Brighton Festival Review: Alain de Botton – Religion for Non-Believers

15 May

Corn Exchange: Saturday, May 5, 2012

Alain de Botton tackles religion in the same manner that Alan Partridge extols the virtues of the Travel Tavern and its breakfast buffet; Namely, by filling his oversized-plate with the best bits while trying to convince us the concept isn’t the last refuge for the lost and lonely, but a functional necessity for modern-day life.

De Botton is a committed Atheist, but here, and in his book ‘Religion for Atheists’, he is determined to move on the debate from “sterile” arguments of whether there is a God, to look at how parts of religion could improve the lives of all.

He tells us that secular society could benefit from the belief in life-long learning that is prevalent is many religions, as opposed to being a mere buzzword among politicians.

Similarly, we could learn from religious art, which, no matter how intricate the work, the simple messages within them stir the soul and can be understood by a child.

Religion, he adds, also fosters supportive communities and has a far better grasp of architecture, as opposed to viewing land as a business transaction.

Unfortunately for de Botton, he fails to show how we could apply the best of religion to practical life. He also sidesteps the facts, for example, that the great religious masterpieces and the building of opulent cathedrals usually stemmed from blind faith and obedience.

Likewise, as some churchgoers will concede on the quiet, congregations are often not supportive communities, but actually riddled with divisions with only faith uniting them.

He fails to realise that if you take faith away, his religious breakfast buffet is left with little more than granola. Secular society, on the other hand, has been adequately filling the void with an almighty full English for years.

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