When I was a Chapters last week and did not buy Reza Aslan's book, I did chose a different book. It is titled: "Religion for Atheists. A Non-believers guide to the uses of Religion." by Alain De Botton, an author I had not heard of before but who seems very talented to me.
I haven't previously thought about the cover picture which looks like an image of an eclipse. This choice leaves me stumped, at the moment. The book contains many moving images which fit the text in an evocative and meaningful way; but the eclipse--hm. ? Maybe it means: there must be some bigger truth out there but we can't grasp it through our religions, even though they are headed in the right direction. Could be.
I enjoyed the book because it has much insight into human nature. It is mostly trying to show how much sense religions make in terms of their practices and how they support human life, thought, art, travel, and emotional stability. His underlying premise, though, I cannot fathom. For some reason, he expects that all these benefits could be reaped without actually believing anything to be actually true. This point of view seems to be rampant out there on the internet and in the English department ivory towers. I haven't actually met any live honest-to-goodness down-to-earth people who hold this sort of ambivalence about truth, unless they are trying to cover something up.
So, you would think that I would be upset with the De Botton. But he wrote such a fine and gentle and sensible book that I am really very pleased with him. There is so much in the book which could help some "angry atheist" to calm down and look at the issues more clearly and from another perspective. In that sense I read it like a Christian apologetic. One might think that the reasonable conclusion to the matter is, that if religions have so much to go for them, maybe one of them is true? And one might think that someone on an actual quest for truth would find some sign posts here.
The book helps me calm down, too, because it does not carry this constant, condescending, strident, insensitive, blaspheming, antagonistic, hateful tone that we are subjected to everywhere it seems. It also helps me understand my own practice of Christianity better and from a different angle. He makes points about our culture which ring so true but which are not usually articulated. I think this is what really makes him stand out to me. De Botton did speak to my soul and used beautiful words and paragraphs to do it. He spoke truth. He might be an arch-skeptic but he seems like a decent man.
I will quote a little bit in the next few days. But since it is a new book, there won't be much.
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