Non-Believer's Religion

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Alain de Botton, writer, philosopher and author of Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion, looks at what religion offers, even to the agnostic and atheist.


Alain de Botton

Comments [87]

respect from Morocco

With all my respect to you Mr. Brian, and all listeners;
Have any non-believers or atheist read the Quran us about all what we discover so far, by modern science, that need modern technology.
Exp; Astronomy + Geology + Biology + Ocean logy + Embryology + and more
We all know Quran not the book of science but the book of Signs;
Quran has about 6000 verses, and more than 1000 verses talk about the creations;
If me and you Mr. Brain debate is this show yours or mine the cleaver person soon will say this is Mr. Brain's show because you created and descript it in perfect way. Same Exp for who create the car you or he.
Of course the creator will never make mistake. This is one of the reasons why people who read the Quran revert to Islam, yes revert because Allah said every born human being is a Muslim (mean who believe and Summits himself to one creator).
And that's why who ever read the bible and understood it well will become non-believer or looks for the truth in Islam (mean Summits himself in peace to one creator Allah) because there are a lot of corruptions and mistakes
Exp; Scientific copied from Greek maybe? (Astronomy + Geology + Biology + Embryology + and more) in all creation, Historical (people names+ dates+ places). Mathematics... Etc.
But we all know the creator CANNOT make a mistake in what he create.
Never forget we as Muslims must believe in all scriptures which revealed to all prophets and messengers Exp to David, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad ( Zabor, Torah, Enjeel and Quran ) but after too many translations the Bible(Zabor, Torah, Enjeel) lost it’s meaning and people who wrote it never left in Jesus time exp king James bible and more then 66 versions in the Bible in the word . But Quran stays in its origin language Arabic, that’s why in translation we must make sure the translator is Arabic Muslim scholar who knows Arabic really good as well as other languages to translate. And we must learn Arabic to understand it well.

Apr. 09 2012 01:12 PM
political pop


Mar. 30 2012 07:14 PM
Connie from nj

Ed from Larchmont
Can't you just relax and enjoy having your god while I enjoy having no god? I have a productive place in our society, as I'm sure you do. I have a life I enjoy, with friends and family, same as you. I share the morals of our culture (yes, atheists soak up moral values just like you).I'm not missing anything and I'm not telling others what they're missing. Why must you insist that we see things your way? I don't want to take your god away from you, honest. I believe he's there in your world. You'll just have to take my word for it that my world is different than yours.

Mar. 29 2012 09:12 AM
Ed from Larchmont

I would invite an atheist to say this prayer: 'God, if you are there, show yourself to me'. If there is no God, what harm could it do?

Mar. 29 2012 06:06 AM
Political Pop

at least i dont believe some dude who breaths the same air as i do saying the whole world started by a big bang

Mar. 28 2012 04:01 PM
Yvonne from Park Slope

As I listen to this program a second time today, this is a second comment on my conclusion that your guest misunderstands Buddhism:

At a meeting of the NYC Atheists someone said he "knew" that Buddhists believed in god because he had traveled and had seen them pray. At a subsequent meeting, as we were going around the room sharing our experience coming out with our families as atheists, an Asian woman with a strong accent explained that this was never a problem for her because she was raised a Buddhist and Buddhists do not believe in god. They spoke after and he was startled by her take on the things he thought he had witnessed.

Yes, there is belief in reincarnation and other phenomena that WE associate with the supernatural but this does not include our concept of god; for Buddhists, there is only one reality and this is their understanding of what that reality is, how the natural world works; if science shows this understanding of how everything works to be wrong, then the belief must accommodate the new understanding as there can be only one truth ... but, until then, it stands. Yes, their understanding of reality, the natural world falls somewhere between what we think of as "natural" and what we think of as "supernatural".

There were similar problems when the West discovered Taoism, that is, every reference to "the way" was seen as a reference to a god. We now understand this differently.

