• Religion for Atheists

  • A Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
  • By: Alain de Botton
  • Narrated by: Kris Dyer
  • Length: 5 hrs and 2 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (302 ratings)

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Religion for Atheists  By  cover art

Religion for Atheists

By: Alain de Botton
Narrated by: Kris Dyer
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Publisher's summary

The boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on by Alain de Botton's inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false - and yet that religions still have important things to teach the secular world. Rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them - because they're packed with good ideas on how we live and arrange our societies.

Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into how to build a sense of community, make our relationships last, get more out of art, overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy, and much more. For too long, non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing peculiar doctrines or doing away with consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. At last Alain de Botton has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.

©2012 Alain de Botton (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Highly original and thought-provoking book.... de Botton is a lively, engaging writer." ( Publishers Weekly)
"A new book by Alain de Botton is always a treat…. De Botton is literate, articulate, knowledgeable, funny and idiosyncratic." (Forbes.com)
"[T]his book will advance amicable discussion among both believers and disbelievers." ( Library Journal)

What listeners say about Religion for Atheists

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointing, Erroneous, Implausible

I've enjoyed de Botton's prior books. This one is a severe disappointment.

One of the things I've enjoyed about de Botton's work is how he brings a far-ranging understanding of canon of Western philosophy to bear on the major issues of modern life, doing so in an understandable and sometimes entertaining way. As I have no particular expertise in Western philosophy, I have always assumed de Botton was reasonably accurate in his understanding. Religion for Atheists gives me now great doubt about that.

In Religion for Atheists, de Botton discusses one subject that I have particular expertise in: Zen Buddhism. I found de Botton to be shockingly inaccurate. For example, he describes the Japanese Tea Ceremony as a ritual used in Zen. It isn't, and anyone who did a little as read the Wikipedia article on the subject could figure that out. Yes, Zen philosophy has heavily influenced the Tea Ceremony, so there is a relationship there. But it's like the US Thanksgiving holiday. The Thanksgiving dinner ritual is heavily influenced by Christianity, but Thanksgiving is not a ritual of the Christian church.

De Botton goes on to make a similar mistake about the Japanese Tsukimi festival, again thinking it's a Zen Buddhist festival. It's not.

Another weakness of Religion for Atheists is the author's numerous suggestions for impractical and implausible ways to implement valuable aspects of religion in an atheistic ways, such that it undermined the concepts the author was trying to promote.

De Botton's TED talk on this subject is pretty good. I suggest listening to that and skipping this book.

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20 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A valuable resource for believers

What made the experience of listening to Religion for Atheists the most enjoyable?

This book is a marvelous resource for believers into the value of their traditions, practices and values to the world in which none-of-the-above is the third largest "religion" in the world. It has helped me reclaim aspects of my faith that have been washed down the drain with the absurd belief systems that are so embarrassing. For the atheist and agnostics, this is freeing, because it allows appreciation of values, beauty, art, music, and community.

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7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A little thin

I was disappointed in this - de Botton's points about the non-theological comforts of religion were somewhat interesting, but it got bogged down in endless reporting on his specific experiences 'trying on' various religions.

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6 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars

A lot of talking without saying too much

I've sat here listening to a little over half of this book and I'll be damned if I know where the 'guide' portion of this book is. This isn't a "Non believers guide to the use of religion". I'm stumped as to where he got that sub title. A more accurate sub title would be "An atheist prattles on and on about things that others have covered more eloquently elsewhere".

I still don't know what the point of this book. It's just endless complaining, pointing out of hypocrisies, and a bunch of I don't know what. I mean he talks and talks and doesn't come close to a point or maybe there's one big point at the end. Either way, I just can't listen anymore.

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4 people found this helpful

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Amazing book

This book was absolutely amazing. I'm not even an atheist (not religious either) and this book is perfection.

I work in the field of addiction, and many people won't do 12-step programs because of spirituality. I think this book is great for people to realize that you don't need to believe in anything, but we should all at least consider doing something to become better people.

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Citations Needed

Don't waste your time; It is as if the author decided purposefully to write this book without out doing any prior research. The author constructs strawman secularists and atheists in order for his weak arguments to somewhat work. There are a couple well written chapters in the middle, but towards the end it was hard to continuing listening. For example, how can some write a book about religion for atheists and not mention Unitarian Universalists...

Overall: ignorance and bad arguments made this book utterly frustrating and ultimately disappointing.

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Deep thinking

It’s so hard to write positive critique, but here it is: fantastic thinking, deep insight, kind and gentle view about human need, desire and frailty. Between the horrid religionists who gatekeep God and the angry scientific atheist who want life to be devoid of all mystery, pleasure or wonder there’s a tiny space that still has flavor, savor and meaning, and this is that space that Monsieur de Bottom has written about. May we all eat in agape homes.

Adequate reading, by a man whose gentle voice well befits the author’s gentle voice, with the occasionally odd pronunciation, but I will not point out in which cases because received English is not, of course, my native dialect.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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hitting below the belt rather than a knock out

Writer dwells a lot on the history of why religious aspects are wrong but only gives small glimpses on what and how to do right as an atheist, with mostly inapplicable examples.

Also totally ignores that fact that there is something called Islam

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Decent read not captivating

Overall a decent book which read more like a thesis with points of evidence, proof, arguments. All leading to a general conclusion of other benefits of religion. Not a very engaging piece of writing.

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Not so much

It assumes a level of self introspection and intentionality that I’m really not sure that the Christian religion has. It also assumes a level of benevolence that I know that the practice of Christianity doesn’t have. Maybe if you don’t have two MAs in the study of religion and religious history it might be more useful? To me it really just feels like he keeps saying secularism doesn’t teach us X, so we should look to Christianity and model their stuff but take out the god bit. But, here’s the thing, Alain, it’s the god bit that makes X work in the first place.

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