I’ve read a couple of favorable reviews of Alain de Botton’s new book, Religion for Atheists. The book sounds absolutely horrible. Seeing as many atheists have had a pretty hard time getting away from religion in the first place, why would they want to backpeddle and inject their lives with religious-type rituals?
…his descriptions of certain rituals, including communion, meditation, the Day of Atonement, and mourning rituals, evoke powerful nostalgia.
Seriously? The Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) evokes in me the taste of bile. This isn’t a joke; I’ve spent more than one joyous day atoning for my sins on the bathroom floor, hunched over a toilet, barfing. The central part of the ritual is fasting, which I find not only abhorrent but unnatural. When I do it, I get sick. So I’m not about to fawn over De Botton’s “descriptions of certain rituals.”
My wife has similarly negative memories of the Catholic rituals she was forced to grow up with. In fact, I think that’s one of the most liberating things about becoming a freethinker – the fact that we’re no longer bound to observe arbitrary traditions. Sure, we all love getting shikker (drunk) with our close friends and family once or twice a year, but I don’t think most non-religious people yearn for ritual in their lives. At least not the way De Botton seems to think.
Here’s another gem from the same review:
“Real freedom does not mean being wholly left to one’s own devices; it should be compatible with being harnessed and guided.”
The reviewer clarifies:
This sounds wonderfully similar to Rabbi Avraham HaKohen Kook’s explanation of the Torah as freedom.
But the Torah isn’t about freedom, not by a long shot. This is exactly the opposite of what the Torah is about, which is obedience to a tribal Jewish law concocted from traditional fairy tales. This sounds disturbingly similar to Catholic prelates pontificating about how Jesus is freedom, and without Him we are slaves.
If this is freedom, I’ll take the slavery of freethought any day.