Religion for Atheists Review

19 04 2012

ABC Religion and Ethics has posted a review I penned of Alain de Botton’s new book, Religion for Atheists.

Despite the negative press de Botton has received from some quarters of the New Atheist movement, his book is a worthwhile contribution to moving the discourse about god, atheism and religion forward.

In the wake of the atheist convention here in Australia, there’s renewed discussion about religion, but sadly, most of it is the same old to-and-fro that we’ve seen for decades. This kind of debating is mostly fruitless and, for the most part, a tremendous waste of time and energy.

What we need right now is for some of the very smart people behind the current atheism push to shift emphasis towards building secular culture, whether that be underpinned by Humanism or another system of values. And in creating secular culture, there’s a lot we can learn from religion.

de Botton’s particular approach and his specific prescriptive suggestions might not be the best ones, but at least he’s engaging with positive atheism rather than wallowing in negative atheism. I’d like to see more atheist thinkers to do the same.

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One response

10 05 2012
Johnson

I agree with your sentiment entirely, having quickly learned after spending a year with publications coming from Paul Kurtz’s Secular Humanist organization that while a certain amount of lip service is paid toward building a secular society, almost all of the energy and ideas to be found in their materials and discussions are the same old anti-religious saws.

The various humanist manifestos and declarations that are published seem incapable of describing a forward-looking moral life stance rooted in solid philosophical arguments with no reference to theism whatsoever, and this failure seems to belie and subvert the apparent goal of publishing such statements. It always sounds like, and in practice appears to be, just an excuse to waste more time bashing theism.

I haven’t read de Botton’s book, but it’s now on my to-do list, and I hope it starts a more productive ball rolling than the bluster that Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett have been pushing.

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