Religion For Atheists


Religion For Atheists

Alain de Botton's latest book "Religion for Atheists" sounds like a very interesting book to read. What is your opinion?

Members: 11
Latest Activity: Jul 2, 2017

Discussion Forum

Our Political Need to Learn from Religion

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Ruth Anthony-Gardner Jun 18, 2013. 5 Replies

While I don't buy into all of Alain de Botton's version of Religion for Atheists, he makes good points about learning to meet social/emotional needs and building communities.In…Continue

Tags: climate destabilization, change management

His agape restaurant idea

Started by Ruth Anthony-Gardner. Last reply by Gareth Mensah May 13, 2012. 2 Replies

His description of agape restaurants was disappointing. How could someone of his alleged stature be so naive? Talk about "What I most regret?" with random strangers? The people at my table could be…Continue

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Comment by Nerdlass on April 25, 2012 at 12:05am

Got one. Naturalistic Pantheism. The Universe as divine. You get the awe and woo-feeling of embracing the beauty of nature, without the hang-ups of a true deity. It's more sublime than ethereal.

Sometimes, I miss the community of church, from my childhood, or even the like-minded appreciation of nature from pagan friends... but I find I can get in touch with those feelings whenever I want and not trump them up so much. I get the same feelings when I learn something new, especially about our universe. 

Comment by J J on April 24, 2012 at 11:39pm

Let me start with my premise: Alain De Botton is absolutely not in touch with reality and it is morally wrong to accept his arguments. I state this upfront, without reservation, because if you really don't want to see that demonstrated, you should stop reading now. (edited for maximum length restrictions).

Q&A with Author Alain De Botton
Q: Is it possible to be a good person without religion?

A: The problem of the man without religion is that he forgets.

Except: Empirical studies have shown that in western democracies, the least religious countries are the least dysfunctional: Lower violent crime rates, lower teenage pregnancies, lower abortion rates, lower poverty levels. To accept De Botton's thesis uncritically would be accenting to more human misery in the world.

Q: What do you think of the aggressive atheism we have seen in the past few years?

A: I am an atheist, but a gentle one. I don't feel the need to mock anyone who believes.

Atheism has increased with the rise of more open opponents to religion. Given the positive social effects that a decrease in religiosity has had in the western world, do you really want to be more respectful of a world-view that increases human suffering?

Q: Are you nostalgic for the deeply religious past?

A: Like many people, of course I feel nostalgic.

How could I not be nostalgic of a thousand years of inhibiting medicine, subjugating women, and encouraging peasantry as a good life?

Q: If we were to replace religion with a secular equivalent, who would be our gurus?

A: We don't need a central structure. We are beyond the age of gurus and inspirational leaders. We are in the age of the Wiki structure.  But the spiritual needs are still in chaos, with religion ceasing to answer the need. This is why I wrote my book, to show that there remains a new way:

So what are these “important lessons from religion?” Button doesn't say. He also just dismisses anything that is not the “rich west.” He should know that scientists have worked on increasing crop production and water usage in the “non-west” and have been very successful. Does Button offer an alternative to improve those peoples lot in life?

Q: Don't you think that, in order to truly appreciate religious music and art, you have to be a believer--or, at least, don't you think that non-believers miss something important in the experience?

A: I am interested in the modern claim that we have now found a way to replace religion: with art. You often hear people say, 'Museums are our new churches'. It's a nice idea, but it's not true, and it's principally not true because of the way that museums are laid out and present art. They prevent anyone from having an emotional relationship with the works on display.

Obviously Button hasn't been to the Louvre or the NY Museum of Art. You can have quite an “emotional relationship” with the art without the need of an outsider telling you what your super-natural experience should be like.

Bottom line: Button is wrong and following his advice results in more misery in both developed and underdeveloped counties, a return to dark-age values, and at lowest level, a lack of appreciation of some really emotionally evocative art. Rather than purchase his book, the only moral thing to do is subject him to public scorn.

Comment by Richard ∑wald on April 14, 2012 at 9:28pm

One of the oldest Freethought societies, started by a Rabbi.

Comment by Paula F on April 14, 2012 at 9:20pm

Sounds intriguing...what's an Ethical Society?

Comment by Steph S. on April 14, 2012 at 11:51am
Yes I know about UUs ... I was a member for while ...ok, so .. How about an Ethical Society then?
Comment by Paula F on April 14, 2012 at 11:00am

Central to UU doctrine is that they are "Unitarian"--believing in god as one entity (that is, rejecting the Trinity) and "Universalist"--believing that salvation is for everyone whether or not you've heard and accepted "the good news" of Jesus' sacrifice for mankind. That's too Christian-centric for me, even with a significant humanist or atheist overlay. Plus the music tends not to be any good, and the church can't afford the great arts like the old Catholic church could.  :-)  I am wishing for a great cultural institution that keeps all of the great art that the Church managed to accomplish while jettisoning all of the crap, an institution in which supportive communities exist and a local place in which to mark the milestones of our lives.

Tall order, I know...

Comment by Steph S. on April 13, 2012 at 7:44pm
Well not all UU churches are like that at all. The one in Austin is Humanist -- mostly all secular too. I think it depends on the church.
Comment by Paula F on April 13, 2012 at 7:17pm

Oh yes...been to and played at many a UU service. Not my kind of thing at all. Still pretty Christian-centric, I think, and nowhere near the level of traditional gorgeous art and architecture and music that I am thinking of.  :-)

Comment by Steph S. on April 13, 2012 at 7:07pm
Well Paula it sounds like you are describing a UU church. Have you ever been to one?
Oh I agree with you Gareth. I am probably in the minority on this website though.
Comment by Paula F on April 13, 2012 at 6:22pm

So if there were to be some sort of atheist/humanist religion, what would it entail?

Personally, I'd still like to have the gorgeous traditional architecture of a church, and fine paintings and sculpture (of what, though?), and a full cadre of fine singers and instrumentalists to perform the great works of the classical tradition at the service...

Maybe no one single "pastor"--that is, not the same speaker every week, but a rotating panel of fascinating, educated people who give something like a TED talk instead of a traditional sermon...

...Readings from the great works of world literature...

...What else?


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