Terry Eagleton on Alain de Botton’s Conservative Atheism

by Daniel Hartley

Terry Eagleton has written a ‘review’ of Alain de Botton’s latest book, Religion for Atheists. In typical Eagleton style, it is less a review than a polemical destruction – reminiscent at times of arguably his greatest ever LRB essay: his ‘review’ of The God Delusion. Here is a brief extract:

‎”The book assumes that religious beliefs are a lot of nonsense, but that they remain indispensible to civilised existence. One wonders how this impeccably liberal author would react to being told that free speech and civil rights were all bunkum, but that they had their social uses and so shouldn’t be knocked. Perhaps he might have the faintest sense of being patronised. De Botton claims that one can be an atheist while still finding religion ‘sporadically useful, interesting and consoling’, which makes it sound rather like knocking up a bookcase when you are feeling a bit low. Since Christianity requires one, if need be, to lay down one’s life for a stranger, he must have a strange idea of consolation. Like many an atheist, his theology is rather conservative and old-fashioned.”

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