In Buddhism, when reference is made to gods something entirely different is meant. The experience of prayer is, also, very different as both the gods are symbolic and the prayers more akin to positive affirmation than anything directed at an entity assumed to be real. The underling assumption is the power of thought ... we create the world with our thought. This is how the Dhammapada begins in striking contrast to Genesis and a world created by god. Though Buddhism originated in India which DOES have a god concept (often misinterpreted to be many gods and not the many manifestations of the Absolute which is what is really meant ... just as Jesus is not believed to be one of 3 separate gods), when Buddhism went to China and Japan, it lost this god-centeredness and took on a more agricultural understanding of of a world that grows from something tiny and unseen rather than being created all at once from nothing ... and that works in cycles.

I am not sure what is the research your guest claims he has done but the Dalai Lama, by the implications of his statements, is another confused Westerner who believes that Buddhism does not believe in god.

Mar. 28 2012 02:40 AM
tom LI

To Ed from Larchmont.

Yeah, not so much. As an Atheist (7 on Dawkins scale) I do not look at the world and say/think, "there is no God here." That moment has long passed, the notions no longer enter my mind, and I do not keep repeating my disbelief when I view the World. Which is not the same for a Believers, who for the most part have to continually - with a dose of their current convictions spinkled on top - keep maintaining their belief that their Creator-God is there someplace, everyplace.

I can't speak for all athests, but once I had my Epiphany of disbelief - all that maintenance went away - so now when I look at and engage in the World around me, and explore the ones not so close - I revel in my connection in it all. And not as the alleged pinnacle of Creation (God created) but as a mere piece in an extremely large and complex puzzle that we Humans ae slowly but inevitably explaining.

Mar. 27 2012 04:07 PM

If you need community, union or togetherness, host a dinner fer cisssakes!!

Mar. 27 2012 03:05 PM
Alex from Jersey City

As a former born-again Christian, I truly appreciate and identify with many of the characteristics the author identified as beneficial components of religion. Ever since I left the church, I'd been missing that feeling of community, union, togetherness that had always been the best part for me. Especially the monthly pot-luck! I agree, there's something about coming together for a meal that feeds more than our bellies - and with a pot luck, everyone brings something of themselves, which makes it all the more communal.
I found some of this wonderful sense of community again when I was so thoroughly accepted into my husband's family. He's Jewish, though not religiously observant. But that strength of family, community, humanity that they've shown to me I see now is essential and emblematic of their culture - and it is enhanced by participating in the rituals that are as much a cultural expression as a spiritual one (more so for many of my family members, as they wouldn't identify themselves as belivers in deity). So I agree with the author that these elements of religion are in many ways essential expressions of our humanity, but I wholeheartedly believe that you CAN have it WITHOUT the dogma of structured religion.
Another shining example of that is The Secret City ( ), which I attended for the first time this past Sunday (yes, it's held on Sunday mornings, just like church). They explore all of these same ideas of connection, community, inspiration and expression through the presentation and discussion of art. And it's done with such a feeling of empathy and celebration - again, it's all of those wonderful things I remember about attending church, without the undue emphasis on condemnation, sin, hell, exclusion....those things that divide us. I feel that what they're doing there is exactly the type of thing the author is talking about here. After feeling like I lost a community when I lost my faith, I'm so excited that there are other ways to find that connection without hitching my wagon to a religion....and I'm glad that I'm not the only one who feels this way!

Mar. 27 2012 01:52 PM
Nick from UWS

I would say a "believer" lives with his own illusions, shares his or her life with his own illusions, establishes a new unity of being with his own illusions.

A person who can't tell the difference between what they think and what exists outside of their own head, or doesn't even question his own thoughts, is to be given wide berth.

Mar. 27 2012 01:33 PM
Ed from Larchmont

By belief there is something misunderstood. A person who 'believes' in God doesn't just look at the world with God in it, whereas an atheist looks at the world with God 'not in it'. A believer lives with God, shares his or her life with God, establishes a new unity of being with God.

