Religion for Atheists by Alain DeBotton
A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain De Botton

48%

35 Critic Reviews

. . .they (people) sought, and seek, salvation, and for this God‑givenness seems to me essential.
-Guardian

Synopsis

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.

 

About Alain DeBotton

See more books from this Author
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 (www.theschooloflife.com) and the creative director of Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk).
 
Published March 6, 2012 by Vintage. 320 pages
Genres: Law & Philosophy, Religion & Spirituality, Self Help. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Religion for Atheists
All: 35 | Positive: 12 | Negative: 23

Kirkus

Below average
Dec 01 2011

The idea that we can replace this timeworn practice with a billboard ad promoting Forgiveness in lieu of a sneaker brand is insulting to believers and atheists alike.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Richard Coles on Jan 21 2012

. . .they (people) sought, and seek, salvation, and for this God‑givenness seems to me essential.

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Guardian

Below average
Reviewed by Terry Eagleton on Jan 12 2012

What the book does, in short, is hijack other people's beliefs, empty them of content and redeploy them in the name of moral order, social consensus and aesthetic pleasure.

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by David Brooks on Mar 16 2012

The atheists know what they don’t believe in, but they don’t seem to know what they don’t feel. This is a gap that has existed for centuries, and de Botton doesn’t fill it.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
Feb 13 2012

De Botton will no doubt annoy militant atheists who believe religion not only has no use but is essentially evil, but his well-reasoned arguments should appeal to the more open-minded nonbeliever.

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NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Aengus Woods on Mar 13 2012

The problem...is not simply that the solutions are trite or feel crassly commercial. The problem is that it is utterly impossible to get any sort of consensus on what we poor secularists need from religion.

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National Post

Below average
Reviewed by Jose Teodoro on Mar 09 2012

. . .gradually reveals itself to be way undercooked, the product of an inquisitive, good-natured spirit. . .that’s fallen perilously in love with a provocative but idealistic and impractical thesis.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Rayner on Apr 08 2012

. . .beautifully and wittily illustrated. . .

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Globe and Mail

Below average
Reviewed by Clilfford Orwin on Mar 09 2012

Less convincing are de Botton’s own positive suggestions, which flirt with self-parody. 

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The Economist

Below average
Mar 10 2012

Although Mr de Botton is a clever man, he often stretches a good idea beyond its elastic limit.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Heller McAlpin on Mar 23 2012

In his zeal to cure the anomie of modern culture, he goes ridiculously overboard, recommending that emotion be injected into every aspect of our lives.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Rowland Manthorpe on Feb 03 2012

. . .high-minded yet practical, told in penetrating, stately prose.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Tom Payne on Jan 27 2012

De Botton writes with the elegance and wit so admirable in someone who is committed to making his insights relevant to a wide readership.

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The Independent

Below average
Reviewed by Boyd Tonkin on Jan 20 2012

. . .suffers from the thinness of its historical topsoil.

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Huffington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Joe Winkler on Mar 11 2012

. . .writes as if he lives in a vacuum in which he discovers, or espouses ideas that to him feel fresh, but to others, feel old, stale, almost childish.

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San Francisco Chronicle

Below average
Reviewed by Geoff Nicholson on Mar 11 2012

. . .he appears to take a thoroughly benign, even pollyannaish, view of religion.

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Oregon Live

Below average
Reviewed by Marc Mohan on Apr 07 2012

The problems with Alain de Botton's latest effort at intellectual self-help, "Religion for Atheists," begin with its very first sentence.

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Globe and Mail

Good
Reviewed by CLIFFORD ORWIN on Sep 06 2012

De Botton excels at exposing the emptiness of contemporary self-congratulation. He has a fine eye for the senselessness of hypermodern urban life, including such key institutions as universities, museums, even hotels.

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Boston.com

Below average
Reviewed by Brook Wilensky-Lanford on Mar 09 2012

...for anyone who has ever received comfort from religious practice, ritual, or community, the benefits of religion that de Botton extols with such surprise will come as no news at all.

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Boston.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Josh Rothman on Mar 07 2012

. . .de Botton's general message to atheists is worth hearing. . .

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The Millions

Excellent
Reviewed by Lisa Levy on Mar 06 2012

It is a wholly sincere and serious book (and despite that stodgy description it’s lively as well), and for maintaining such a balance de Botton deserves some praise.

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The Sydney Morning Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by Barney Zwartz on Feb 18 2012

. . .de Botton makes an entertaining and often plausible argument that ideas such as these are the only way secularism can truly replace religion.

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The Seattle Times

Below average
Reviewed by Michael Upchurch on Mar 09 2012

If you value privacy and solitude, some of de Botton's points — his regret, for instance, that restaurant diners don't make "meaningful contact" with each other while eating their meals — may prove real stumbling blocks.

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New Statesman

Below average
Reviewed by John Gray on Feb 16 2012

Where he could have dug deeper is the tangled relations between religion and belief. 

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The Miami Herald

Excellent
Reviewed by Christine Thomas on Mar 25 2012

If anyone can “rescue some of what is beautiful, touching and wise from all that no longer seems true,” it’s de Botton.

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Literary Review

Excellent
Reviewed by Richard Holloway

 Though it is aimed at unbelievers, I've got a feeling that a lot of uneasy believers will welcome it like a well of water in a dry place. 

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Kansas City Star

Below average
Reviewed by Alexander Heffner on Mar 29 2012

Readers will not find groundbreaking analysis or theory in his new book.

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Crikey

Below average
Reviewed by Julian Novitz on Mar 29 2012

The failure of de Botton’s approach is that. . .he trips over himself trying to offer us solutions before we’ve begun to understand — or even properly discuss — the problems.

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Edmonton Journal

Excellent
Reviewed by Robert Wiersema on Mar 24 2012

. . .a short, thought provoking exploration not only of atheism, but of fundamentals of human nature.

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Brain Pickings

Excellent
Reviewed by Maria Popova on Mar 06 2012

Particularly noteworthy are de Botton’s insights on what education and the arts can borrow from the formats and paradigms of religious delivery. . .

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Brisbane Times

Below average
Reviewed by Stephanie Dowrick on Mar 18 2012

Lacking the depth needed for a satisfying book, it's far more boring than the author is in person.

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Harvard Humanist

Below average
Reviewed by Jeffrey Falick on Mar 28 2012

Along the way, de Botton also provides a scathing, and I would argue, unfair critique of the optimism of secularism.

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Melbourne Art Network

Below average
Reviewed by David Marshall on Feb 21 2012

. . .like utopian philosophers always, he is rather too inclined to recreate the world in his own image.

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The Australian Friend

Excellent
Reviewed by Ian Hughes

It is an easy book to read, with gems of insight and even wisdom.

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Biblioklept

Below average
Feb 24 2012

. . .full of sloppy logic gussied up in rushed anecdotes and glossed over with barely-connected pictures and silly graphs. 

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Reader Rating for Religion for Atheists
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