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Religion for Atheists

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

By Alain de Botton
15-minute read
Audio available
Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton

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.

  • 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

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

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

By Alain de Botton
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton
Synopsis

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.

Key idea 1 of 9

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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