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A Replacement for Religion

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Many of us find ourselves in the odd situation of not believing in religion – but nevertheless being interested in having a spiritual life. We may enjoy religious art and architecture, music and community, and even some of the rituals – while being unable to believe in divine commandments or the existence of a higher being. This book is about those feelings and what we mi Many of us find ourselves in the odd situation of not believing in religion – but nevertheless being interested in having a spiritual life. We may enjoy religious art and architecture, music and community, and even some of the rituals – while being unable to believe in divine commandments or the existence of a higher being. This book is about those feelings and what we might do about them. The School of Life is a secular organisation fascinated by the gaps left in modern society by the gradual disappearance of religion. We’re interested in how hard it is to find a sense of community, how rituals are dying out and how much we sometimes crave the solemn quiet you find in religious buildings, as well as the comfort offered by the belief in a deity. This book lays out how we might absorb the best lessons of religion, update them for our times and incorporate them into our daily lives and societies – without taking on the theological or doctrinal elements. This book tries to rescue some of what remains wise and useful from all that no longer seems (to many of us) to be quite true.


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Many of us find ourselves in the odd situation of not believing in religion – but nevertheless being interested in having a spiritual life. We may enjoy religious art and architecture, music and community, and even some of the rituals – while being unable to believe in divine commandments or the existence of a higher being. This book is about those feelings and what we mi Many of us find ourselves in the odd situation of not believing in religion – but nevertheless being interested in having a spiritual life. We may enjoy religious art and architecture, music and community, and even some of the rituals – while being unable to believe in divine commandments or the existence of a higher being. This book is about those feelings and what we might do about them. The School of Life is a secular organisation fascinated by the gaps left in modern society by the gradual disappearance of religion. We’re interested in how hard it is to find a sense of community, how rituals are dying out and how much we sometimes crave the solemn quiet you find in religious buildings, as well as the comfort offered by the belief in a deity. This book lays out how we might absorb the best lessons of religion, update them for our times and incorporate them into our daily lives and societies – without taking on the theological or doctrinal elements. This book tries to rescue some of what remains wise and useful from all that no longer seems (to many of us) to be quite true.

30 review for A Replacement for Religion

  1. 5 out of 5

    Stijn Zanders

    A wholesome book with ideas that are very relevant to today's society. It's not an easy task to design rituals that could replace religion as it is, yet The school of Life has done an impressive job in trying. Looking forward to see how these ideas develop. A wholesome book with ideas that are very relevant to today's society. It's not an easy task to design rituals that could replace religion as it is, yet The school of Life has done an impressive job in trying. Looking forward to see how these ideas develop.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ben Mayes