Mar. 27 2012 01:03 PM
Nick from UWS

"There are no atheists in a foxhole." Guys who dig, sit and fight from foxholes are by definition atheists. Who can call themselves religious, in particular Christian, and simultaneously participate in war?

Mar. 27 2012 12:59 PM
e stone from Westchester ny

To answer Joe who posted a bit ago. There is a very large group, part of American Atheists, titled ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES!!! You need to learn something before making ridiculous statements.

Mar. 27 2012 12:22 PM
Yvonne from Park Slope, Brooklyn

As an atheist with Buddhist leanings, I would like to say two things:

1.) As I understand it, the word "religion" derived from the word "religare" meaning to bind together and religion once served as medicine, history, ethics as well as overlapping with art and music and was never limited to a belief in god or gods; the role of religion in creating community, separate from belief in god, is an important and under-appreciated reality.

2.) The Dalai Lama has stated, in a group of Buddhists, that he does not believe in god ... belief in god is an immature dependence upon an external parental figure. The Buddhism I have been exposed to refers to deities as "mind projections" to be used in visualization and meditation to project our best and worse, work with it and re-internalize the result.

Is your guest claiming that the Dalai Lama is just another American who does not understand real Buddhism??

I think he misunderstand Buddhism and is adding to the confusion.

When asked why he does not make this clear himself, how Buddhism is different, the Dalai Lama replies to Buddhists that his mission, as he sees it, is to focus on commonality and not add to division.

Because Buddhism, in each country, has been layered onto the preexisting not always remaining separate in this process religions there has been all sorts of "contaminants" and your guest may be doing the equivalent of judging Catholicism by Santeria.

Mar. 27 2012 12:05 PM
Andy from Yonkers

I'm responding to the thoughts on the show about rituals like eating a meal together and ideas like the Golden Rule. I'm all for anyone following them for any reason, but they did have religious origins (certainly the Golden Rule, whether Confucian, Jewish, or Christian). I don't think it's fair to say they are just human in origin, in the sense of not being religious, or that religion took them over.
On another tack, in my group of Friends (Quaker) friends, there are both theistic and non-theistic folks, and the theistic folks come in a wide variety of beliefs, including Christocentric, universalist, Wiccan and uncertain. While there are sometimes strong tensions between the various elements, there is also a lot of mutual respect and love.

Mar. 27 2012 11:56 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Dark, unless you are an idealist, I would assume that you believe that you and the world around you exist outside of your mind, then you cannot reject the "possiblity" of a deity, stripped of all its religious anthropomorphic attributes of course.

Mar. 27 2012 11:54 AM
Brian from Hoboken

This guest needs to get a job. I am an atheist who doesn't have the time or inclination to sit around questioning my existence or community. I live for my family, my friends, my career, etc. why does he assume that we all have some loving for community? Why cant my community be my community? PTA stuff, my neighbors, my high school and college communities, etc. This is a waste. Religion has caused more problems than anything else in history and continues to do so.

Mar. 27 2012 11:52 AM

DarkSymbolist from NYC! ~


But, I'll bet your girlfriend didn't go to religious services or dragged her poor children to religious education like the confused caller said she does!!

Mar. 27 2012 11:51 AM
Calvin Dame

Ethical Humanist/Ethical Culture societies have provided the benefits of religious community for non-believers for 136 years!

Mar. 27 2012 11:50 AM
Sue from West Village, NYC

I have had absolutely NO religious "training," and do not subscribe to any notion of "God" other than to try my best to serve my fellow man through volunteer work, both here in the US and overseas. Empathy and compassion for others is not dependent on any religious belief; rather, it is about the choices we make in our daily lives to appreciate and look after others, including animals and the planet we live on.

Mar. 27 2012 11:49 AM
John A.

<< Is it just me, or is this guy not a frustrated closet "believer"? >>
Nope, not just you. Most of the comments to de Botton videos on YouTube go like you. Makes me think that religious understanding really just is a thing for the over-30 crowd. After all, I was agnostic until 40.

