What religions want to do is remind us of how kind we want to be.
Religion starts with the view that we are torn between good and evil. There is a definitely a good core, but it’s permanently tempted. And so what the individual needs is a structure which will constantly try and tug a person back towards the best of themselves. Religions do not see that effort of tugging that person as an infringement of liberty.
We’re not short of things we can believe in.
I think there’s a great fear that once religion disappears or loses its hold on people, there can be no agreement around belief and values, that there’s then a post-modern chaos where all values are relative, no one agrees on anything and everything splinters. I simply don’t think that’s true to experience.
Churches can create the context in which sociability can be made safe and expressed.
One of the things that stop communities from forming is the lack of a host. What does a host do? A host gathers a group of people together and does a very simple job of releasing their sociability, of making sociability safe within, in some ways, a limited context. So, a day a week or in a particular building sociability can be made safe.
My heaven, nirvana, would be if the questions that are raised by Oprah Winfrey would be answered by the faculty of Harvard University.
I’m struck by how in our modern culture, the self-help movement is for stupid people. That’s what elite culture teaches us. Elite culture teaches us, if you are a bit dumb, you will need guidance and then you’ll head for a self-help book. I really protest against that idea that guidance is for people who are stupid. Guidance is for everyone. We’re all in need of it. What’s wrong is that, in our society, we’ve got this terrible division between clever people and people who offer guidance. And clever people are not interested in guidance and the people who do offer guidance often their thinking is not that complex.
Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of everyday life.' He’s written on love, travel, architecture and literature. His books have been bestsellers in 30 countries. Alain also started and helps to run a school in London called The School of Life, dedicated to a new vision of education. Alain's latest book is titled Religion for Atheists and is published in the Netherlands, Italy, Korea, Turkey and Brazil in 2011 and in the UK, US and other territories in 2012.
Alain started writing at a young age. His first book, Essays in Love [titled On Love in the US], was published when he was twenty-three.