Weekends on CSPAN2 is about books, mostly non-fiction, and author interviews.

The title Religion for Atheists did NOT persuade me to get the book, but did persuade me to watch the hour-long author interview.

The author said he's an atheist. I concluded that he is not yet able to accept atheism's seeming chaos, and he ought to have titled his book Religion for Me.

I say "seeming chaos" because for me, leaving Catholicism was like leaping into a void. The torment Catholicism had inflicted on me made retreat impossible and I leaped.

I soon began telling people that someday, though not soon, the tactics used in church schools (telling kids of a fall from grace, original sin, a lake of fire, etc) will be seen as child abuse.

For me, xianity was pessimistic and atheism is optimistic. I'm glad I leaped.

Did leaving a religion require you to leap into what seemed like a void?

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Replies to This Discussion

"Richard, you chose to intellectualize…"

Well, not really, I mistook your reply for intellectual honesty, I'll only make that mistake once though.

"As for your name calling, sticks and stones…."

Ha! Great finish to your own ad hominem attack. What's that word again, starts with an "H"?

…nice try though, thanks for playing, you can put the straw man away now.

I, like other atheists, am only responding to de Botten, in kind. 

Joan, I think he is probably the worst kind of atheist, aside from the Ayn Rand cultists, that there is. He's not only a theism accommodationist, he validates and perpetuates the false characterizations fundies sell to their flock, that we are out to destroy them. I'm not convinced he is an atheist, more a privileged pedant child of wealthy Swiss parents who fancies himself a philosopher. But, our friend Ruth is "in his camp", perhaps she knows something I don't.

Don't read Amazon reviews for enlightenment, go to any credible well-known atheist blog and search his name to find much worse descriptions than "asshole and idiot", …you may find I was being charitable with my opinion, …all things being relative.

I Googled reviews and came up with 

~Marc Mohan


~Aengus Woods


Others were from sources I don't care for: Huffington, ...

Who do you like? 

The main ideas I came up with between these two reviewers were the things they described as transferable to atheist life, i.e. community, ceremony, and tradition.

the things that would not be desirable to transfer are myths, fables, claims of a personal god who hears prayers, promise of an afterlife, whether heaven or hell. 

Claims of kindness, tenderness and empathy do not stand up to examination with examples from the Crusades to the overthrow of native cultures. The claim that religion provides solace to grieving loved ones, based on a mythology cannot be proven. Religion has led to prejudice, oppression, bloodshed, and false hope. 

What is lacking in religion is critical thinking and values that are based on thriving, in the sense that Harris describes. 

I would agree with you that Alain deBotton is simplistic in his thinking, that he gives credit to religion when it comes to community, ceremony, and tradition, but fails to quality these advantages as being based on mythology. 

I wouldn't say, as you have, "de Botton is an ass and an idiot. A Douche." But what do I know, I didn't leave abuse for 38 years. 

"Who do you like?"

I don't consider book reviewers relevant.

Merely PR tools, …nothing other than.

Here, try this.


Without the name calling, …much.

Hmmm, "community, ceremony, and tradition," eh?

Community? Community we got here, albeit a cyber-community.  Absolutely I've come to enjoy the company or most of it and participating here, exchanging ideas.  That's probably the primary reason why I've stuck here for over two years.  One day when I have the bucks to spare, I may join up with the Northeast Ohio branch of CFI, but for now, this does well enough.

Ceremony?  For WHAT?  Like church services which open the same way, get conducted the same way and close the same way they did since who-knows when?  NO THANK YOU!

Tradition?!?  The ONLY traditions I might subscribe to are those which are useful, dynamic, and serve the above-mentioned community.  Otherwise, you're talking about RITUAL, which I am instantly suspicious of and which too much resemble the "ceremony" mentioned above.

I should mention that I have not seen the de Botten video and probably just as well - my wife wonders about me when I shout at the computer screen!  From my own personal standpoint, I have no desire to emulate religion or its usages in any way shape or form.  If creating a community is imitating religion, then chess and science clubs are doing the same thing.