Mar. 27 2012 11:49 AM

@DarkSymbolist from NYC! that's not true at all. By definition, faith is believing in something that you have no proof for. You have no proof in the existence and you have no proof of the non-existence of a higher entity. Therefore you must have faith to take a side in the matter. Therefore atheism is faith-based.

Mar. 27 2012 11:48 AM

There are no atheists in a foxhole.

Mar. 27 2012 11:48 AM
Ethical Culture from nyc

Another shout out for Ethical Culture here. Religion based on ethics, on how we treat each other. We strive to act in such a way as to bring out the best in others, and thereby ourselves. Ethical Culture was founded in NYC over 100 years ago by a reformed Jew as the next extension of religion. Just waiting for you all to catch up.

Mar. 27 2012 11:47 AM
Patricia G. Horan from Kent, Ct

As the wonderful karen armstrong has said, NONE of these religions is good for women, however cool or time-honored they might be. But that's ok, it doesn't matter, we're only a little more than half of the human race.

Mar. 27 2012 11:47 AM
andrew from denville

I would love to hear a discussion how enlightenment era thinking may have been at the root of nationalism and then the world wars.

It seems to me abandoning the concept of God leads to philosophical bankruptcy. Instead I would reccomend expanding our God definition. Read Paul Tillich and John Shelby Sponge for more on this. The speaker said Bhuddists change their religion to reflect science. Christians can do this too and maintain the idea of an all encompassing God.

Mar. 27 2012 11:46 AM
Amy from Manhattan

One particular thing I like about the Jewish approach to a day of atonement is that we're not supposed to ask forgiveness from God for sins against another person until we've asked that person for forgiveness first. It's not easy to do.

Mar. 27 2012 11:45 AM

He's NOT an atheist!


Mar. 27 2012 11:45 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

"Jewish atheist" makes sense when "Jewish" is being used more as a description of cultural background not as religious belief.

I had a girlfriend once who was Jewish, described herself as Jewish, and felt "Jewish" in a cultural way but she was not religious and did not believe in god. She described herself as an atheist. Jewish was a cultural description for her.

Mar. 27 2012 11:45 AM
John A.

Someone mentioned "On Being", see also the show "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly" on PBS.
This Week they covered Jews who study Jesus as, in my clumsy words, just another (but great) prophet of Judaism. It was enlightening and unifying.

Mar. 27 2012 11:44 AM
John Aiello from Pearl River NY

Frank Zappa made a great case for athiest morality when he said
"Do what you wanna. Do what you will. Just don't mess up your neighbor's thrill. And when you pay the bill, kindly leave a little tip and help the next poor sucker on his one way trip."

Mar. 27 2012 11:44 AM
Nick from UWS

Original sin? The most evil religious concept of all them; teaching little children to hate themselves right out of the starting gate. What pure evil. I guess "God" is not so hot after all, eh, since he is unable to ever create perfect people.

Mar. 27 2012 11:44 AM
kristen carlberg

I am a non-practicing christian and my husband is a non-practicing jew. One of my problems with religion is that the very things people seek through religion - the community, inclusion, the "larger", de facto (by creating the group) creates "the other". which is a dangerous way to view others.

Mar. 27 2012 11:44 AM
D from nyc

When my brother died, we used the Jewish tradition of an unveiling as a model for bringing friends and family together at the one year anniversary. It was very healing.

Mar. 27 2012 11:43 AM
Seigan from NYC

I am a Zen Buddhist monk and a Chaplain at a NYC hospital. I visit all patients in the hospital from all religions and patients who have no religion. In my experience most people of "faith" that I visit have their own version, a mixture of beliefs. Very rarely do I meet people who are exclusively hardcore Catholic or Jewish. I have met people who identify as Jewish or Christian, but who are non-believers. There are a lot more people who are non -theist and agnostic than we think.

Mar. 27 2012 11:43 AM

Best book ever written on the concept of religion without God: John Dewey's A Common Faith.

