Religion for Atheists: a Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion
By REVIEWED BY JOHN GRAY - NEW STATESMAN
Added: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 19:34:45 UTC
Religion for Atheists: a Non-Believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion
Alain de Botton
Hamish Hamilton, 320pp, £18.99
“Religion," writes Alain de Botton, "is above all a symbol of what exceeds us and an education in the advantages of recognising our paltriness." It is a thought reminiscent of Blaise Pascal. One of the creators of modern probability theory, the 17th-century thinker invented an early calculating machine, the Pascaline, along with a version of the syringe and a hydraulic press. He made major contributions to geometry and helped shape the future development of mathematics. He also designed the first urban mass transit system.
Pascal was one of the founders of the modern world. Yet the author of the Pensées - an apology for Christianity begun after his conversion to Catholicism - was also convinced of the paltriness of the human mind. By any standards a scientific genius and one of the most intelligent human beings that may ever have lived, Pascal never supposed that humankind's problems could be solved if only people were smarter.
The paradox of an immensely powerful mind mistrusting the intellect is not new. Pascal needed intellectual humility because he had so many reasons to be proud of his intelligence. It is only the illiteracy of the current generation of atheists that leads them to think religious practitioners must be stupid or thoughtless. Were Augustine, Maimonides and al-Ghazali - to mention only religious thinkers in monotheist traditions - lacking in intellectual vitality? The question is absurd but the fact it can be asked at all might be thought to pose a difficulty for de Botton. His spirited and refreshingly humane book aims to show that religion serves needs that an entirely secular life cannot satisfy. He will not persuade those for whom atheism is a militant creed. Such people are best left with their certainties, however childish.Read more
- - BBC News Comments
A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.
Robert F. Worth - New York Times Comments
A great article about Jerry DeWitt and the growing presence of atheist communities
Chip Rowe - Playboy Comments
Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins
- - YouTube - townsquare Comments
Cara Santa Maria (Senior Science Correspondent, Huffingtonpost.com) leads this week's panel on 'The Point' to discuss these issues and more with Michael Shermer (Publisher - Skeptic Magazine), Sean Carroll (Theoretical Physicist - Caltech), and Edward Falzon (author of 'Being Gay Is Disgusting').
Kimberly Winston - Washington Post Comments
Last weekend, the Atheist Film Festival showed more than a dozen films about separation of church and state, freedom of religion (and no religion), the conflict between science and religion in public schools.
- - eBay auction Comments
Albert Einstein's Historic 1954 "God Letter" Handwritten Shortly Before His Death