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Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questio Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire. "I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue," Russell declares in his Preface, and his reasoned opposition to any system or dogma which he feels may shackle man's mind runs through all the essays in this book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954. The book has been edited, with Lord Russell's full approval and cooperation, by Professor Paul Edwards of the Philosophy Department of New York University. In an Appendix, Professor Edwards contributes a full account of the highly controversial "Bertrand Russell Case" of 1940, in which Russell was judicially declared "unfit" to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York. Whether the reader shares or rejects Bertrand Russell's views, he will find this book an invigorating challenge to set notions, a masterly statement of a philosophical position, and a pure joy to read.


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Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questio Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire. "I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue," Russell declares in his Preface, and his reasoned opposition to any system or dogma which he feels may shackle man's mind runs through all the essays in this book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954. The book has been edited, with Lord Russell's full approval and cooperation, by Professor Paul Edwards of the Philosophy Department of New York University. In an Appendix, Professor Edwards contributes a full account of the highly controversial "Bertrand Russell Case" of 1940, in which Russell was judicially declared "unfit" to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York. Whether the reader shares or rejects Bertrand Russell's views, he will find this book an invigorating challenge to set notions, a masterly statement of a philosophical position, and a pure joy to read.

30 review for Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    "Why I Am Not A Christian?" If I ask myself that question, the answer will be: "I am not a Christian because I read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, from cover to cover, and consider it complete nonsense to believe that to be literal, figurative or symbolical truth." "Why do I not believe Christianity is good?" Because I read Bertrand Russell. As a young, impressionable person, I used to lament the fact that I was not given "the gift" of belief, as it seemed to come with confidence in the be "Why I Am Not A Christian?" If I ask myself that question, the answer will be: "I am not a Christian because I read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, from cover to cover, and consider it complete nonsense to believe that to be literal, figurative or symbolical truth." "Why do I not believe Christianity is good?" Because I read Bertrand Russell. As a young, impressionable person, I used to lament the fact that I was not given "the gift" of belief, as it seemed to come with confidence in the believer's "goodness". Who doesn't want to be good? Who doesn't want to feel sure about themselves? Who doesn't want to have a superior guideline to stick to? Me, apparently. As much as I wanted to believe in the religion that happened to be the predominant one in my environment, it all just seemed ridiculous. I remember sitting in a church as a 15-year-old, praying to a god I did not believe in to give me faith in him. It took me many years to get over the feeling of guilt over my "lack" or "misfortune". I felt left out by the non-existent god in a society that apparently unquestioningly accepted what didn't make sense to me. I said over and over again to believers who reprimanded me for my atheism: "Oh, I respect your faith in Jesus, and I am truly sorry for not finding faith myself. I admire the morality of Christianity and wish I could be part of it!" And I received condescending, pitying smiles in return. Then I left my small town and moved to a university city, and started reading, reading, and reading. Philosophy, literary fiction, history, art history, religion, pedagogy. In the huge pile: Russell! And finally, finally, I was able to break away from the Lutheran guilt trap that catches believers and nonbelievers alike in the social environment where it is dominant. Finally I could distance myself from the unthinking group pressure of "Christian morality". There is no such thing. Religion is not moral. Atheists are not likelier to kill or rape or steal than Christians, despite the fact that they do not feel the threat of eternal punishment. Moral behaviour is completely independent from supernatural belief. Russell helped me get the definitions straight. Once I had read Russell, I could embrace my sense that the evil force (god, the killer of anything that opposes him) that appears in the Bible does not exist, and should not exist (it would be horrible!). I learned that I was not alone in seeing that religion is a human invention to simulate immortality - for those who are afraid to let go of their egos when they die - and to enforce patriarchal power structures - for those who can't convince people to follow them by choice and free will. It is a way for people to define themselves through exclusion and protectionism, not through individual merit. Russell followed me when I moved into the field of education, and today, almost a century after he wrote his essay, I would like people to read out loud his words against groupthink and crimestop (newspeak for protective stupidity): “The world that I should wish to see would be one freed from the virulence of group hostilities and capable of realizing that happiness for all is to be derived rather from co-operation than from strife. I should wish to see a world in which education aimed at mental freedom rather than imprisoning the minds of the young in rigid armor of dogma calculated to protect them through life against the shafts of impartial evidence.” Why am I not a Christian? I don't believe in the myth. Why do I not want to be a Christian? It supports evil practices and holds people hostage in an ancient worldview. It discriminates and divides and takes advantage of weaknesses to spread power. It stimulates fear in order to control. It plays Big Brother and forces people to love him. Recommended to the world. Reposted in support of the victims of grand scale child abuse, covered up and ignored by the Catholic Church for too long to be bearable. Reposted in support of those who suffer discrimination at the hands of "evangelical" preachers of hate and division and intolerance. Reposted in support of those who feel the grip of their churches tightening in fear of the modern world of freedom of choice.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, Bertrand Russell Why I Am Not a Christian is an essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Originally a talk given 6 March 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, it was published that year as a pamphlet and has been republished several times in English and in translation. