Philosopher and essayist Alain de Botton wants us to consider truth, beauty, happiness, wisdom—the meaning of our daily lives.
He began writing on such weighty, yet real-world subjects at 23 with Essays in Love, and the best-selling author continues myriad, intellectual explorations. How Proust Can Change Your Life references In Search of Lost Time to examine the transformative power of literature, while in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, de Botton wonders why we get up every morning and trundle off to occupations ranging from delightful to unbearable.
His new book is Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, a deeply provocative and useful argument about how we can benefit from the wisdom and power of religion–without having to “believe” in any of it. The sterile debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on by de Botton’s new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false–and yet those religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world. Religion for Atheists suggests that atheists shouldn’t trash religions, they should steal from them–because they’re packed with good ideas on how we should live and arrange our societies. In a tone that blends deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights on, among other topics, how to build a sense of community, make our relationships last, dampen feelings of envy and inadequacy, escape the 24-hour media world, go traveling, get more out of art, and build new businesses geared around our emotional needs. For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing lots of peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas. de Botton has produced a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.