Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

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Wendie
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Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Wendie » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:31 am

The subtitle is A Non-Believers guide to the uses of religion.

I like his opening line " the most boring and unproductive question one can ask of any religions is whether or not it is true. - in terms of being handed down from heaven, and supernaturally governed by prophets and celestial beings.

Then he goes on to talk about things such as community, kindness, education, tenderness, pessimism, perspective, art , architecture and institutions with regard to how religions treat them and how society loses out when it bans the religious take on these things. Basically he is saying when we throw out religion we've been throwing out the baby as well as the bathwater. I am convinced.

Read it and discover a whole fresh take on a lot of what else goes on in religion. As a skeptical buddhist, i'm thinking about what these ideas can offer the new trend in secular buddhism.

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Tom Palven » Thu Mar 15, 2012 12:54 pm

I like Botton, and enjoyed The Consolations of Philosophy, but think that he is being too charitable to religions, here. There really seem to be few positive aspects to belief in the supernatural, and few, if any, positive aspects of relgion that aren't duplicated elsewhere. Yes, relgion has its fables, but there are also Aesop's and Grimm's.

As far as providing an ethical code goes, the Golden Rule of reciprocity was cited by Confucius about 300 years before Rabbi Hillel, who espoused it several decades before Christ's Sermon-on-the-Mount. And Confucioism, itself, is often considered to be an ethical code rather than a religion because it doesn't contain supernatural aspects.

And, while the Biblical Judeo-Christi-Islamic religious sects all make mention of the Golden Rule, the history of the Biblical relgions has not been a pretty one when one considers the Inquistions, the advocacy of apartheid by the Southern Baptist churches in the US and the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, the misogeny of the fundamentalists and the woman's pledge to "love, honour, and obey," the hypocritical nature of priests having sex with altar boys, and on and on, and on.

Charities and charitable people exist outside ot chuches, also. So, imho, it seems extremely generous to even say that the influence of relgions has been superfluous, rather than negative.
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If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire
I may not agree with the what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. --Voltaire
Mankind will not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. --Denis Diderot
I haven't abandoned my vices. My vices have abandoned me. --Denis Diderot

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by nmblum88 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:04 pm

Thanks, Tom for your eloquent post.
And as an aside, for the reminder in this sad week for military endeavor and the tenuous hold that morality by rote has on human frailty , of "The War Prayer," by Mark Twain..
I am going to reread it this morning..

I am intrigued (dismayed?) by the implication that atheists NEED religion whether we want it or not, can function, morally and on a practical day to day basis for societal reaction, without it or not.

The habit on the part of believers.. authors or dinner guests.. to offer the spinach of religion disguised by other tastes and textures, increasingly reminds me of my mother's perennial urging of food upon me, hungry or not.
"Eat, Darling, eat... you need the nourishment," is a familiar, 10 times a day, phrase from childhood.
However it has little to do with either nourishment or health: it is simply another parental device for control: "I know better than you do what you need.... and what you need is, in the end, to be more like me!"

There is no doubt, even with the best of intentions that religion sullies everything it touches....one has only to watch what is transpiring in our national politics, a downhill process oiled by religious pietism, dissimulation, duplicity, and fueled when all is said and done, and as it has always been, by lust for power and money using the stultifying of critical thinking on its behalf.

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Chachacha » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:32 pm

There is a synopsis of this at Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alain-de- ... 10460.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Most comments from atheists were not supportive of the ideas exp And an article by a Rabbi disses the writer by both "complimenting" him and insulting him in a way that makes the Rabbi appear a bit schizophrenic. And weehooo, does he dislike atheists! :-) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-eri ... 38164.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I thinks it's unfortunate that Alain de Botton chose this approach to an interesting subject, and I don't understand why he took this back-door approach of attributing satisfying non-religious human needs to religion, and then encouraging atheists to emulate religion, but if his intent was to be provocative, he succeeded.

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by nmblum88 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:07 pm

The Rabbi: Rabbi is both an honorific and a job....
As is priest or pope.
And Rabbis, like priests or popes have a vested interest in on the one hand defending a need for religion, for faith, belief in the ephemeral,but ion the other insisting on specific, authoritative dogma.
No "one from column A, one from column B" menus can be allowed, nor allowances made for such inventions.
So with the Rabbi in question: he compliments the implication that religion itself is necessary to human well being, indeed survival, but becomes a little testy at the idea of anything other than one based on god's (monotheist) word (in the original, on-the-spot, version) is worthy of serious consideration...
Makes sense from the parochial point of view.... Macy's didn't appreciate Gimbel's advertising either.
Lay comments are more germane to the subject of religion as a necessary component to either the moral development of our species, or the equally interesting subject of whether the normative human brain is hard wired to accept a supernatural... or inexplicable... presence in our existence.