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانردهم ماه آوریل سال 1975 میلادی عنوان: چرا مسیحی نی Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, Bertrand Russell Why I Am Not a Christian is an essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Originally a talk given 6 March 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, it was published that year as a pamphlet and has been republished several times in English and in translation. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانردهم ماه آوریل سال 1975 میلادی عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیستم؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: روح الله عباسی؛ تهران، روز، ؟134 ؛ در 108 ص؛ عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیستم؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: عبدالعلی دستغیب؛ تهران، فرهنگ، 1351 ؛ در 311 ص؛ متن سخنرانی‌ ای است که «برتراند راسل» در روز ششم ماه مارس سال 1927 میلادی در انجمن ملی غیرمذهبیان، در شمال لندن ایراد کرده، که سپس به صورت جزوه‌ ای در همان سال چاپ شده است. ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    [Original review, Mar 1 2016] _____________________ [Update, Dec 21 2019] In the interests of balance, here's the editorial from this week's edition of Christianity Today: Trump Should Be Removed from Office It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was. MARK GALLI DECEMBER 19, 2019 In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The [Original review, Mar 1 2016] _____________________ [Update, Dec 21 2019] In the interests of balance, here's the editorial from this week's edition of Christianity Today: Trump Should Be Removed from Office It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was. MARK GALLI DECEMBER 19, 2019 In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The impeachment of Donald Trump is a significant event in the story of our republic. It requires comment. The typical CT approach is to stay above the fray and allow Christians with different political convictions to make their arguments in the public square, to encourage all to pursue justice according to their convictions and treat their political opposition as charitably as possible. We want CT to be a place that welcomes Christians from across the political spectrum, and reminds everyone that politics is not the end and purpose of our being. We take pride in the fact, for instance, that politics does not dominate our homepage. That said, we do feel it necessary from time to time to make our own opinions on political matters clear—always, as Graham encouraged us, doing so with both conviction and love. We love and pray for our president, as we love and pray for leaders (as well as ordinary citizens) on both sides of the political aisle. Let’s grant this to the president: The Democrats have had it out for him from day one, and therefore nearly everything they do is under a cloud of partisan suspicion. This has led many to suspect not only motives but facts in these recent impeachment hearings. And, no, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment. But the facts in this instance are unambiguous: The president of the United States attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral. The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration. He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone—with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders—is a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused. Trump’s evangelical supporters have pointed to his Supreme Court nominees, his defense of religious liberty, and his stewardship of the economy, among other things, as achievements that justify their support of the president. We believe the impeachment hearings have made it absolutely clear, in a way the Mueller investigation did not, that President Trump has abused his authority for personal gain and betrayed his constitutional oath. The impeachment hearings have illuminated the president’s moral deficiencies for all to see. This damages the institution of the presidency, damages the reputation of our country, and damages both the spirit and the future of our people. None of the president’s positives can balance the moral and political danger we face under a leader of such grossly immoral character. This concern for the character of our national leader is not new in CT. In 1998, we wrote this:The President's failure to tell the truth—even when cornered—rips at the fabric of the nation. This is not a private affair. For above all, social intercourse is built on a presumption of trust: trust that the milk your grocer sells you is wholesome and pure; trust that the money you put in your bank can be taken out of the bank; trust that your babysitter, firefighters, clergy, and ambulance drivers will all do their best. And while politicians are notorious for breaking campaign promises, while in office they have a fundamental obligation to uphold our trust in them and to live by the law.And this:Unsavory dealings and immoral acts by the President and those close to him have rendered this administration morally unable to lead.Unfortunately, the words that we applied to Mr. Clinton 20 years ago apply almost perfectly to our current president. Whether Mr. Trump should be removed from office by the Senate or by popular vote next election—that is a matter of prudential judgment. That he should be removed, we believe, is not a matter of partisan loyalties but loyalty to the Creator of the Ten Commandments. To the many evangelicals who continue to support Mr. Trump in spite of his blackened moral record, we might say this: Remember who you are and whom you serve. Consider how your justification of Mr. Trump influences your witness to your Lord and Savior. Consider what an unbelieving world will say if you continue to brush off Mr. Trump’s immoral words and behavior in the cause of political expediency. If we don’t reverse course now, will anyone take anything we say about justice and righteousness with any seriousness for decades to come? Can we say with a straight face that abortion is a great evil that cannot be tolerated and, with the same straight face, say that the bent and broken character of our nation’s leader doesn’t really matter in the end? We have reserved judgment on Mr. Trump for years now. Some have criticized us for our reserve. But when it comes to condemning the behavior of another, patient charity must come first. So we have done our best to give evangelical Trump supporters their due, to try to understand their point of view, to see the prudential nature of so many political decisions they have made regarding Mr. Trump. To use an old cliché, it’s time to call a spade a spade, to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence. And just when we think it’s time to push all our chips to the center of the table, that’s when the whole game will come crashing down. It will crash down on the reputation of evangelical religion and on the world’s understanding of the gospel. And it will come crashing down on a nation of men and women whose welfare is also our concern. Mark Galli is editor in chief of Christianity Today.

