Writer to discuss usefulness of religion for atheists in Hall lecture

Alain de Botton

LAWRENCE— Acclaimed writer and philosopher Alain de Botton, author of “The Architecture of Happiness” and the recently released “Religion for Atheists,” will speak at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, in Woodruff Auditorium in the Kansas Union. His lecture, "Religion for Atheists," is part of the Hall Center for the Humanities' 2011-12 Humanities Lecture Series. The event is free and open to the public.

Alain de Botton's work is made up of lyrical combinations of fiction and nonfiction: pieces of narrative interspersed with reflections, neatly tied together by thoughts from other great thinkers. He has published 10 books, beginning with the precocious “On Love,” written when de Botton was 23, and published to great acclaim. But it was the unlikely sensation of “How Proust Can Change Your Life” that truly established de Botton in the United States.

Since then, de Botton has published on philosophy “The Consolations of Philosophy,” a romantic interpretation of places, “The Art of Travel;” architecture, “The Architecture of Happiness;” and employment, “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.”

De Botton's continued fascination with the contextualization of human lives has led to his most recent book, and the subject of his Humanities Lecture Series talk, "Religion for Atheists." In this work, de Botton, an atheist, tries to move past the painful and often dispiriting debate between believers and nonbelievers by arguing that, irrespective of one's stance on the supernatural, religions still have some very important things to teach the secular world. He focuses in particular on religious attitudes to community, ritual, morality, art and architecture, and suggests how the secular world might be inspired by certain examples drawn from religions.

“Religion for Atheists” has received positive attention from sources as varied as The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and The Huffington Post. The book has been hailed as “highly original and thought-provoking,” and press mogul Rupert Murdoch characterized the book as “thoughtful,” “disturbing” and “highly recommended.”

In 2009, de Botton founded Living Architecture (www.living-architecture.co.uk), a nonprofit organization that asks top architects to build innovative works of domestic architecture in the UK to be rented for vacations at modest costs. The Hall Center will host a more informal public question-and-answer session, "Living Architecture: A Conversation with Alain de Botton," at 10 a.m. March 15 in the Hall Center Conference Hall.

Founded in 1947, the Humanities Lecture Series is the oldest continuing series at KU. More than 150 eminent scholars from around the world have participated in the program, including author Salman Rushdie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Recent speakers have included Henry Louis Gates Jr., Mary Oliver and T.R. Reid. Shortly after the program’s inception, a lecture by one outstanding KU faculty member was added to the schedule. For information on other lectures in the 2011-2012 series, visit the Hall Center website.

Thu, 03/01/2012


Victor Bailey

Media Contacts

Victor Bailey

Hall Center for the Humanities