An Atheist Admires the Contributions of Religion

Atheist Alain de Botton believes that atheists and secularists can borrow a lot of good things from religion:
Religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with a practical involvement in education, fashion, politics, travel, hostelry, initiation, ceremonies, publishing, art and architecture – a range of interests which puts to shame the scope of achievements of even the greatest and most influential secular movements and individuals in history. (Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, 18)
Truly, there are many reasons why the religious combination of “ethics and metaphysics” is productive. Most basically, monotheistic religions maintain that there are unchanging and transcendent Ideals and Truths (metaphysics) that trump even our immediate welfare.
There are many benefits buried in this understanding. For one thing, this understanding (faith) frees us up from the tyranny of our emotions. We no longer are enslaved to their passing whims and demands, knowing that something greater awaits us in the next life.
This faith – knowing that God is taking care of us – also frees us up to be other-centered. We certainly do not like everyone in our church, but we understand that love shouldn’t depend on our likes and dislikes, but on a higher calling. Interestingly, we find that as we love the unlikable, we might also grow to like them!
This faith also frees us up from self-absorption. There comes into our lives something greater with which to be absorbed. Our performance, popularity, and worldly esteem no longer matter to us as it once did. We know that we are forgiven and beloved and find growing joy in serving our Master.

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