  4. 5 out of 5

    -uht!

    By the time I read this book, I was already not a Christian, but it was still hard for me to read. It was kinda like accidentally figuring out a magician's trick. You knew he wasn't *really* doing magic, but seeing how he did it somehow made the world less fun. That said, this is a great book. It's not without bite, but it's also not bitter. Having been a big fan of Russell's epistemological books, I was impressed that this book displayed the same clarity of thought and communication. His logical By the time I read this book, I was already not a Christian, but it was still hard for me to read. It was kinda like accidentally figuring out a magician's trick. You knew he wasn't *really* doing magic, but seeing how he did it somehow made the world less fun. That said, this is a great book. It's not without bite, but it's also not bitter. Having been a big fan of Russell's epistemological books, I was impressed that this book displayed the same clarity of thought and communication. His logical proofs against God were a great review for me (I'd heard those in different forms for many years) and the section about religion and its benefit or lack thereof to humankind was something I hadn't considered to that depth. I think this is a must-read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Florencia

    You just have to read this. Even if you are a Christian, you should read about every point of view, to form or change (or not) your own. Russell explains complicated things which such clarity, a little of humor... It doesn't get tedious, at all. Take "The argument of design", for instance. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the You just have to read this. Even if you are a Christian, you should read about every point of view, to form or change (or not) your own. Russell explains complicated things which such clarity, a little of humor... It doesn't get tedious, at all. Take "The argument of design", for instance. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the Fascisti, and Mr. Winston Churchill? Really I am not much impressed with the people who say: "Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must have been design in the universe." Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to render life miserable. Funny. You could then talk about free will and that is acceptable; we could discuss it until we reach the point of uncomfortable silence because we both know we are not going to change our minds, and then we'll have a cup of coffee, a piece of pie and never leave the safe "weather conversation" zone, again. Or, at least, for a couple of days. Because, if I am one of the products on which design in the universe is based... That is something only my mom would say. Anyway, my point is, he is that clear. His thoughts are written with the wit and simplicity of great philosophers. The moral and emotional questions are a key ingredient in this brilliant essay that tries to explain "a religion based primarily and mainly upon fear". You can like it or not, but it is still a memorable work. Jun 12, 14 * Also on my blog.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Craig