Mar. 27 2012 11:43 AM
Amanda Smart from Crown Heights

I was raised in the Unitarian Universalist Church, and I was curious as to your guest's thoughts on that particular non-dogmatic, highly agnostic (and frequently athiest), self-exploratory "religion."

My mother and father are non-believers, but they became members of the UUC specifically because it allowed us to learn about and be part of a community of shared (political and social and moral) beliefs and participate in specific rituals to mark moments in our lives. Is it less of a cop-out than "athiest" judaism?

Mar. 27 2012 11:43 AM
April from Manhattan

I'm an atheist and a mystic. Yes that sounds weird and impossible. I was raised by Atheists. I went to Church during my teen rebellion. But gave up because Christ was a communist where I grew up and I was looking for mysticism. The Bible, old and new testaments, alarmed me. i saw a huge pillar made of fire with deities of all religions thrown out from it, dancing for a moment then disappearing. Above it was a sun disk, with a sunflower pattern of fire moving over it. On the top of the disc was the ocean moving over it in waves saying OM. A week after I saw this, two books I
had ordered arrived in the mail. On the back of one was a pillar with a sun disc over it. It was The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The sun disc and pillar were titled the wheel of the law. There is no God in Buddhism there are deities we meditate on, created and dissolved by mind. Who knows what's mind or real?

Mar. 27 2012 11:42 AM

Is it just me, or is this guy not a frustrated closet "believer"??

Mar. 27 2012 11:42 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

D-BOY, Not necessarily so, the main body of Judaism, Christianiity and other religions, is the ritual - which has its roots in paganism and the human, pre-religous tradition of celebrating nature.

Mar. 27 2012 11:42 AM
Lex from New York

There is a difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism - that is, between the original form of Buddhism and Tibetan, Zen and other forms of Buddhist derivatives.

Mar. 27 2012 11:41 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

"Atheism goes against basic human reason by refuting the possibility of a "higher entity" - and that requires faith"

The premise of your theory is flawed because you assume that by not believing in a higher entity you are "going against basic human reason". Quite an assumptive leap of logic. In fact reason (as defined by the english language) points to their being no evidence of a "higher entity". The fact that there is no evidence is not conclusive that there is none however reason (as defined in the english language) would dictate that the belief in something for which there is no evidence is in fact not reasonable, and is an act of faith (as defined by the english language).

It is NOT an act of faith to NOT believe in something (by definition) and it is NOT an act of faith to not believe in that for which there is no evidence (because that is the logical position, it does not require "faith" which can defy logic by definition).

And again, the terms atheist and atheism mean a lack of faith or a disbelief in religion or a higher entity. There is no "faith" involved. There is no faith for that specific thing (as defined by the english language).

Any assertion otherwise just shows a lack of understanding of the meaning of the words "faith" and "atheist"

Mar. 27 2012 11:41 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

Of course there is a large number of Jewish atheists - who could believe in God after the Holocaust? If Christians were slaughtered en masse by Jews, I'm sure there would be more Christian atheists as well.

Mar. 27 2012 11:40 AM
Ed from Larchmont

There's no such thing as a Christian atheist. "Without me, you can do nothing." Jesus. (i.e. without God).

Mar. 27 2012 11:40 AM
Ed Fanwood from fanwood

What about 12 step programs that use a "Higher Power" The first two members found that two people were a power than themselves..

Mar. 27 2012 11:39 AM
Nick from UWS

There's another specious idea..that people's morality must be taught and people get their moral compass from religion. Complete nonsense. People have their level of empathy for others hard-wired into them at birth. No amount of religious brainwashing affects a person's "moral compass" either way, except possibly through brainwashing and fear.

Mar. 27 2012 11:39 AM
chris from Southside

Your guest puts his finger on the answer to his question re athiest/seculars clinging to the structures of religions and that is ceremony (he spoke of the Zen ceremony). They are communal and quite hard to come up with ceremonies that have the sense of meaning and weight equal to ones developed over centuries.

