Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Religion for Atheists (Book Review)

Originally posted on September 6, 2012

The sub-title of this book is “a non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion,” and the author is Alain de Botton (UK) (2011, New York: Pantheon). For a while it seemed to atheists that religion would disappear because it failed to be compelling at the level of of the critical intellect. The author notes that this hasn’t happened and it won’t happen because religion serves too many non-rational functions, and in this book these various functions are well described and discussed. I find the book charming and intriguing also because there is a growing movement called “inter-spirituality” that recognizes the spiritual dynamic, the appeal to the “more” that people experience when the feel intuitively into the mysteries of their own deep consciousness and the wonders of the cosmos. The more scientists reveal, the more they make it harder to so “just” or “only” about the sheer complexity of it all—and the depth of consciousness is an important part of that “all-ness.” Every mystery opens the door to far greater mysteries.

Comparative religion studies, the study also of consciousness-expansion, psychedelic drugs, the study of the Asian religions and various spiritual teachings and leaders—all have expanded in the last half-century. What is revealed is a wealth of truly thoughtful people who by no means accept the major spiritual texts literally, but neither can they deny that there is a “more” which compels further investigation.

I see this book as a good contemplation of the psycho-socio-cultural functions of religion in general. In many particulars, the religions differ; but what is contemplated in the book are the deeper attractions of the main monotheistic traditions. (Another book could be written about the attractions or functions of other religions such as Buddhism or the many types of Hinduism, along with their more refined mystical practices and “yogas.” Still, I think this book is a step in the right direction towards an emergence of a postmodern spirituality.

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