    After reading most of the "new Atheist" books -- I read the ones by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens -- this old one by Betrand Russell is still miles better than they. To be sure, I disagree with most of what he says, but his writing is much more clear-headed and articulate than the new ones. There really aren't many new arguments the new generation of atheists bring to the table, therefore I think it is reasonably fair to use Russell's as the standard bearer for them all. Th After reading most of the "new Atheist" books -- I read the ones by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens -- this old one by Betrand Russell is still miles better than they. To be sure, I disagree with most of what he says, but his writing is much more clear-headed and articulate than the new ones. There really aren't many new arguments the new generation of atheists bring to the table, therefore I think it is reasonably fair to use Russell's as the standard bearer for them all. The basic thesis is that religion -- with particular emphasis on Christianity -- has caused great harm throughout civilization, and that if we could collectively only cast aside our flimsy superstitions and vain hope for eternal life, we could propel society to new heights of happiness. His whole argument rests on the premise that man is basically good, and were it not for the (at the time) universal brainwashing of innocent children with hurtful religious ideas, we could better engineer society to be more peaceful, and less worried about taboos like sex. To Russell, the main barriers to creating more common interests between communities, societies, and nations are religious in nature, and if we could somehow erode those "false" beliefs, we could all get along better and be happier in our individual lives as well. Here are some quotes in his book which I think illustrate his main points: - "Religion is based...primarily and mainly upon fear...fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder....cruelty and religion go hand in hand...Science can help us to get over this craven fear." (pg 22) - "[We should] [c]onquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men." (pg 23) - "The churches, as everyone knows, opposed the abolition of slavery as long as they dared, and with a few well-advertised exceptions they oppose at the present day every movement toward economic justice. The Pope has officially condemned Socialism." (pg 26) - "Before [God] created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it." (pg 29) - (in regards to his position on free will and personal responsibility) "When a man acts in ways that annoy us we wish to think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behavior is a result of antecedent causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his birth and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible by any stretch of the imagination." (pg 40) - "It would seem, therefore, that the three human impulses embodied in religion are fear, conceit, and hatred. The purpose of religion...is to give an air of respectability to these passions..." (pg 44) - "hatred and fear can, with our present psychological knowledge and our present industrial technique, be eliminated altogether from human life." (pg 45) - "these emotions (fear and hatred) can now be almost wholly eliminated from human nature by educational, economic, and political reforms. These educational reforms must be the basis, since men who feel hate and fear will also admire these emotions and wish to perpetuate them, although this admiration and wish will probably be unconscious, as it is in the ordinary Christian. An education designed to eliminate fear is by no means difficult to create. It is only necessary to treat a child with kindness, to put him in an environment where initiative is possible without disastrous results, and to save him from contact with adults who have irrational terrors, whether of the dark, of mice, or of social revolution." (pg 46) It annoys me to have him treat psychology and social sciences as if they were physical sciences, with simple laws governing all of human behavior. Perhaps his view that man has no free will leads him to think man can be entirely governed by the social forces and coercion. He fails to understand that no matter how much we may train ourselves or our children to be good and responsible, man's primal instinct is always to further his own self interest. The idea that fear and hatred can be eliminated by some scientific method is ludicrous, and besides, is it always good not to fear or hate? Were he in Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia, would he not be outraged at the government and terrified for the safety of his family? Frankly, his vision for human utopia in THIS life is much more akin to childish wishful thinking than any religious teaching about utopias AFTER this life. I know it may seem unfair to judge his writing in the present day when he didn't have as much historical data to draw upon to see the effect Communism and Facism has on society, but even in his time, there was much historical data to suggest that non-religious movements hoping to build such utopias ended up being some of the most evil campaigns in history. The reason why such atheists have been hiding for so long is the recent string of such godless movements, led by overtly secular leaders who were responsible for the deaths of literally hundreds of millions of their own citizens. It seems clear that while Christianity does not have a perfect track record, overall it has had a much more positive than negative effect. Religious teachings provide effective restraints on our natural tendency to harm others and to act selfishly. While it is true that the Church Authority may have condoned slavery for a long time, was it not Christian teachings that inspired the original abolitionists in America and England? Slavery was not unique to Christian nations, but was (and is) a pervasive institution in most human societies. Can the cause of slavery then be fairly cast at the feet of religious teachings, or would it be fair to suggest that humans in power tend to subject others as their subordinates or slaves? I think the answer is clear. I am not trying to suggest some absurd conclusion that religious people are good and atheist people are bad. Humans are free to make decisions on their own, and many atheists choose to live honorable and admirable lives, while many Christians choose to act very poorly. However, on the whole, I do believe that Christianity has a net positive benefit on society, and were someone to wave a magic wand and make Christianity go away, the world would be in much worse shape than it already is.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    I love these essays! Russell never argues that faith is impossible, but makes it clear why he doesn't have it. (I cannot believe in a god who, given an infinite universe and millions of years in which to perfect it, can come up with nothing better than the nazis and the KKK) - paraphrase