Mar. 27 2012 11:39 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

Another word for G-d is Elokim or Elokaynu. The word El means Force. Literally what we are invoking is that there is a Force that is not physical that caused everything to come into being. However, as soon as you put yourself on a limb, and say that the original cause of reality is physical, you are going to be left with that same question you had at the very beginning, which is “where did that come from?”

Mar. 27 2012 11:39 AM

Besides being an enormous bore, this guy COMPLETELY misses the point!!!


Mar. 27 2012 11:38 AM
Theresa from New Rochelle

The religion for aetheists already exists - it's called Ethical Culture. We believe in Deed above Creed. And have our own version of the Golden Rule. We have plenty of ways to celebrate rites of passage and holidays as well.

Mar. 27 2012 11:38 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Human logic says that the universe was created by "something". Agnostics like me, simply do not beleive the theistic, religious versions. I acknowledge the universe "as a thing in itself" - the creation of which, is beyond the reach of human understanding.

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM
John A.

Anybody have church groups where its OK to discuss Atheism there?

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM
art525 from Park Slope

I am a landscape painter. A few years ago I was painting on an island in Maine. It started to rain, a sun shower. Instead of packing up and running for shelter I stayed and continued to paint. The sun came back out I had a giddy feeling. I also thought about how powerful and rugged the Maine landscape is. How insignifcant I felt in the face of this landscape, this world. At that moment a feeling of both euphoria and peace swept over me. I felt great comfort in the notion of my insignificance. Later on I was relating my experience to a friend. She said "you know what that is don't you? That is your ego dropping away." I absolutely relate to what the speaker said about the Buddhists having that same experience in the face of nature.

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM

Atheists should learn from the social aspect of religion. A problem in the atheist "community" is the lack of social interconnectivity. Such "rituals" as mention are good for many and I can see the comforting effect they provide.

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM
e stone from Westchester ny

Re Jewish Atheist, oxymoron in her case. IF you don't believe in god, why would you allow your children to profess and pledge their to their belief in god at their bar mitzvah??? This is what RELIGIOUS ceremonies are for. This and only this.
It is understandable to want to maintain your heritage or what you call culture, but religious ceremonies and attending temple, do not fall into this category.

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM
Jonathan from Brooklyn

In technical language its called the Critique of Onto-Theology.
This has been going on in Judaism and Christianity since the late middle ages.

Mar. 27 2012 11:37 AM
Sophie Allen from Poughkeepsie, NY

It's official: Looks like the BL Show will do a complete 45 minute segment on religion.

On Being does it much better.

Mar. 27 2012 11:36 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

Knowledge is based on what is observable. There is no observable phenomena that makes itself. That's the question is would like your guest to answer.
No matter what you reduce it to, as long as you are not willing to state “this made itself”, you are always going to remain with one question… who made it? So it doesn’t matter in the end how you come to describe the process of Being, in terms of the steps between the simplest matter to the most sophisticated matter, no matter how it is described, there always remains the same question, “where did that come from.” In Judaism we answer this question that it came from the Being that is eternal.

Mar. 27 2012 11:36 AM
Sioban Keane from Katonah, NY

I am an atheist who has joined a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. It is a religion without dogma that welcomes people of any belief: Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, atheist. We come together for a sense of purpose and community without coercing people into believing a laundry list of supernatural beliefs.

My children are given a safe space to ask the big questions and decide what they believe. It is working marvellously for our family.

Mar. 27 2012 11:36 AM
David from Manhattan

Seems to me that this academic ground has already been covered extensively by the late Joseph Campbell. Anyone remember the Power of Myth book and tv series?

Mr. de Botton ought to really give a shout out to Joseph Campbell.

Mar. 27 2012 11:36 AM
Emily from Brooklyn

I grew up Episcopalian, but what always moved me was the gathering together to do service and speak with people who were not coming from my background. I didn't believe it made a lot of sense to be doing it for a higher power though-- ultimately I believe in a kind of existentialist attitude. So now I am very active in my local community, serving my neighborhood and getting to do neighborhood work and activism and defending people from different classes and ethnic backgrounds. We gather weekly to have potlucks, go out together, and create service projects. I don't think any one of us has an active religious life, but I get the same community and connection.