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Tom Palven » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:20 pm

Chachacha wrote:There is a synopsis of this at Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alain-de- ... 10460.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Most comments from atheists were not supportive of the ideas exp And an article by a Rabbi disses the writer by both "complimenting" him and insulting him in a way that makes the Rabbi appear a bit schizophrenic. And weehooo, does he dislike atheists! :-) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-eri ... 38164.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I thinks it's unfortunate that Alain de Botton chose this approach to an interesting subject, and I don't understand why he took this back-door approach of attributing satisfying non-religious human needs to religion, and then encouraging atheists to emulate religion, but if his intent was to be provocative, he succeeded.
I enjoyed the comments, if not those of Rabbi Yaffie, who said "Nonetheless, I still find de Botton's approach, while well-intentioned, to be pathetic and sad...He fails to see that great religions work because believers believe in somethig." Maybe that's not sad, but it seems pretty pathetic.

One comment, from Alterego55, was that the Golden Rule goes back 1500 years BC, to the Code of Hammurabi, not just 300 BC to Confucius, but from what I can find on the web the reciprocity involved in the Code was only to the extent of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," whereas the Confucionist version implies mutual respect, which, seemingly in the opinion of most, is different enough to say that the GR originated with Confucius or at least around his era.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire
I may not agree with the what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. --Voltaire
Mankind will not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. --Denis Diderot
I haven't abandoned my vices. My vices have abandoned me. --Denis Diderot

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Tom Palven » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:32 pm

nmblum wrote:The Rabbi: Rabbi is both an honorific and a job....
As is priest or pope.
And Rabbis, like priests or popes have a vested interest in on the one hand defending a need for religion, for faith, belief in the ephemeral,but ion the other insisting on specific, authoritative dogma.
No "one from column A, one from column B" menus can be allowed, nor allowances made for such inventions.
So with the Rabbi in question: he compliments the implication that religion itself is necessary to human well being, indeed survival, but becomes a little testy at the idea of anything other than one based on god's (monotheist) word (in the original, on-the-spot, version) is worthy of serious consideration...
Makes sense from the parochial point of view.... Macy's didn't appreciate Gimbel's advertising either.
Lay comments are more germane to the subject of religion as a necessary component to either the moral development of our species, or the equally interesting subject of whether the normative human brain is hard wired to accept a supernatural... or inexplicable... presence in our existence.

NMB
Point taken. Our posts kind of crossed. But one thing I found pathetic about the Good Rabbi's post was the term "great religions" which imho is oxymoronic, but have never remembered or found the opportunity to mention the fact.. :D
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire
I may not agree with the what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. --Voltaire
Mankind will not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. --Denis Diderot
I haven't abandoned my vices. My vices have abandoned me. --Denis Diderot

nmblum88
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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by nmblum88 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:20 pm

Tom-Palven wrote:
nmblum wrote:The Rabbi: Rabbi is both an honorific and a job....
As is priest or pope.
And Rabbis, like priests or popes have a vested interest in on the one hand defending a need for religion, for faith, belief in the ephemeral,but ion the other insisting on specific, authoritative dogma.
No "one from column A, one from column B" menus can be allowed, nor allowances made for such inventions.
So with the Rabbi in question: he compliments the implication that religion itself is necessary to human well being, indeed survival, but becomes a little testy at the idea of anything other than one based on god's (monotheist) word (in the original, on-the-spot, version) is worthy of serious consideration...
Makes sense from the parochial point of view.... Macy's didn't appreciate Gimbel's advertising either.
Lay comments are more germane to the subject of religion as a necessary component to either the moral development of our species, or the equally interesting subject of whether the normative human brain is hard wired to accept a supernatural... or inexplicable... presence in our existence.