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Shepherd

    "One of the works of literature for which [Russell] was awarded the Nobel Prize is a widely read essay first delivered as a lecture in 1927 entitled, 'Why I Am Not a Christian.' ...I haven't forgotten it yet, and I have promised myself that I never will. ...If you were to read his essay, and in the interest of open-mindedness I would urge you to do so, you would find that Bertrand Russell, who is one of the world's foremost logicians as well as a philosopher and mathematician, undoes with logic "One of the works of literature for which [Russell] was awarded the Nobel Prize is a widely read essay first delivered as a lecture in 1927 entitled, 'Why I Am Not a Christian.' ...I haven't forgotten it yet, and I have promised myself that I never will. ...If you were to read his essay, and in the interest of open-mindedness I would urge you to do so, you would find that Bertrand Russell, who is one of the world's foremost logicians as well as a philosopher and mathematician, undoes with logic that is beyond dispute the first-cause arguement, the natural law arguement, the arguement from design, the moral arguements for a diety, and the arguement for the remedying of injustice." ~Philip Roth, Indignation It is of some importance to note that this is a collection of essays spanning, in my edition, some 267 pages. The title piece, 'Why I Am Not a Christian,' is just 20 pages, leaving roughly 92.5% of the volume for other engrossing bits such as 'Life in the Middle Ages,' 'The Fate of Thomas Paine,' and 'Our Sexual Ethics.' All of which I found fascinating! Russell's assertions on religion and related topics aren't necessarily earth shattering, at least not anymore. I think that only goes to show what an enormous influence he has had on modern secularism and free thought. You can hear his words, rephrased and reiterated, in the works of Christopher Hitchens, Jerry Coyne, and Victor Stenger (just to name a few). "The attitude that one ought to believe a proposition, independently of the question whether there is evidence in its favor, is an attitude which produces hostility to evidence and causes us to close our minds to every fact that does not suit our prejudices." ~B.R. Speaking for myself, I made my break with religious dogma years before I had ever heard of Bertrand Russell, so it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I find his wisdom and scrupulous logic life-affirming. His reputation for brilliant and intelligent 'heresy' is justly deserved and his work is as relevant now as it was when it was written almost a century ago. In fact, in this era of American oligarchy and the increasing politicalization of faith, it is possible that Russell is more relevant now than ever. "One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it." ~B.R.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    I probably would have liked this book a lot more if I had read it when I was younger, but now I find Russell's critique of religion profoundly disappointing. For a logician and philosopher of his caliber, his proofs--on the reasons why the basis of religious belief is existential terror, for example--are unconvincing and sometimes shockingly sloppy. They tend to rely on a straw-man caricatures that he sets up and knocks down, rather than actually engaging with the roots of faith or the complexit I probably would have liked this book a lot more if I had read it when I was younger, but now I find Russell's critique of religion profoundly disappointing. For a logician and philosopher of his caliber, his proofs--on the reasons why the basis of religious belief is existential terror, for example--are unconvincing and sometimes shockingly sloppy. They tend to rely on a straw-man caricatures that he sets up and knocks down, rather than actually engaging with the roots of faith or the complexities of metaphysics. Moreover, his critique of social mores is superficial, his proposed solutions naive at best, and his grasp of history so insultingly bad that he actually blames the outbreak of World War I on Christianity (p. 203). I expected more from such a legendary intellectual figure.

  10. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN...- Ex Russell, Bertrand Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other w WHY I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN...- Ex Russell, Bertrand Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire. "I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue," Russell declares in his Preface, and his reasoned opposition to any system or dogma which he feels may shackle man's mind runs through all the essays in this book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954. I read this in 1982 during a year-long period of self-questioning and evaluation of my faith and beliefs. This, among other books, was one which made me realize that I could have a strong faith without being constrained by the boundaries of, and historic crimes committed in the name of, religion. "My God is the one who exists apart from all of men's agendas..." from "The Lace Reader" by Brunonia Barry, 2006.

  11. 4 out of 5

    ~Bookishly

    This book contains a collection of essays, on the complex nature of religion. Being brought up in a religious background, I was taught many aspects about Catholicism as a child, and almost into my teenage years, and it was only then that I began to start questioning it, and my so-called beliefs. I realised I didn't actually believe any of it. I have considered myself an Atheist, for many years. Russell explains to us how well organised religion and Christianity is terribly destructive and also hi This book contains a collection of essays, on the complex nature of religion. Being brought up in a religious background, I was taught many aspects about Catholicism as a child, and almost into my teenage years, and it was only then that I began to start questioning it, and my so-called beliefs. I realised I didn't actually believe any of it. I have considered myself an Atheist, for many years. Russell explains to us how well organised religion and Christianity is terribly destructive and also highly irrational, in many ways. His writing I found to be complex, but at the same time, compelling. Here are a couple of my favourite quotes from the book; "Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it." And this; "I can respect the men who argue that religion is true and therefore ought to be believed, but I can only feel profound moral reprobation for those who say that religion ought to be believed because it is useful, and that to ask whether it is true is a waste of time." What is truly admirable, is that Russell had the audacity, to publish these quotes, during the time of the early twentieth century, when people were far more traditional than they are now.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Alex J. O'Connor

    I think I had admittedly underrated Russell until reading this. A wonderful example of forward thinking, and his influence can be clearly recognised in the works of contemporary thinkers (particularly Sam Harris' views of morality and Christopher Hitchens' linkage of Stalinism and state religiosity). Definitely worth reading.

