.    Pessimism VII.   Perspective VIII.  Art IX.    Architecture X.     Institutions