November 26, 2012

30 Books in 30 Days: "Religion for Atheists," by Alain de Botton

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton

Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
By Alain de Botton
Hamish Hamilton

Regular readers know that I've been on a bit of a reading kick for contemporary philosopher Alain de Botton, ever since hearing him impressively speak on a recent episode of the "On Being" podcast; and after first tackling his older book How Proust Can Change Your Life, I thought I'd now skip ahead and review one of his latest, the 2011 practical self-help book Religion for Atheists which had been the whole reason he was on the "On Being" podcast in the first place. (And in fact, de Botton has really put his money where his mouth is with this book, recently opening a literal "church for atheists" in a storefront space in central London called The School of Life; and it's technically that that he was on the podcast to promote.) The title basically describes the entire argument of the book -- that there are plenty of secular functions and roles that organized religion provides society, apart and away from its spiritual aspects, that atheists would be wise to adopt in their own lives for more happiness -- and while some of these roles are pretty easy to guess at (providing a sense of ritual in our lives, providing a communal space for like-minded individuals), there are others here that come as a pleasing surprise; for example, that religions provide an excuse for people to design moral codes of behavior that all who attend must adhere to (or in other words, think about how nice it'd be at your next dinner party to be able to declare your apartment a "hipster-douchebag-free zone" or to ban all talk about politics), or that religions provide a way to aesthetically celebrate the lessons in life that are most important for us. A thought-provoking book, but one always grounded in practical advice on how to actually implement these changes in real life, it comes strongly recommended to all my fellow atheists, and I can guarantee that some of its lessons will have a strong impact on the way that CCLaP runs its eventual physical headquarters here in Chicago.

Out of 10: 9.1

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:16 AM, November 26, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Nonfiction | Reviews |