    I wish I was able to award this book 5 stars because I am a fan of the authors and have been been intrigued by this idea for some time. In the past 50 years in Australia, the proportion of the population that identify as having no religion has increased from <1% to over 25% of the population. My sense is that many of the people that state that they are some variant of Christian on the national census just do so because their mother told them that's how their family identify, but are not an activ I wish I was able to award this book 5 stars because I am a fan of the authors and have been been intrigued by this idea for some time. In the past 50 years in Australia, the proportion of the population that identify as having no religion has increased from <1% to over 25% of the population. My sense is that many of the people that state that they are some variant of Christian on the national census just do so because their mother told them that's how their family identify, but are not an active member of a Church unless they are having a baby, getting married or dead. I have been frustrated by people that dismiss all world religions as worthless, or as Dawkins would try to convince you, a net negative influence on the world, because their followers believe in ghosts and incite hatred and war. The way that I see it, the stories and rituals of world religions have been distilled over thousands of years to produce sources of deep and complex wisdom through community rituals that help guide people towards how to thrive in a community. You don't need to believe that Jesus was actually the son of the creator of the universe, performed miracles and rose from the dead to find philosophical and psychological value in Biblical stories. Anyway, to the book. The authors admit in the conclusion that the purpose of this book is not be conclusive, but rather to kick-start reflection and action on the gap left in our communities left by religion. If focuses on the "ills of modernity" as the consequence of living in essentially secular humanist societies. Without giving away spoilers, I believe that the ills that they identify are certainly sources of much subconscious negative emotion in modern lives. Raising awareness of these modern ills (and regularly reminding them through ritual) would certainly improve overall well being. I think that the authors should have focused more on narrative and stories to transmit distilled ancient wisdom - the book recommends identifying modern saints that have lived their lives well in spite of the described ills. I suppose that their stories can be through books, film etc. However, I think that this would fall short of the potential of transmitting the message through narrative. The stories may already exist, but might need to be interpreted by a secular priest! e.g. The Lion King, Pinocchio, Pocahontas all contain quite deep subliminal wisdom if you re-watch them as an adult. My main gripe is that the proposed replacement for religion too negative. There is a repeated emphasis on accepting that humans are flawed. Deeply and irreconcilably. Sure, lowering expectations makes it easier to feel acceptable. We do all make mistakes. But the salvation of world religions not just provided by unveiling our innate brokenness, but in offering an ideal to aspire to. We need to be constantly reminded of what we should be aiming at. We need a Jesus Christ for the modern world. If we are regularly told a story of a character that is humble, compassionate, loving, gratuitous etc, it provides us with a target to aim for. It is an awesome concept - and they have made a start. They have, however, based it on their own philosophy and previous writings, rather than doing the hard yards of thoroughly studying and modernising the great world religions.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    Not at all what I expected. Instead of a treatise on why religion no longer serves society and what has risen up to take its place, this book is more like a lament on the demise of religion and a reluctant suggestion for how to incorporate all the trappings of religion into secular life. NO THANKS. The authors are under the impression that secular society lacks inspiration, connection, awe and wonder, honorable people to look up to, and on and on and on - guess they haven't been paying attention Not at all what I expected. Instead of a treatise on why religion no longer serves society and what has risen up to take its place, this book is more like a lament on the demise of religion and a reluctant suggestion for how to incorporate all the trappings of religion into secular life. NO THANKS. The authors are under the impression that secular society lacks inspiration, connection, awe and wonder, honorable people to look up to, and on and on and on - guess they haven't been paying attention, because it's not difficult to find all of those and more. The authors also want to drum it into your head incessantly that you are "broken" and "sad" and all sorts of other belittling ideas (wow, just like religion does!) - NOPE. We may all be works in progress, but there is nothing inherently WRONG with each of us - certainly nothing that requires submission to some other person or being to overcome. That's a road map for gaslighting and abuse, not for transcendence.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    This is not an easy book to review as it's full of food for thought and you need to "grock" it before being able to write something meaningful. I recommend it because it well written and full of interesting reflections. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine. This is not an easy book to review as it's full of food for thought and you need to "grock" it before being able to write something meaningful. I recommend it because it well written and full of interesting reflections. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    Won as part of a GoodReads giveaway. Interesting book. Discussed the need for secularists to find ways to create a community much like religion does. People seek community, which is frequently why they stay in religious groups, since religion provides for that need. The non-religious "rituals" made for some interesting ideas, and would probably work for more group minded folks. They were well-written, not overdone, and easily workable. Review posted on GoodReads and Amazon. Won as part of a GoodReads giveaway. Interesting book. Discussed the need for secularists to find ways to create a community much like religion does. People seek community, which is frequently why they stay in religious groups, since religion provides for that need. The non-religious "rituals" made for some interesting ideas, and would probably work for more group minded folks. They were well-written, not overdone, and easily workable. Review posted on GoodReads and Amazon.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nia Nymue

    Thought-provoking book but some parts were so cheesy. I like the intention behind it though. I would still recommend, hence the 4 stars. Even though the literary merit is low, there is a strong philosophical basis grounding this book. Basically the premise is that while we're becoming more secular and don't believe in supernatural things anymore, there are some bits of religion (especially ritual, art and architecture) that helps to both ground us and create a sense of transcendence. I like it eno Thought-provoking book but some parts were so cheesy. I like the intention behind it though. I would still recommend, hence the 4 stars. Even though the literary merit is low, there is a strong philosophical basis grounding this book. Basically the premise is that while we're becoming more secular and don't believe in supernatural things anymore, there are some bits of religion (especially ritual, art and architecture) that helps to both ground us and create a sense of transcendence. I like it enough I might consider a copy for my Limited Library. But you must still read it with a critical eye. Don't take the title too literally.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Desiree Sotomayor

    Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ebook copy of this for advanced review! This is really not very different from 'Religion for Atheists,' which I think came out from the School of Life a few years ago. Some of the sections are incredibly close to what was written there, if not copied verbatim. I still agree wholeheartedly that there really is not enough awe, reverence, compassion, empathy, and honest human connection in our world, and also that belief in supernatural forces should not be a Thank you to Netgalley for providing an ebook copy of this for advanced review! This is really not very different from 'Religion for Atheists,' which I think came out from the School of Life a few years ago. Some of the sections are incredibly close to what was written there, if not copied verbatim. I still agree wholeheartedly that there really is not enough awe, reverence, compassion, empathy, and honest human connection in our world, and also that belief in supernatural forces should not be a requirement to feel any of those things. Religion has managed to address these concerns to varying degrees of success, and maybe our modern secular world can learn a thing or two when it comes to these needs we all have.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Joel Schaefer

    In a secular mindset it is very easy to dismiss religion. This book provides an excellent basis on which to take a different perspective and understand the benefits that religion brings to our society and community. It also offers a methodology to recreate these benefits outside of a traditional religious practice. Following these guidelines will produce a much greater sense of personal awareness. This is well worth a read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kekoa Riggin

    This was a decent book that explored an interesting topic: how to keep all of the meaningful pieces of religion, while avoiding some of the negative results of dogma. The introduction explored the thoughts and origins of the topic, which was very interesting. The end of the book contains a number of proposed "religious" rituals that could replace those practiced by modern day religions. The middle of the book, however, dragged on a bit, very much in the style of a School of Life product. I would This was a decent book that explored an interesting topic: how to keep all of the meaningful pieces of religion, while avoiding some of the negative results of dogma. The introduction explored the thoughts and origins of the topic, which was very interesting. The end of the book contains a number of proposed "religious" rituals that could replace those practiced by modern day religions. The middle of the book, however, dragged on a bit, very much in the style of a School of Life product. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic for sure, but I wouldn't recommend this to just anybody.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Gore

    If you've already read Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists, then you'll have already been exposed to much of what is covered here. The notable exceptions are the reimagined ceremonies (secular weddings and funerals) contained at the end of the book. If you're not sure you want to commit to reading this, or any work by The School of Life, I'd recommend checking out their YouTube channel or website first. I won a Kindle version of this book on Goodreads. If you've already read Alain de Botton's Religion for Atheists, then you'll have already been exposed to much of what is covered here. The notable exceptions are the reimagined ceremonies (secular weddings and funerals) contained at the end of the book. If you're not sure you want to commit to reading this, or any work by The School of Life, I'd recommend checking out their YouTube channel or website first. I won a Kindle version of this book on Goodreads.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Venerdi Handoyo

    After a decent introduction and debatable first two chapters the book swiftly and confidently transforms into a bible and liturgy for secularism that steals conservative principles from religions, especially monotheistic ones. So, out of 180-something pages I scanned the last, what, 150 pages? And found nothing worth highlighting.

  12. 5 out of 5

    brightredglow

    I was skeptical when I selected this book, but ended up being very human and empathetic. It is thoughtful and practical and not anti-religion at all. In fact, it felt just the opposite. It has actually made me feel less anxious about religion and more accepting of what I accept from religion, if that makes sense.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Celia Pundel

    3.9*

  14. 4 out of 5

    John Muriango

    These authors aren't rational! Can't they see in their thesis of claiming to replace religion is actually a religious dogma they're creating! These authors aren't rational! Can't they see in their thesis of claiming to replace religion is actually a religious dogma they're creating!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Vittay

  16. 5 out of 5

    Patricia

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lise

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Thiruppathi Muthukumar

  20. 4 out of 5

    DragonsSlashy01

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alice

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emily

  23. 5 out of 5

    Richard Heggie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gabi

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chris Potter

  27. 5 out of 5

    Meaningless

  28. 4 out of 5

    David Oxley

  29. 4 out of 5

    Nick Netchvolodoff

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alena

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