care of souls

I expected a screed from another atheist when I picked up Alain de Botton’s  Religion for Atheists. Instead I read a book that evaluates with seriousness and facility the vital social roles that religion plays in human affairs. As a father of a high school student and a college student I was particularly struck by the author’s analysis of the sorry state of secondary and higher education in preparing adolescents and young adults for life. The author begins by denying transcendent sources or objects of religion then, free from the bothersome supernatural, analyzes brilliantly the personal, interpersonal and societal value of religious doctrine and religious communities. Read this book and then find a worshiping community somewhere. Get involved. Rejoice, give thanks to God, and sing.“…Christianity concerns itself from the outset with the inner confused side of us, declaring that we are by nature fragile and capricious, unempathetic and beset by fantasies of omnipotence, worlds away from being able to to command even a modicum of the good sense and calm that secular education takes as the starting point for its own pedagogy…Christianity is focused on helping part of us that secular language struggles even to name, which is not precisely intelligence or emotion, not character or personality, but another, even more abstract entity loosely connected with all of those and yet differentiated from them by an additional ethical and transcendent dimension–and to which we may as well refer, following the Christian terminology as the soul. It has been the centeral task of the Christian pedagogic machine to nurture, reassure, comfort and guide our souls…The greatest Christian preachers have been vulgar in the very best sense. While not surrendering any of their claims to complexity or insight, they have wished to help those who came to hear them…By contrast we have constructed an intellectual world whose most celebrated institutionss rarely consent to ask, let alone answer, the most serious questions of the soul. To address the incoherencies of the situation, we might begin to overhaul our universities by doing away with superficial categories which, even if they cover valuable material, do not in themselves track the themes that most torment and attract our souls…”   –Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists

Religion for Atheists

Religion for Atheists

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