NMB
Point taken. Our posts kind of crossed. But one thing I found pathetic about the Good Rabbi's post was the term "great religions" which imho is oxymoronic, but have never remembered or found the opportunity to mention the fact.. :D
Sure, and again, not by accident.
The Rabbi (isn't Christ often referred to as "the"Rabbi?) wasn't exactly looking for an opportunity to mention to those like you what already seems clear to the skeptical mind, and which he finds threatening to his particular status quo: a reliable sinecure of shepherd to an emotionally dependent flock.
I don't think there is any overestimating of the clerical desire to not simply DEFEND religion, but to make it supremely important, a facet of human life without which we cannot survive ..either as moral, sentient beings, and/or as social beings dependent upon each other as master and servant, or master and slave.
One of the impediments (from my point of view) to human consilience, progress in the way humans support and augment each other for comity and survival, is the religious functionary.
He, who immediately, and beyond question says whatever is necessary to codify, after first defending religious belief in general and then proselytizing for his own specific brand of faith.
It is hoped that with a diminution of faith as contrasted with reason in the way people think, and with the concomitant talent for critical thinking, that humans will look upon such leadership as superfluous, leading only to repetition and can't.
And that one result of enlightenment will be to send the clergy (all of them) on their way to look for REAL jobs based on what seems clear: there is no one way to perceive the world and how we live within it:.
That every man has to use his head in his own way,

NMB
Skepticism:
" Norma, you poor sad lonely alcoholic. You entire life is devoted to interrupting other people's posts on this forum, regardless of the topic, to tell them what's wrong with them. The irony is, here you are doing it again, with this very post.
Your fanciful card games, movie sojourns and exciting overseas trips, that all take place within the four walls of an aged care retirement home, do not suggest your own children offered you the care, I gave my parents."

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Gord » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:56 pm

I'm still trying to picture a "small band of fanatical atheists." What do they do, rampage through the land doing nothing for no reason? :hmm:

Let's see if this works....
Image
Click the image, it's a link to itself.

And so I end with a quote:
The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. -- Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)
"Knowledge grows through infinite timelessness" -- the random fictional Deepak Chopra quote site
"Imagine an ennobling of what could be" -- the New Age BS Generator site
"You are also taking my words out of context." -- Justin
"Nullius in verba" -- The Royal Society ["take nobody's word for it"]
#ANDAMOVIE
Is Trump in jail yet?

Tom Palven
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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Tom Palven » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:19 pm

nmblum wrote:
Tom-Palven wrote:
nmblum wrote:The Rabbi: Rabbi is both an honorific and a job....
As is priest or pope.
And Rabbis, like priests or popes have a vested interest in on the one hand defending a need for religion, for faith, belief in the ephemeral,but ion the other insisting on specific, authoritative dogma.
No "one from column A, one from column B" menus can be allowed, nor allowances made for such inventions.
So with the Rabbi in question: he compliments the implication that religion itself is necessary to human well being, indeed survival, but becomes a little testy at the idea of anything other than one based on god's (monotheist) word (in the original, on-the-spot, version) is worthy of serious consideration...
Makes sense from the parochial point of view.... Macy's didn't appreciate Gimbel's advertising either.
Lay comments are more germane to the subject of religion as a necessary component to either the moral development of our species, or the equally interesting subject of whether the normative human brain is hard wired to accept a supernatural... or inexplicable... presence in our existence.

NMB
Point taken. Our posts kind of crossed. But one thing I found pathetic about the Good Rabbi's post was the term "great religions" which imho is oxymoronic, but have never remembered or found the opportunity to mention the fact.. :D
Sure, and again, not by accident.
The Rabbi (isn't Christ often referred to as "the"Rabbi?) wasn't exactly looking for an opportunity to mention to those like you what already seems clear to the skeptical mind, and which he finds threatening to his particular status quo: a reliable sinecure of shepherd to an emotionally dependent flock.
I don't think there is any overestimating of the clerical desire to not simply DEFEND religion, but to make it supremely important, a facet of human life without which we cannot survive ..either as moral, sentient beings, and/or as social beings dependent upon each other as master and servant, or master and slave.
One of the impediments (from my point of view) to human consilience, progress in the way humans support and augment each other for comity and survival, is the religious functionary.
He, who immediately, and beyond question says whatever is necessary to codify, after first defending religious belief in general and then proselytizing for his own specific brand of faith.
It is hoped that with a diminution of faith as contrasted with reason in the way people think, and with the concomitant talent for critical thinking, that humans will look upon such leadership as superfluous, leading only to repetition and can't.
And that one result of enlightenment will be to send the clergy (all of them) on their way to look for REAL jobs based on what seems clear: there is no one way to perceive the world and how we live within it:.
That every man has to use his head in his own way,

NMB
Jeez, after our posts crossed I see that I completely missed your post #3. Thanks for the compliment. However, it's a little scary to be taken seriously. Someone might expect me to behave myself.

