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Religion for Atheists summary

Alain de Botton

A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion

3.5 (124 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton explores how non-believers could benefit from aspects of religion, such as community, ritual and morality. It argues for a secularisation of these traditional religious practices to create a more meaningful and purposeful society.

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    Religion for Atheists
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    Even if we don’t believe in a god, there are still things we can learn from religion.

    What do we think of when we talk about religion? A white-bearded God seated on a throne in heaven? An ornately decorated church? Maybe a painting by Botticelli? Such knee-jerk associations reflect how religion and divinity are often assumed to go hand in hand. But there’s far more to it than that.

    If you’re someone who doesn’t believe in deities, you might assume you’ve got nothing to learn from religion. On the contrary, however, there is no reason why you can’t make the most of the cultural, social and philosophical aspects that have evolved out of it.

    Just think of morality: ideas of how we might live better lives and treat others well need not be explicitly religious. However, “the bad odor of religion,” as Nietzsche referred to it, has made morality something for secular people to avoid, all because of its association with religious practices.

    Secular society should reclaim some of the rituals and festivals that give depth to human experience. After all, early Christianity drew from belief systems outside its own to create powerful new traditions. Christmas was created by combining the midwinter solstice – a typical pagan celebration – with the birth of Jesus. And the ideas of Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, which dictated that men inclined to a philosophical way of life should build their own communities, led to the development of monasteries.

    So apparently there’s more to religion than gods, divine beings and other supernatural presences. But as a nonbeliever, you might still be skeptical about exactly what religion could possibly add to your life, and how. So read on!

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    What is Religion for Atheists about?

    Religion for Atheists (2012) sheds light on the often-overlooked positive aspects of organized religion. By considering religion in absence of a belief in divine beings, we find many valuable social initiatives and philosophical lessons from which even the most cynical among us might benefit.

    Religion for Atheists Review

    Religion for Atheists (2012) explores how non-believers can find value in religious traditions and practices. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers thought-provoking insights into the positive aspects of religion, such as community, moral guidance, and ritual, that can enrich atheist lives.
    • Combining philosophical reflections, historical examples, and practical suggestions, the book provides a well-rounded exploration of the subject matter.
    • The author's fresh perspective encourages readers to re-evaluate their assumptions about religion, sparking new ideas and discussions.

    Best quote from Religion for Atheists

    Joyful immersion in a collective spirit is an unlikely scenario in the majority of modern community.

    —Alain de Botton
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    Who should read Religion for Atheists?

    • Believers interested in seeing their religion from a different perspective
    • Non-believers looking for new ways to find depth in everyday life
    • Those interested in what organizations can learn from religions

    About the Author

    Alain de Botton is a Swiss philosopher, TV presenter and author currently based in the UK. His book The Architecture of Happiness received rave reviews and was featured in the movie 500 Days of Summer. De Botton is also a fellow of both the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Society of Literature.

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    Religion for Atheists FAQs 

    What is the main message of Religion for Atheists?

    Religion for Atheists encourages non-believers to take inspiration from religious practices and rituals to improve secular society.

    How long does it take to read Religion for Atheists?

    Reading Religion for Atheists will take a few hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Religion for Atheists a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Religion for Atheists is worth reading for its insightful perspectives on utilizing and valuing aspects of religion in a secular context.

    Who is the author of Religion for Atheists?

    The author of Religion for Atheists is Alain de Botton.

    What to read after Religion for Atheists?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Religion for Atheists, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell
    • A History of God by Karen Armstrong
    • God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens
    • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
    • Outgrowing God by Richard Dawkins
    • Islam by Karen Armstrong
    • The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James
    • Why Religion? by Elaine Pagels
    • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    • The Idea Is the Easy Part by Brian Dovey