Atheists in search of spirituality



If you don’t believe in God and, therefore, is called an atheist, can there be a different kind of religion for you that goes well with your philosophy of life? Perhaps one may get the answer to this highly controversial question in the latest book by Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists.

Botton walks tightly and describes religion useful as well as not-so-useful in one’s life. It all depends on what aspect of religion you look at and what kind of believer or unbeliever you are. That is because if you are a fundamentalist believer, then everything that religion says becomes your basic principles of life. But if you are an atheist, you need not necessarily reject religion because it has so many good things that you can ’steal’ and gain a lot to make life richer.

It may be a debatable issue to say that the supernatural claims in most religions may be entirely 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, himself a confessed ‘liberal atheist’, however, believes that religion can be used to guide you in inspiring you in doing things that would make your life better by helping you connect with the natural world and be a part of the rest of the goings-on around you. Religion can help you remove your feelings of inadequacies and jealousy; thereby giving you a better and meaningful life.

The book, focusing on three major faiths— Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism— makes a case for these religions’ ability to address conflicts and emotional issues and transform a society into a cohesive and morality-based community.

A critic says Botton comes out best when he confronts human frailty and makes an attempt to alleviate loneliness and sadness in this harsh world. The Boston Globe perhaps had the best say on Botton: “ A perceptive philosophical meditation on work… with its extraordinary claim to provide, along with love, the principal source of meaning in our lives.”

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.

Botton feels that in the materialistically rich world of the 21st century, people are finding themselves in a spiritual mess and chaos. Perhaps it is here that people need religion; but they need not be a part of its occult aspects.

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