Religion for Atheists

The Herald hosts an interview with Alain de Botton, who has recently authored a book, Religion for Atheists. With the understanding that my views are based solely on this interview and that I have not seen the book, I am at a loss for who he thinks his book is for.

Some excerpts:

“(My family thought) if you are intelligent, you believe in science. … And with respect to my parents, I nevertheless moved away from that position. And even though I am still an atheist, I am now much more sympathetic to many of the lessons and traditions of religion.”

The newly released Korean edition, published five months ahead of the English edition, is de Botton’s philosophical account on how “people who don’t believe in supernaturals” can also benefit and learn from religious teachings and practices.

“It’s my story in relation to religion even though I don’t actually discuss myself in it,” he said. “It is the personal journey of someone travelling in this unusual direction from complete atheism to respecting, not for the supernatural sides of religions, but the institutional, aesthetic, and educational side (of religions).” 

I am not convinced his view is so unusual.  Dawkins is on record as enjoying the singing of Christmas Carols.

I’m a cultural Christian in the same way many of my friends call themselves cultural Jews or cultural Muslims.

“So, yes, I like singing carols along with everybody else. I’m not one of those who wants to purge our society of our Christian history.

I personally enjoy visiting Buddhist temples and see real value in meditation and the way monks live their lives, without granting any credence to their claims of reincarnation.  I am hugely impressed with the way the Catholic church in Wilno, Ontario dominates the town.

I have frequently heard the strawman argument that atheists hate all that religion has made and it is not true at all.  Perhaps de Botton’s book will assist in explaining why not.

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One Response to “Religion for Atheists”

  1. Kevin Kim Says:

    I think you’re right that such attitudes aren’t unusual. Many atheists and nonbelievers see some sort of sociological value in religion(s).

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