In today’s increasingly secular world it’s worth posing the question of whether the non-religious among us (be they atheist, agnostic or simply not interested) might be missing out on something. After all, religions must be doing something right for people to remain involved despite the way in which science and technology have changed our world. Alain de Botton has clearly given this question some thought, the result of which is a beautifully written, clear and articulate book that proves genuinely thought-provoking at every turn.
Despite the title, Religion for Atheists is at it’s heart a book about philosophy, not religion itself, working on the basis that religions are essentially, at their core, frameworks for living a good life. It’s this attitude that informs the book, the idea that while the reader may not want to adhere to the beliefs and strictures required, there are clear benefits provided by religions that are often without equivalents in secular life. Covering topics from community and education to art and architecture we take a good look at the way in which religions use these to enrich people’s lives, and are offered some suggestions for how to incorporate them into our secular ways of living.
Rather than a Dawkins-esque attempt to ridicule the religious or disprove the existence of God, here we have a book full of positivity and hope, reminding us that life is not just about the pursuit of wealth or finding love, or even the advance of science for our mutual benefit. Without guidance, honesty, sources of reflection or inspiration, we run the risk of becoming isolated and selfish, and forgetting about what’s really important in our lives, both individually and communally. Religions tend to promote the importance of community, self awareness and self improvement. By drawing upon these principles and applying them to our lives we can perhaps reclaim some of these ideas and take a step or two towards a more balanced, positive life.