  13. 4 out of 5

    P.J. Sullivan

    Russell first defines what he means by a Christian: someone who believes in God, the immortality of the soul, and Jesus Christ. Then he explains why he does not believe. Step by step he dismisses as fallacious the arguments for the existence of God: the first cause argument, the argument from design, etc. Then he discusses whether we survive death. Then the character of Jesus, as presented in the Gospels. He agrees that Jesus was an admirable man, but not divine and not the best or wisest of men Russell first defines what he means by a Christian: someone who believes in God, the immortality of the soul, and Jesus Christ. Then he explains why he does not believe. Step by step he dismisses as fallacious the arguments for the existence of God: the first cause argument, the argument from design, etc. Then he discusses whether we survive death. Then the character of Jesus, as presented in the Gospels. He agrees that Jesus was an admirable man, but not divine and not the best or wisest of men. He gives examples from the Gospels. He believes that all religions are false and harmful. He even calls religion “a disease born of fear” and “a source of untold misery to the human race.” Fear leads to cruelty, he says. “A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world is suffering.” He explains his agnostic views with his usual lucidity. Russell was not an atheist; he was just not convinced by the arguments for God. He was always wary of certainties. So this book does not resolve anything, but it will give you something to think about. It is really nothing more than the application of rationality to religious beliefs. Not a difficult read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paula

    My downstairs roommates are away for a while, and I am catsitting. It just so happens that my downstairs roommates also have an extensive collection of books. Books that have been on my to-read list for YEARS. And here they are, in one location, with no chance of someone checking them out before I can get my hands on them. So every other day, I brave the cat (actually, a hellbeast), feed and water it, and select a new tome. One of this week's selection was "Why I Am Not a Christian." I should ve My downstairs roommates are away for a while, and I am catsitting. It just so happens that my downstairs roommates also have an extensive collection of books. Books that have been on my to-read list for YEARS. And here they are, in one location, with no chance of someone checking them out before I can get my hands on them. So every other day, I brave the cat (actually, a hellbeast), feed and water it, and select a new tome. One of this week's selection was "Why I Am Not a Christian." I should very much like to know whether I should be a Christian or not. For the past couple of months (years?) I have decided "not." At best, I am unaffiliated; on average, I am agnostic. I would love to know for certain either way. It would be lovely to be assured that some part of you survives death; that humanity is not an accident of the universe. Knowing the opposite is true would at least put an end to fruitless speculation. So it was quite a surprise to me when "Why I Am Not" turned out to be only an essay, and a short one at that. Although he listed several arguments against Christianity, it just wasn't enough (for me, personally) to put the last nail in Christianity's proverbial coffin. Besides this, the book is actually a collection of essays on subjects that range from death to freedom to academia to sex. And there's a lot about sex. No, nothing scandalous (at least, not to current sensibilities). But Russell deals with sex as an essential part of the human experience, and does so in a very humane matter. Even though I didn't agree with him on every subject he wrote (and in fact, science has progressed to prove him wrong on a few counts) I was nevertheless intrigued at every page. His humanism and wit shine through. One of the most interesting parts was Russell's constant struggle with religious authority. It's not interesting because it's a struggle-that's to be expected. But the way he describes his opponents, and the topics discuess, vary very little from debates over religion and state today. As a culture, we've progressed a bit (homosexuality is no longer a crime, for example) but we still confront the same problems: over what is sacred or profane, the limits of free speech, the power struggle in and between societies. I am sure that I will pick this book up many more times, even when it is not conveniently at hand downstairs.