My impression here is that someone suggests that, when filling a gap created by an absence, that the replacement material resemble what was originally there, a false assumption from where I sit.  I quit going to church regularly 40 years ago and had no need for a substitute back then, nor was I looking for one.  When I stumbled onto an atheist community, I was pleased to find it , but it was an ADDITION to my life, not a substitute for something I had supposedly LOST.

Perhaps not quite by definition, but atheists tend to want to think for themselves, and not fit into artificial molds of either ceremony or tradition unless those molds demonstrably WORK and can flex with the times and the people  The community I can dig.  The rest can go fish.

In my case, I had three 10-year old children when I left the institutions of marriage and religion and wanted my children to experience the richest, most affirming aspect of living. Therefore:

Community. I deliberately created a community of people who had fun together, enjoyed each other's company, had varied interests, especially sports and motors because I have no interest in either. Over the years, especially as the children matured, I realized they needed to be on their own and I needed to have support. I created a very strong support system for me, and they join as they please. My friends and children have close emotional ties that sustain us when we need it, inspire us, and refresh us. My grown children know I do not have to depend only on them for support and they feel supported by my friends and their families.

Ceremony. When we belonged to religious communities we were very active in  ceremonies of the church. Upon leaving a faith community, we started a more active recognition of birthdays, and recognizing changes of season by such things as a time of planting seeds in the spring, celebrating our harvest, putting the garden to bed, and going dormant in winter. One ceremony involved cabbage and it usually meant a meal with family and friends invited, planting seeds in th spring, making sauerkraut at harvest time with a long table set up for washing, shredding, salting and putting the mixture into toilet bowl reservoirs. Go ahead and laugh; it is true. We celebrated winter with opening the first crock of cabbage and a huge gathering to peel back the moldy, smelly, layer on top and tapping into the most delicious sauerkraut you can imagine. The final crock was usually opened at our summer festival. So, there you have the wheel of life, the realization you can't have sauerkraut if you don't plant cabbage seeds. Well, that is a stretch, but you get the intent. 

Tradition. By focusing on celebration of the individual at birthday time, we are able to recognize individual differences, prepare favorite foods, select gifts that we think the individual will enjoy and it is a family effort. Thus, self-esteem and appreciation of the individual as part of a larger community builds a firm foundation upon which they can launch their lives and know there is a place of safety and support. 

Joan, thank you for your description of some of the benefits of community, ceremony and tradition. Your experiences with their uses by religion to control people appear to have left you with no post-traumatic stress.

I enjoy communities and am active in several of a non-religious nature. My experiences long ago with Catholicism left me with that mildest level of ptsd, a hyper-alertness, about ceremony and tradition. A man I met in one of my communities helped me deal with my suspicions of tradition (ah, the curative power of humor) when he defined it as the mistakes we made yesterday. I remain suspicious of ceremony.

Tom, it is interesting how each one of us has our own reason for leaving or staying with a church community, and then what we choose to do after leaving if there any gaps in our lives. Your hyper-alertness about ceremony and tradition makes perfectly good sense to me. When I developed those strategies, my children were ten years old. Now they are 49, they have given me four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren and it is joyful that the fun we have with the changing seasons seems to appeal to the young ones ... until they get about high school age ... then they come back when they have children.
Another tradition they like is putting their mark on the wall throughout the year with their age marked. Each can see how tall they are when compared to the other kids, or to moms, or grandma's or great-grandma's. Silly fun. 

"I remain suspicious of ceremony."

If you are in fact an atheist, you fit the description of what de Botten as labelled a "raging fanatic".

But, hey, …sticks 'n stones.

No, not leaping into a void. Just the opposite. Leaving it was like opening a door in a very dark room and suddenly all this light and warmth came in. Like you, I also left Catholicism. Rather than abandoning something that gave me a false promise of comfort in exchange for my conscience, I suddenly saw a smorgasbord of opportunities, knowledge that had been denied, and an entire world of possibilities that was suddenly there for the taking. It was exhilarating, and I never once looked back.

Pat, what a lovely experience you had. Thank you for sharing. 

My pleasure Joan. I'm still feasting at the smorgasbord. Occasionally, there's something that doesn't agree with my palate. The obvious thing is to put it down, and move on to the next dish.




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