Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


An Atheist for Religion

In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton urges nonbelievers to pick and choose religions’ best offerings

Print Email
(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Shutterstock)
Related Content

Q&A: Sam Harris

The Christian right, radical Islamists, and secular leftists agree: this atheist is America’s most dangerous man

Essayist and philosopher-for-the-masses Alain de Botton is best known for How Proust Can Change Your Life, in which he plumbs Remembrance of Things Past for lessons on how to live a more fulfilling life. De Botton has also written books on love, travel, and architecture. In his newest book, Religion for Atheists, de Botton tackles religion. Here he argues that, in rejecting religion wholesale, atheists are unnecessarily depriving themselves of world religions’ prodigious cultural, spiritual, and ethical offerings. His “pick and choose” approach to religion–rejecting central tenets like, say, a belief in God, while borrowing concepts like Judaism’s Day of Atonement–will surely rub some believers the wrong way. But de Botton is addressing a different audience, including many self-identified “cultural Jews” whose ignorance of Judaism he laments. London-based reporter Hugh Levinson spoke to de Botton in London about his own religious background (or lack thereof), the possibility of being religious without having faith, and how the secular world holds on to the memory of religious tyranny while it ignores the religious world’s ability to transmit knowledge.

Here’s their conversation. [Running time: 18:53.] 

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

41953 says:

In the US and North America, there is are organizations including the Society for Humanistic Judaism, the Congress of Secular Jewish Organizations and the Workmen’s Circle that provide a home for atheists, agnostics and those uncomfortable with conventional Judaism by providing alternative holidayobservances, life-cycle ceremonies, children’s schools, adult education etc.

The magazine Jewish Currents is the voice of many secular jews who also consider themselves politically progressive. 

These institutions take their Judaism/Jewish seriously, although not in a religious framework.

rebmoshe says:

To approach all religion, especially Judaism, without sophistication is the cause of this atheist distress.
Haven’t they read Art Green’s Radical Judaism  among other books by Kaplan and others.

zil ugmor- go and study!

deanrd says:

The right wing says they are the most religious people in the country.

They are the most patriotic.

They know how to “protect” America.

Except for every one of their policies being disasters in the last 15 years.  Except for costing the lives and maiming tens of thousands of Americans and no WMDs in Iraq.  Except for their economic policies which ruined the economy, they could be right.  Except for the constant lying.  Except for the fact they have put forth 42 constitutional amendments in the last three years.  The 360 plus filibusters.  Let him die.  Feed the poor and they’ll breed.  Helping other Americans is “socialism”.  In spite of all that:

The right wing says they are the most religious people in the country.

They are the most patriotic.

They know how to “protect” America.

roberthagedorn says:

Google First Scandal.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

An Atheist for Religion

In Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton urges nonbelievers to pick and choose religions’ best offerings

More on Tablet:

A Grandfather’s Hidden Love Letters From Nazi Germany Reveal a Buried Past

By Vox Tablet — Reporter Sarah Wildman’s grandfather escaped Vienna in 1938. Long after he died, she discovered the life—and lover—he left behind.