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

Alain de Botton, Author
Alain de Botton. Pantheon, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-307-37910-8
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In this highly original and thought-provoking book, philosopher and atheist de Botton (How Proust Can Change Your Life) turns his critical eye to what religion does well and how nonbelievers might borrow from it to improve their own lives, institutions, and practices—without believing in God. For example, de Botton praises religion for satisfying the universal needs for community, comfort, and kindness and for its recognition that all people are imperfect and in need of help and healing. Some of what he suggests seems unattainable: de Botton calls for colleges and universities to shift from preparing students for careers to training them in “the art of living,” something he says religion does well. But other suggestions are more exciting for their plausibility—would not a Day of Atonement, drawn from Judaism, benefit all relationships? 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. And de Botton is a lively, engaging writer. Agent: Nicole Aragi. (Mar.)
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