What do you make of Alain de Botton’s Ten Commandments for Atheists?

Alain de Botton (468 x 664)

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Click here to buy Alain de Botton's Religion for AtheistsReligion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

by Alain De Botton

A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

All of us, whether religious, agnostic or atheist, are searching for meaning. And in this wise and life-affirming book, non-believer Alain de Botton both rejects the supernatural claims of religion and points out just how many good ideas they sometimes have about how we should live.

And he suggests that non-believers can learn and steal from them.

Picking and choosing from the thousands of years of advice assembled by the world’s great religions to get practical insights on art, community, love, friendship, work, life and death, Alain de Botton will show us a range of fascinating ideas on topics including relationships, work, culture, love and death – that could be of use to all of us, irrespective of whether we do or don’t believe.

‘A serious and optimistic set of practical ideas that could improve and alter the way we live.’ Jeanette Winterson, The Times

‘There isn’t a page in this book that doesn’t contain a striking idea or a stimulating parallel.’ Mail on Sunday

‘Packed with tantalizing goads to thought and playful prompts to action.’ Independent

‘Smart, stimulating, sensitive. A timely and perceptive appreciation of how much wisdom is embodied in religious traditions and how we godless moderns might learn from it.’ Financial Times

‘Beautifully written . . . de Botton is enjoying himself here, and we should take him in good humour.’ Evening Standard

‘Surprisingly illuminating.’ Church Times

Click here to buy Religion for Atheists from Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Caroline Baum talks to Judith Lucy – Australia Funniest Spiritual Guide

DRINK, SMOKE, PASS OUT – An Unlikely Spiritual Journey

by Judith Lucy

Caroline Baum: I wasn’t sure whether Judith Lucy’s deadpan drollery would work as well on the page as it does in her stand up shows and TV series. But the good news is it does. She had me giggling helplessly in chapter one, and it doesn’t let up.

She doesn’t spare herself. In fact she lays herself bare in all her drunken mess as she stumbles and staggers her way towards spiritual enlightenment. Intoxicated, needy, confused, vulnerable and endowed with a heightened sense of absurdity which just about rescues her from toppling over the edge, she is raw in her revelations without it ever feeling ickily self-indulgent as it would if she were some gushy over-sharing US soapie star .

You don’t have to be on a search for meaning or interested in religious belief to find this highly entertaining – sceptics and heathens included.

Blurb: At last, a book about life that discusses liquor and lovemaking as much as it does the point of it all.

Judith Lucy has looked everywhere for happiness. Growing up a Catholic, she thought about becoming a nun, and later threw herself into work, finding a partner and getting off her face. Somehow, none of that worked.

So lately, she’s been asking herself the big questions. Why are we here? Is there a God? What happens when we die? And why can’t she tell you what her close friends believe in, but she can tell you which ones have herpes? No-one could have been more surprised than Judith when she started to find solace and meaning in yoga and meditation, and a newfound appreciation for what others get from their religion.

In her first volume of memoir, the bestselling The Lucy Family Alphabet, Judith dealt with her parents. In Drink, Smoke, Pass Out, she tries to find out if there’s more to life than wanting to suck tequila out of Ryan Gosling’s navel. With disarming frankness and classic dry wit, she reviews the major paths of her life and, alarmingly, finds herself on a journey.

Click here to buy Drink, Smoke, Pass Out from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore

Alain de Botton, author of Religion for Atheists, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Alain de Botton

author of Religion for Atheists, The Consolations Of Philosophy, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work , Status Anxiety and many more…

Ten Terrifying Questions

——————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Switzerland, raised speaking French, then swapped country at the age of eight and switched to English. I’ve been living in the UK ever since – desperately dreaming of living somewhere else, though ultimately always falling back on the idea of ‘better the Continue reading

Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion by Alain de Botton

The battle being fought between atheists and believers has raged for centuries. In one camp stand those quoting holy writ and in the other stand those quoting Richard Dawkins.

With his new book, Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton steps into the firing line, deciding bravely to walk a path up through the middle of ‘no man’s land’.

This is a book which will certainly get people talking. And arguing. And I am sure the warring parties will leave off shooting at each other for a time to take aim at the lonely figure standing between them. But I do not fear for Alain de Botton. He is a very clear thinker. Easily a match for most hotheads.

Here’s a little bit about it and a short extract…

Religion for AtheistsA non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense?

The boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on by Alain de Botton’s inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false – and yet that religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world.

Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they’re packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into, among other concerns, how to:

  • build a sense of community
  • make our relationships last
  • overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy
  • escape the twenty-four hour media
  • go travelling
  • get more out of art, architecture and music
  • and create new businesses designed to address our emotional needs.

For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing lots of peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas.

At last, in Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton, the author of the bestselling The Consolations of Philosophyand How Proust Can Change Your Life, has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.

Order your copy of Religion for Atheists click here now

VISIT our Alain de Botton author page here

Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

EXTRACT:

Religion for Atheists:

1

The most boring and unproductive question one can ask of any religion is whether or not it is true, – in terms of being handed down from heaven to the sound of trumpets and supernaturally governed by prophets and celestial beings.