Mar. 27 2012 11:35 AM

"Jewish Atheist"?!?!?

This WOMAN is a contradictory mess!

Mar. 27 2012 11:35 AM

I've never had a problem being an atheist myself. I've got a great many Jewish and Christian friends and family who I respect and who respect me, and I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

Also, if you want to feel small, or be a part of something greater than yourself, all you need is a clear night and a telescope.

Mar. 27 2012 11:34 AM
kalwagenheim from Millburn NJ

My great-grandma, Ida Shamberg, was an Orthodox Jew, but accepted
folks of different religions and races, and was loved by all.
I think she observed the most important Commandment of all:
"Be kind to one another."

Mar. 27 2012 11:34 AM

Freedom FROM religion!!!

Mar. 27 2012 11:33 AM
Nick Westrate from Manhattan

I am an actor, and an atheist. I think of the theater as my church. It is my art form so it is extremely important to me, but it is also an activity that creates community and is deeply steeped in the oldest of traditions. It has revered ancient texts, and we argue over their interpretation. And the theater invites people to come together to witness an event, learn, experience, be exhulted, and atone together. The experience of theatrical catharsis can be religious.

Mar. 27 2012 11:33 AM
Elaine from Baltimore

The words we use for the name of G-d in Hebrew describe what we believe G-d to be in essence. In other words, the name in & of itself has meaning. It is spelled Yud, Hay, Vav & Hay. That name is a contraction of the time tenses. The time tenses in Hebrew are Haya, Hove & YeHeyeh.
There is no word in Hebrew that means belief as in “blind faith” because this concept does not exist. A more accurate translation of the word “emunah” would be faithfulness. Belief should be based on knowledge & the question is, will we be faithful to that knowledge. In the Mishna Torah, the Rambam’s code, the foundation is KNOWLEDGE that there is a G-d.

Mar. 27 2012 11:33 AM
andy from manhattan

the unitarian church offers a home for the spiritual growth of all, from atheists to zen buddhists. as radical as it sounds, there is a church for all who refuse to judge humanity, and seek to celebrate the strengths, and reinforce the bonds of respect and love.

Mar. 27 2012 11:32 AM
e stone from Westchester ny

Oops! Sorry for the typos in my comment, I was so outraged I couldn't even proofread!

Mar. 27 2012 11:32 AM's called a tavern!!!

Mar. 27 2012 11:31 AM

Brian, please address the fact that religon and ethics don't go hand in hand

Mar. 27 2012 11:31 AM
Nick from UWS

You know why there is never any progress in discussions about the truth of religion? BECAUSE IT'S A DISCUSSION ABOUT NOTHING; ABOUT THE TRUTH OF FANTASY.

Mar. 27 2012 11:31 AM
e stone from Westchester ny

Nonsense! As evidenced by the 20,000 + at Saturday's Reason Rally and thousand + at the American Atheist's convention, there is a large ACOMNUNITY of atheists not only nationwide but internationally.
Additionally, the basic point of atheists is NOT religion bashing but SEPARATION of state and church and keeping their religion out of OUR lives!

Mar. 27 2012 11:30 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

", justice, truth, goodness. No wonder it's attractive even to an atheist"

Those things are attractive to any human being whether they are secular or religious, and these things exist without a belief in God(s)or adherence to any religion.

Mar. 27 2012 11:30 AM
Ed from Larchmont

See the excellent new book 'The unintended reformation' Gregory, Brad, Harvard Press, 2012 to see that today's atheism is part of a philosophical tradition.

He makes a good point: atheists aren't fair to religion.

Mar. 27 2012 11:29 AM
Inquisigal from Brooklyn

I second what Anonymous said in my personal beliefs. But for anyone to claim that an aetheist needs "religion" or ritual is insulting and completely negates what the term really means. Also, many atheists resist religion precisely because of the group-think focus on empty rituals performed with fellow believers in order to honor their chosen god.