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Hold

    If I were to describe this book/essay in a single word, it would be 'dishonest'. A more fitting title would be 'Why I Am an Atheist'. Only 'Not a Christian' has greater shock value, generating instant PR that hypes the book and promotes sales. So maybe Bert knew what he was doing after all. Here's the deal: Burt doesn't believe in a Creator, a Supreme Being, or a Higher Power greater than himself. And he singles out Christianity to make his point. Why? Why not Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism? Or C If I were to describe this book/essay in a single word, it would be 'dishonest'. A more fitting title would be 'Why I Am an Atheist'. Only 'Not a Christian' has greater shock value, generating instant PR that hypes the book and promotes sales. So maybe Bert knew what he was doing after all. Here's the deal: Burt doesn't believe in a Creator, a Supreme Being, or a Higher Power greater than himself. And he singles out Christianity to make his point. Why? Why not Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism? Or Confucianism, Zoroastrianism, Voodooism, Frisbeetarianism, or any of a thousand other belief systems that profess a belief in a world beyond? Unfortunately for us, if Bert's belief that there's no afterlife proves true, we'll never be able to ask him, not in this world or the next. I suppose in all fairness I should cite some examples from Bert's babblings, only what would be the point? It's nothing you haven't heard in a million other atheist rants. The church did bad things. Yes, and so have a lot of non-church goers. The belief in a Creator makes no sense. And I supposed the idea it all came about by random circumstance does? I had a bad experience once. Who hasn't? I remember once getting ill after eating a Big Mac. It didn't make me turn vegan; it just made me stop going to that particular franchise location. But Bert would have you throw out the baby with the bath water. That's logic? That's a philosophy? Reject everything because one aspect of it is unsatisfactory? Look, I've had bad experiences with churches also. Three times I quit going. Twice I came back; the third time I didn't. But I still believe in God as my Heavenly Father. What I rejected was those guys who pretended to speak in His Name. Bert's 'philosophy' boils down to this: Reject God and believe Me instead. That's quite some ego, Burt. Only I wish you had something a little stronger than that to offer. I'm always willing to listen, but you'll need a better argument than this to convince me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hebwood

    Ah well... I don't know about this. I must say I expected more, and would have needed more for this to be an intellectually satisfying exchange (between my thoughts and Bertrand's). I have thought about the subject of religion for a long time, and I am fascinated by the fact that it exists. What does religion deliver to a believer? What is the epistemological quality of religion, and if there cannot be one (which is what I would argue), why can believers "not see that"? Equally, why can I, as a Ah well... I don't know about this. I must say I expected more, and would have needed more for this to be an intellectually satisfying exchange (between my thoughts and Bertrand's). I have thought about the subject of religion for a long time, and I am fascinated by the fact that it exists. What does religion deliver to a believer? What is the epistemological quality of religion, and if there cannot be one (which is what I would argue), why can believers "not see that"? Equally, why can I, as a secular person, not see what believers see? Can there be common ground on which both, believers and non-believers, both stand and have a rational exchange? Bertrand's main essay in this anthology did not answer any of these questions. Granted, he goes into these a little bit, but remains so superficial in his treatment of each that I did not come away thinking I learnt something. Some of his arguments are directed against a dogmatic and encrusted canonisation of religious messages, and as such criticise the church, but not religion. So in the end, I felt more than underwhelmed, and quite disappointed. Perhaps I am myself to blame, after all he delivered the central piece in this anthology as a speech, and a speech may not be an appropriate vehicle to carry in-depth thought. So yes - I am to blame. I shouldn't have expected a penetrating treatment of the subject. And yet, I did. And that's why my rating is rather low. Just saying this in my defence.

  17. 5 out of 5

    عماد العتيلي

    This is the very first book I read for Bertrand Russell. I admit: it's huge! Though I totally disagree with Russell's view of God, but I really loved this book. There are a lot of inspiring lines I loved. This man is truly wise. The part of the book I liked the most was the 'Good Life' part! It was really fascinating. I read it more than three times! Regarding 'God' issue, I think that Russell, just like all other atheists and agnostics, is not actually condemning God. He is condemning religious This is the very first book I read for Bertrand Russell. I admit: it's huge! Though I totally disagree with Russell's view of God, but I really loved this book. There are a lot of inspiring lines I loved. This man is truly wise. The part of the book I liked the most was the 'Good Life' part! It was really fascinating. I read it more than three times! Regarding 'God' issue, I think that Russell, just like all other atheists and agnostics, is not actually condemning God. He is condemning religious people who think that they are gods! Russell is angry at the image of God as presented by religious people! And ... he's completely right to be angry! And I totally agree with him that dogma is dangerous. The God I believe in doesn't want me to dogmatically believe in Him. God encourages me to question everything, even Him. This is the God I believe in. This is the God stupid religious people distorted in order to satisfy their own selfish control desires!! I highly recommend this book. God bless you Russell :)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Camila N.

