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A religion for atheists

india Updated: Aug 21, 2012 00:21 IST
PP Wangchuk
PP Wangchuk
Hindustan Times
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Can there be a 'religion' for atheists that goes well with their philosophy of life? One may try to seek an answer to this controversial question in the latest book by Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists.

Himself a 'liberal atheist', Botton does a tightrope walk and says any religion could be useful as well as 'not useful' in one's life. It all depends on what aspect of religion you look at and what kind of believer or non-believer you are. In case you are a fundamentalist believer, then everything that religion says becomes your basic principles of life. In the case of an atheist, one need not necessarily reject religion because it has so many good things that one can 'steal' and gain a lot.

One can't say that the supernatural claims in most religions are false; but can any one question that the essence of every religion is on the cultivation of love and unity? Therefore, 'mocking' at any religion can in no way be justified.

Botton believes religion can inspire you in doing and saying things that would make your life better and richer. It can help you remove your feelings of inadequacies and jealousy; thereby making your life more meaningful.

Focusing on three faiths— Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism— Botton makes a case for these religions' ability to address conflicts and emotional issues and transform a society into a morality-based community.

Botton comes out best when he goes to war against human frailty, loneliness and sadness.

One can't categorically say that Botton makes a case that even an atheist has to be believer in religion. But one can say without any doubt that Botton makes a serious case that one can always benefit from the basic principles of religion. And that one can infer, though doubtfully, that no one can be a good person without religion.