To save time, and at the risk of losing readers painfully early on in this project, let us bluntly state that of course no religions are true in any god-given sense. This is a book for people who are unable to believe in miracles, spirits or tales of burning shrubbery, nor have any deep interest in the exploits of unusual men and women like the thirteenth-century saint Agnes of Montepulciano, who was said to be able to levitate two feet off the ground while praying and to bring children back from the dead – and who, at the end of her life (supposedly) ascended to heaven from southern Tuscany on the back of an angel.Click here to read more…

REVIEWS etc…

Alain de Botton’s attempt to encourage secular society to steal religion’s most fruitful ideas is admirable but ultimately hollow by Richard Coles

Alain de Botton: a life in writing : ‘The nirvana would be if the questions raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty at Harvard’ by Stuart Jeffries

In his new book, the best-selling philosopher ponders how we can all learn a lesson or two from religion, writes STEVE MEACHAM.

Religion for Atheists: A non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion by Alain de Botton

Sorry, but this is a bit of a tease. Religion for Atheists  isn’t actually available till January next year. Doh! But with so many Alain de Botton fans hanging out for his next book I thought I’d put their minds at ease. Yes, it’s true, a new book is coming… eventually.

Here’s a little bit about it and a short extract…

Religion for AtheistsA non-believer’s guide to the uses of religion

What if religions are neither all true nor all nonsense?

The boring debate between fundamentalist believers and non-believers is finally moved on by Alain de Botton’s inspiring new book, which boldly argues that the supernatural claims of religion are of course entirely false – and yet that religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world.

Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they’re packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, de Botton (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into, among other concerns, how to:

  • build a sense of community
  • make our relationships last
  • overcome feelings of envy and inadequacy
  • escape the twenty-four hour media
  • go travelling
  • get more out of art, architecture and music
  • and create new businesses designed to address our emotional needs.

For too long non-believers have faced a stark choice between either swallowing lots of peculiar doctrines or doing away with a range of consoling and beautiful rituals and ideas.

At last, in Religion for Atheists, Alain de Botton, the author of the bestselling The Consolations of Philosophyand How Proust Can Change Your Life, has fashioned a far more interesting and truly helpful alternative.

VISIT our Alain de Botton author page here

EXTRACT: Continue reading

Mary Johnson, author of An Unquenchable Thirst, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Mary Johnson

author of An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of an Authentic Life

Ten Terrifying Questions

——————————–

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born?

Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA – a college town with an international population. Raised? I lived in Ann Arbor until my family moved to Beaumont, Texas, when I was twelve. Life in Texas was hard to get used to. Schooled? At the University of Texas in Austin for a year, then I became a nun with the Missionaries of Charity, the Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Eventually Mother Teresa sent me to study theology at Regina Mundi, a Pontifical Institute in Rome. After I left the sisters I studied English at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and creative writing at Continue reading

AC Grayling, author of The Good Book, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

AC Grayling

author of The Good Book

Ten Terrifying Questions

 ——————————–

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born to a British expatriate family in central Africa where my father was working as a banker, and spent most of my early years there, part of them at boarding schools.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

Before the age of twelve I wanted to be a Spitfire pilot, a cowboy, a rugby international, a spaceman, and various other things. By twelve I wanted to learn, write, and make a contribution; that was still what I wanted at Continue reading

Andrew Morton, author of William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Andrew Morton

author of William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding

Ten Terrifying Questions

——————–

1.To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire in 1953. My father had a picture framing and artists’ materials shop and so I got to see a lot of pictures and paintings as a youngster. I went to grammar school in Leeds, my home town. Two brothers, one sister, I am the eldest.

2.    What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12 I thought about going into the family business but I was useless at Continue reading

Booktopia For Dummies

As everybody knows, March is Dummies month

But this year is extra special – For Dummies are celebrating their 20th birthday!

In November 1991, DOS For Dummies rolled off the press with 7,500 units and the yellow-and-black machine has not stopped since. Not even those closest to the brand could have anticipated the profound effect the brand would have on publishing and pop culture – everything from books to sound bites and placements in major motion pictures.

But 20 years and 200 million books later, For Dummies is the most widely recognised reference series in the world.

Buy a For Dummies title in March and go into the draw for a share in $20,000 worth of prizes and, exclusive to Booktopia, for your choice of twenty For Dummies titles.

Every single day in March you’ll have a chance to win $500.

Once a week in March you’ll have the chance to win an Apple iPad!

Hey, wait a minute, For Dummies celebrate a birthday – and you get the presents! How does that work?

All you need to enter is to follow the instructions on the Dummies bookmark in the book and to make sure you are you able to supply proof of purchase if your name comes up.

Here at Booktopia, we also have an exclusive additional reason to make March your Dummies month. Buy a For Dummies title from Booktopia in March and you might be the lucky one to receive 20 For Dummies titles of your choice. You don’t need to do a thing except buy a For Dummies title and then watch your inbox. During the first half of April the lucky customer will hear from us via email and his/her name will be announced here on the Booktopia Blog by April 15.

