by Micaela Shafer Porte
Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton, Pantheon Books (Random House), New York, 2012
Hey, all you enlightened people– for summer reading, check out this author, Alain de Botton, and his latest book, Religion for Atheists. Funny, provocative, insightful, engaging, even “cool,” de Botton is everything you could want in a rising new-age philosopher from London via Oxford and Switzerland.
Euro-intello, yes, but he probably wishes he were a surfer dude. Who doesn’t? Don’t worry about stumbling over some of the vocabulary; it’s just for fun (but go ahead and look up that word, you’ll learn something) or you can just read the pictures, pictures on every page.
Synthesizing the philosophical efforts of centuries of thinkers before us, de Botton gently and amusingly guides us to question and wonder at our world. I love the armchair voyage through our classic cultures. A new millennium take on our major religions, he proposes to adopt and mix, on a secular basis, some of the “good parts” aspects of different religions, in a global melting pot of “better-ness.” (Although if he had used that word “secular” one more time I would have begun to cringe.)
His perspectives in chapters on : Tenderness, Pessimism, Community, Institutions, Re-Designing Museums, etc., are modest and funny and wise reminders of the depths of good potential in the hearts of all mankind. He’s probably a shy guy, but is becoming known as the Philosopher’s Comedy Club.
His official title is “Essayist” and de Botton’s other works– How Proust Can Change Your Life, or The Architecture of Happiness or Status Anxiety or for the traveler through life: A Week at the Airport, or The Art of Travel, are just as good, and revolve around the same planet of enlightenment.
Summer reading is upon us, and near the top of my recommended list this year is Religion for Atheists, so enjoy! Here’s a shout out to ya, Alain de Botton, and thanks for the thoughts, from California with love.
Micaela Shafer Porte is a San Diego beach town native and artist-illustrator