Why atheists and agnostics should steal from religion

“Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion” by Alain de Botton is the sixth book I’ve finished this year. Just 54 more to go.

Here’s an excerpt.

“The signal danger of life in a godless society is that it lacks reminders of the transcendent and therefore leaves us unprepared for disappointment and eventual annihilation. When God is dead, human beings—much to their detriment—are at risk of taking psychological centre stage. They imagine themselves to be commanders of their own destinies, they trample upon nature, forget the rhythms of the earth, deny death and shy away from valuing and honouring all that slips through their grasp, until at last they must collide catastrophically with the sharp edges of reality. Our secular world is lacking in the sorts of rituals that might put us gently in our place.”

As a former atheist and former philosophy major, this book by the Swiss-born British philosopher De Botton enlightened and entertained me on different levels. Though an atheist, De Botton acknowledges that religion does certain things well and addresses important human needs that are being neglected by secular society. By understanding what makes religions successful, he aims to replicate religious methods and benefits in a secular setting.

De Botton readily admits that his suggestion that atheists and agnostics should steal ideas from religion will probably offend believers and non-believers alike. Still, I gained a lot of valuable insights from the book and a better appreciation of the three religions it focuses on—Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism.

Check it out if you’re willing to keep an open mind.

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