In Religion for Atheists de Botton the chapters are on: Wisdom without doctrine, Community, Kindness, Education, Tenderness, Pessimism, Perspective, Art, Architecture and Institutions.
The first three chapters on wisdom without doctrine, Community and Kindness are really very good. de Botton first describes his book and how secular society has lost something. In the chapter on Community de Botton does very well discussing how religion builds community. When discussing Kindness again the book points out just how well religion can inspire compassion. But the book looses its way in the education chapter. de Botton makes the point that in religious education education was given a direction and a point. He fails to note the weaknesses of religious education and the indoctrination that was inherent in it. The length of the education section, at some 66 pages compared to most of the other chapters at about half that also shows de Botton starts going somewhere peculiar in this chapter.
The chapters on Tenderness and Pessimism are better with de Botton finding firmer ground for his assertions. The chapters on Perspective makes a good point that religion shows people that they are a very small part of the universe. The chapters on Art and Architecture are weak. The book would have been better off without them. In the final chapter de Botton describes the sort of organisation he would like and discusses Auguste Comte’s attempt to create something similar.
The books strong points, that religion builds communities, that it can bring out the better side of humanity and that it has inspired, comforted and given good advice to people are very valuable coming from an atheist author. The book is far better than much of the silly, angry atheist books that have done well in recent years. But by overstating the case and not looking at the weaknesses of religious constructions the book makes a weaker case than it could have.