Why can't people in this country accept that some people just do not need or want religion in their lives, or can find it on their own terms?

And why would a philosopher write a book like this? Does he not get that many non-believers do not want a RELIGION????

Mar. 27 2012 11:29 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

No, Atheism goes against basic human reason by refuting the possibility of a "higher entity" - and that requires faith.

Mar. 27 2012 11:27 AM

let the players express their religion. If it becomes excessive on the field then they'll get fined. It is shocking that people make a big deal about his being a christian. Who cares? If you don't ask him he won't talk to you about it. Let him live.

Mar. 27 2012 11:26 AM

The first question we need to answer is why people believe. Invariably, for all religions, it all boils down to the fear of death - and all religions reward believers with afterlife. The difference between religions is the packaging of this belief into various forms.

Atheist, by definition, don't believe in god, don't believe in everlasting soul, or any other fairy tales. We, the atheist, understand our world as based on scientific data and have the courage to face reality.

Thus, this entire conversation just does not make any sense.

Mar. 27 2012 11:25 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Atheism is the lack of faith in religion or a higher entity, it requires no faith whatsoever by definition

Mar. 27 2012 11:21 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

The words atheist and atheism do not describe a set of describes a lack of belief and that is it. That is all it means. A lack of belief or disbelief.

Anything else ascribed to the words atheism or atheist is nothing but a bunch of nonsense propoganda put forth by the non-secular.

Mar. 27 2012 11:19 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Amen Anonymous - Atheism, like religion, requires an act of faith, something I can't deliver on.

Mar. 27 2012 11:16 AM
John A.

I've looked over two of Mr. de Botton's books and also videos. This is really approachable stuff. Given I think that most everyone aren't realizing how Madison-Avenue-like approaches are actually getting (read:controlling) their attention away from meaning, it's great to have this man coaxing people with those techniques to look at Religion.
Could somebody identify that person who first said - it goes something like - "Religion isn't about asking questions, that's why its called a Belief" -? That's been an utterly false statement in my life. This free thinker goes to church.

Mar. 27 2012 10:30 AM
anonymous from New Jersey

I am a militant agnostic. It's unknown. It's unknowable*. What's for lunch?
How liberating! Now you don't have to worry about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, if his holy book is holier than thine, have to do this, can't eat that.... No one knows, so why spin your wheels?
Acceptance of divine mystery is, I have heard, the hallmark of spiritual maturity. I just cut out the middlebeing and get my mystery directly. Occam's razor shaves God's beard.
Now that you don't have to worry about what it's all about, you're a naive realist, like your dog: it is what it is.
The fundamental mystery is that there is anything at all. To be or not to be. Let me know when you figure that one out.
* Unknowable is the militant part: you don't know, either, even if you think you do.

Mar. 27 2012 10:18 AM

Please be sure to make the distinction between atheism and agnosticism.

While some who call themselves atheists are non-theist (they are not convinced that there is a god but are somewhat agnostic), there are also a great number of people who call themselves atheists that are convinced that there is no god (they are really anti-theists).

That latter sort of atheist, in my opinion, is just as committed to an irrational 'faith' as those who believe in a particular form of god.

Mar. 27 2012 09:47 AM
Ed from Larchmont

However, one must say that the purpose of religion is to worship and to live with God. So, what you can get from religion without God, are just the crumbs.

That there are things one can get from religion as an atheist shows that where God is, is beauty, justice, truth, goodness. No wonder it's attractive even to an atheist.

Mar. 27 2012 06:07 AM
Ed from Larchmont

One very recent book which explains better than anything I've seen how we've gotten to this situation is:

Gregory, Brad 'The unintended Reformation : how a religious revolution secularized society' Harvard, 2012.

Recommended reading, even explains how the atheists have developed.

Mar. 27 2012 06:04 AM

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