Terms and conditions
Open to Australian and New Zealand residents only. Retain full original purchase receipts. Starts 1/3/11 and ends 11:59pm (AEDST) 31/3/11. Limit of 3 entries per person. The first daily draw will take place on 2/3/11 and the last daily draw will take place on 1/4/11. Daily Draw Prizes: 31 x AU$500 cheques. Daily Draw winners published in The Australian 23/3/11 & 5/4/11. Weekly Prize Draws on 9/3/11, 16/3/11, 23/3/11 & 1/4/11. Weekly Draw Prizes: 4 x Apple iPad packs valued at AU$1,125. Weekly Winners published in The Australian 23/3/11 & 5/4/11. All draws to take place at 403/62 Beach Street, Port Melbourne 3207 at 12pm. Promoter John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd (ABN 67 009 673 081), 155 Cremorne St, Richmond VIC 3121. NSW LTPS/10/12498, VIC 10/4611, ACT TP10/5690, SA T10/3108.

Reading books in situ – Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore

When I was very young, my favourite book was Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and it wasn’t just for those adorable pink frilly petalled skirts or the thrilling fear of the Banksia Men. No, it was because I knew exactly where the book was set. May Gibbs brought everything to life so clearly that she must, surely, have written it in my own favourite patch of bush, down in the hill from my own backyard. At least, that is what I believed as an eight year old.

Considerably older and wiser now, I still hold a candle for books that I have read while actually being in the place (or as close as possible) in which they are set. Andrew MacGahan’s The White Earth has a special palpability when read on the black soil of the Darling Downs. Alex Miller’s Journey to the Stone Country reads better in central Queensland than it does in Tasmania. I read Tim Winton’s Breath while watching surfers ride breaks from a bleak coastal cliff top – admittedly it wasn’t off the coast of Western Australia but at least it was off the coast somewhere.

I have, on my occasional travels out of the country, tried to apply the same principal. An Angel at My Table (Janet Frame) in New Zealand, Madame Bovary (Flaubert) in northern France and The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe) in New York. I gave up on reading Arthur Phillips’ Prague in situ when chapter after chapter was irritatingly set in Budapest. I’ll have another shot at it if I ever do make it to Budapest, although I suspect I will be re-reading Sandor Marai’s Embers instead.

Of course, for the few books that I have been lucky enough to read in a suitably appropriate location, there are hundreds that I haven’t. Have any of you read The Master and Margarita in Moscow? What about Washington Square in New York? Half of a Yellow Sun in Lagos? Leave your comments and make the rest of the world jealous – unless of course you are a Muscovite, New Yorker or Lagotian (?) in that order.

All of which leads me to Jerusalem: The Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore, which is being published next month and is available to pre-order now. This was my constant companion for a fortnight during a recent visit to that most inspiring,  maddening and perplexing of cities. First things first – this is a brick of a book. Don’t be put off. Yes, it is meticulously researched and enormously detailed, but Montefiore could give Bryce Courtney or Ken Follett a run for their money when it comes to historical drama, tales of derring do, rape and pillage, sweeping saga and brilliant characterisation.

This is the perfect platform for Montefiore, who has already won critical acclaim for his Stalin and Catherine the Great among others. However, his pedigree for this assignment is ideal. Having gone backwards and forwards between the UK and Jerusalem all of his life, he is himself descendant from the famous Rothschild and Montefiore families who played key roles in both European finance and the re-population of Jewry to what was then an outpost of the Ottoman empire in the nineteenth century.

Simon Sebag Montefiore

Montefiore’s take on Jerusalem is both a physical and spiritual chronology. And what a subject! Could there be any place on earth that has been so fought over, so prized by so many different people’s across three millenia? I don’t think so.

In many ways, Jerusalem: The Biography is a history of the western world. All the names are there – from the Hebrew Bible, from the Christian Bible, from Islam, from just about every empire that has ever risen and fallen from before the Egyptians to the Crusades, to Napoleon, the Czars, the Ottomans, the competing colonial powers to the present day not to mention the famous and the infamous – Cleopatra to Herod, Sulemein the Magnificent to Rasputin.  But the author’s peculiar skill is to  bring it all so alive with the detail of characters and their particular traits – and let me tell you, if you like to trawl through the depths of human behaviour, you only need read this to get your fill of just about everything. That city has witnessed more varieties of violence and depravity that most of us could ever imagine.

From the preface:

Jerusalem is the house of the one God, the capital of two peoples. The temple of three religions and she is the only city to exist twice – in heaven and on earth. The very face that Jerusalem is both terrestrial and celestial means that the city an exist anywhere: new Jerusalems have been founded all over the world and everyone has their own imaginary Jerusalem. It is the universal city. Prophets and patriarchs, Abraham, David, Jesus and Muhammed are said to have trodden these stones. The Abrahamic religions were born there and the world will also end her on the Day of Judgement. Jerusalem, sacred to the Peoples of the Book, is the city of the Book: The Bible is, in many ways, Jerusalem’s own chronicle and its readers, from the Muslim conquerors to Crusaders and today’s American evangelists, have repeadedly altered her history.

Pre-order Jerusalem: The Biography.

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