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Culture

Alain de Botton — A School of Life for Atheists

On the latest On Being podcast with Krista Tippett, philosopher and best-selling author Alain de Botton talks about his new book Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion.

Alain de Botton is an atheist, but his perspective on religion is far more complicated.

Instead of debunking religion in thinking that all pious people are idiots — as some atheists may presume — he shines a light on some of the things where religion excels: in values, wisdom, communions, and “the wonders of religious architecture.” As he says nearly eight minutes in:

“These religions at their highest points, at their most complex and subtle moments, are far too interesting to be abandoned merely to those who believe in them.”

Alain de Botton

His book is therefore not for atheists alone, but for the believers who may find Botton’s perspective reconfirming. Above all, Botton proposes toleration, not necessarily that we agree with each other but we “make space for the stranger” who holds different views and accepts them as is. ‘Developing emotion intelligence’ is at the heart of Botton’s own academy, The School of Life.

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Books Creativity Writing

The link between praying and writing

When acclaimed South African novelist and Nobel Prize winner JM Coetzee was asked about the writing process, he compared it to the effort of praying.

“In both cases it’s hard to say to whom one’s discourse is directed. You have to subject yourself to the blankness of the page and you wait patiently to hear whether the blankness answers you. Sometimes it does not and then you despair.”

JM Coetzee (see books)

Of course, some writers believe the blank page is non-existent. They suggest that one should write poorly until they produce something of substance.

Better yet, consider the work philosophy of Vincent Van Vough and unthink: “Just slap anything on when you see a blank canvas staring you in the face like some imbecile.”