Religion For Atheists”, The Terribly, Alas, English Book By Alain de Botton.

For many years, schol­ars puz­zled over what appeared to be the out­line of a hideous fig­ure, cow­er­ing in the depths of the ninth cycle of Hell in Dan­te’s Infer­no. Who exact­ly was that frozen for­ev­er in the bow­els of the Earth, more low­ly even than Bru­tus, Judas, and even Satan himself?

Of course we now know that what we find there is a veg­e­tar­i­an, caught for­ev­er in the act of eat­ing a veg­gie burg­er. Why would a veg­e­tar­i­an want to eat a burg­er?

Sure­ly the last thing a veg­e­tar­i­an would ever want would to sink their teeth into would be some­thing that embod­ies every­thing they’ve so proud­ly reject­ed? And yet there they are, on every veg­e­tar­i­an menu in the West­ern world. So we should­n’t I sup­pose be too sur­prised about the lat­est offer­ing from Alain de Bot­ton, Reli­gion For Athe­ists which is based on a sim­i­lar­ly non-sen­si­cal idea. But that does­n’t make it any less lamentable.

Though Swiss by birth, there’s some­thing ter­ri­bly Eng­lish about his new book. Reli­gion For Athe­ists reeks of the same spir­it that moves Angli­can vic­ars to so need­less­ly explain and ratio­nal­ize the para­bles in the gospels and the sto­ries in the bible.

We’re not meant to be able to ratio­nal­ly com­pre­hend the mys­ter­ies in the bible, hence the name we use to describe them. Their truths are beyond mere human under­stand­ing. Ours, famous­ly, is not to rea­son why. That’s why no one is ever pun­ished for behav­ing bad­ly or reward­ed for behav­ing well in the Bible. The only thing you’re ever pun­ished for in the Bible is for act­ing of your own volition.

The one thing that’s demand­ed of you through­out the Bible, and it’s repeat­ed over and over again, is that you sub­mit your will to the high­er and unknow­able will of God. That’s what Muham­mad under­stood hav­ing absorbed the worlds of Judaism and Chris­tian­i­ty, and why he summed up his mes­sage with the sin­gle word Islam; “sub­mit”.

Your beliefs demand that you make a pro­found sac­ri­fice. That sac­ri­fice is that you aban­don your mere human log­ic and rea­son, and sub­mit your will to a high­er and unknow­able authority.

All you suc­ceed in doing by try­ing to explain and ratio­nal­ize the mys­ter­ies that under­pin that author­i­ty is to hope­less­ly weak­en the bonds that bind you and it togeth­er. Your beliefs are only as strong as the sac­ri­fices they demand of you.

That’s why Angli­can­ism is con­stant­ly under threat from the twin pil­lars of Catholi­cism and Protes­tantism, and why in con­trast to the for­mer, Islam goes from strength to strength.

The sac­ri­fice demand­ed of athe­ism, which, some argue, is just a par­tic­u­lar strand of belief, is the fore­go­ing of the insti­tu­tion­al shel­ter and com­mu­nal suc­cour that organ­ised reli­gion so vital­ly offers.

In its efforts to restore to athe­ists pre­cise­ly that which they’ve sac­ri­ficed, de Bot­ton’s book demon­strates a fail­ure to under­stand what belief is for and how it oper­ates, either for athe­ists or believ­ers. He’s try­ing to sac­ri­fice sac­ri­fice.

He seems like an affa­ble sort of chap, and when he sticks to arcane cor­ners of archi­tec­ture, or lay­men’s phi­los­o­phy he can be an engag­ing if slight­ly over-eager guide. But his Reli­gion For Athe­ists bears all the mark­ings of a man with more mon­ey than sense, and one who has far too much – and yet not enough – time on his hands.

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