Anyway, I completely agree with this post. Very well said. It seems that the clergy might be getting just a little less cocky about simply arguing from intimidation like- "How dare you criticize a leader of one of the world's great religions." Now they have to try a little harder. :mrgreen:
(Oh, and I really love it when they're being ecumenical- "Well, we may disagree on the details, but we all pray to the same God." Precious.)
Last edited by Tom Palven on Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire
I may not agree with the what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. --Voltaire
Mankind will not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. --Denis Diderot
I haven't abandoned my vices. My vices have abandoned me. --Denis Diderot

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Chachacha » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:38 pm

Good observations, Norma.

As to whether the human brain is hard-wired to accept a supernatural or inexplicable presence: we are hard-wired to feel fear, and we are hard-wired to feel good, so those things make the majority of people susceptible to believing stories about the existence of
supernatural beings, and the Big Kahuna, Life After Death: death is not the end of the existence of your loved ones, death is not the end of your existence.

That is some powerful stuff. Imagine people hearing this for the first time: "WOW! ... death is not the end .. my Mom isn't gone, she's gone to another place ... YAY! .. I will not die, I will continue to live .... whoa, that's a load off my mind ... well, that changes everything doesn't it? ... this is GREAT!"

And the also powerful: justice will be served in the next life, in spite of the fact that I don't believe them. ..... Ahhhh, even though I don't believe it, I still experience a pleasant reaction to it.

There may be a difference, albeit a subtle one, between that for which we are hard-wired - fear, relief, and feeling good - and the susceptibility to believe stories which play on the hard-wired reactions of fear, relief, and feeling good when fear is reduced and/or replaced with hope.

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Tom Palven » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:46 pm

I don't believe in the Big Kahuna, life after death, and all that supernatural nonsense, Cha, but I do make an exception for the existence of the Rainbow Bridge. It's there. I just know it.
http://petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
If one can be taught to believe absurdities, one can commit atrocities. --Voltaire
I may not agree with the what you say, but I will defend your right to say it. --Voltaire
Mankind will not be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. --Denis Diderot
I haven't abandoned my vices. My vices have abandoned me. --Denis Diderot

Chachacha
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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Chachacha » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:08 pm

Tom-Palven wrote:I don't believe in the Big Kahuna, life after death, and all that supernatural nonsense, Cha, but I do make an exception for the existence of the Rainbow Bridge. It's there. I just know it.
http://petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I always imagine that as a song sung by Kermit the Frog.

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Chachacha » Thu Mar 15, 2012 11:18 pm

Chachacha wrote:
Tom-Palven wrote:I don't believe in the Big Kahuna, life after death, and all that supernatural nonsense, Cha, but I do make an exception for the existence of the Rainbow Bridge. It's there. I just know it.
http://petloss.com/rainbowbridge.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I always imagine that as a song sung by Kermit the Frog.
I think it is natural, especially during the grieving period after death, to imagine our loved ones and beloved pets well and happy. I encourage people to do it when they are grieving, because it is using the power of our imaginations to console ourselves, and I tell atheists it is not solely the realm of religion or exclusive to religious beliefs: it's human.

I don't know what motivated the first person to say those things weren't only in the imagination, they were real, there was another world, another plane of existence, and I don't know his/her motivation for taking them 'across the bridge' between "imagining" and "believing", but it is one of the things that comes naturally to humans which religion uses to its advantage.

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Re: Religion for Atheists by Alain de Botton

Post by Chachacha » Fri Mar 16, 2012 2:14 am

Gord wrote:I'm still trying to picture a "small band of fanatical atheists." What do they do, rampage through the land doing nothing for no reason? :hmm:
I understand their annoyance when we knock on their doors on Saturday mornings, ask them if they know "THE TRUTH", and invite them to join us in not going to church on Sunday.
And so I end with a quote:
The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not. -- Eric Hoffer (1902 – 1983)
Nice quote.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could say, "I know God exists in your mind, you know God does not exist in mine; now what else can we talk about?" But nooooooooooooooooooooo.

Thanks for the cartoon, Gord, made me laugh out loud.