    Nobody makes me laugh as much while reading philosophy as this incredible sir.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tanvika

    There are many questions. The task of a philosopher is to shatter the certainty of the readers. The philosopher will make you think for yourself based on reasoning. This book does it splendidly well. Of particular focus,is the views of Russell regarding religion. The first essay is probably the best known- why I am not a Christian?. Russell scrupulously proves it : firstly, by refuting the existence of God on philosophical grounds( design argument, first cause, moral argument etc.).Next, he proce There are many questions. The task of a philosopher is to shatter the certainty of the readers. The philosopher will make you think for yourself based on reasoning. This book does it splendidly well. Of particular focus,is the views of Russell regarding religion. The first essay is probably the best known- why I am not a Christian?. Russell scrupulously proves it : firstly, by refuting the existence of God on philosophical grounds( design argument, first cause, moral argument etc.).Next, he proceeds to specifically deal with the question whether Christ was the wisest and best human being. He does consider some of his virtues like judge not, lest you be judged. But the negative traits are also numerous eg.threatning opponents of being condemned to eternal hell rather than offering reasoning like socrates, threats for blasphemy etc. Finally, he goes on to show, how church has actually retarded progress like not allowing abortion, divorce. Finally, he comes to the point of saying that most of the people don't think about religion intellectually. They are guided by FEAR, which leads to a lot of cruelty. There is a need to see the world as it is- understand it, not fear it. As far as my reading suggest Russell is not trying to convert anyone. He realizes that it is based on emotions. But in the end, he appeals not just to logic, but also moral courage and intellectual integrity to face the world with all its flaws, so that we can improve it. Another essay dealing with existence of God is presented as a debate between copleston and Russell. The approach is linguistic. Copleston proves existence by analytical statement while Russell considers existence to be an attribute which has to be seen to be proved(synthetic).It can be technical for layman. There are few essays in this collection that deal with religion and morals. Russell reasons out ,that we can derive morals from moral philosophy and social progress. He mentions a no of times how religious morality hinders kindness and intellectual honesty. Blind following of the scriptures mostly result in witch-hunts, programs, riots, wars etc. I also found the following of moral absolutism problematic. It gives no room for exceptions like thou shalt not kill provides no scope for abortion or euthanasia or even saving yourself in self-defense. Religion has also supported social evils like slavery and caste system. Through education, we can derive morals using moral philosophy in a much more democratic manner. An essay that ,I found very informative and inspiring was 'the fate of Thomas Paine'. A man from humble beginnings, not corrupted with power, who fought for freedom from monarchy, slavery, even oppressive governments and Orthodox religious beliefs. Every book he wrote was to awaken the common man in a plain and direct manner. He was also into engineering like iron bridges for France. He was condemned by his own country. People were punished for reprinting his books. I was reminded of socrates , Gandhi and Russell himself. Like in the sceptical essay, Russell again takes a dig on 'nice people' whom he considers as nasty hypocrites. Believers of my nation right or wrong, obedient girls and the judicial system is taken to task, in a light and satirical way. This essay can be complemented with ' superior virtue of the oppressed' where the poor or women are dominated for being meek and obedient by the powerful. Overall, you may disagree with Russell. His work is dangerous, subversive and contagious.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Disclaimer: My upbringing in a religious home and eventual rejection of religion certainly predisposes me to a book of this subject matter. I have personally experienced the best and worst of religion as it functions both socially and personally. I find Russell's thoughts incredibly well articulated and very enlightening to me. "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?" are must-reads for anyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious stance Disclaimer: My upbringing in a religious home and eventual rejection of religion certainly predisposes me to a book of this subject matter. I have personally experienced the best and worst of religion as it functions both socially and personally. I find Russell's thoughts incredibly well articulated and very enlightening to me. "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?" are must-reads for anyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious stance. The only reason this book did not get 5 stars from me is a few of the essays (as I've found in Russell's other collections) wander into discussions of more historical interest than current relevance. Great for some, not for me. The appendix chronicles the tale of Russell's unfortunate treatment at the hands of the 'tyrannical majority' as he would call it, this majority being motivated by religious fear. The story is so frustrating that it surprises me that Russell's anti-religious stance is not articulated with more personal bitterness. As he writes: "A respect for the will of the majority is more harmful than respect for the will of God, because the will of the majority can be ascertained." Once I return this to the library I will be happily purchasing my own copy so I can more thoroughly digest the essays. I look forward to being more well-armed against dangerous religious fervor much more than the way I once looked forward to spreading it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    I read this book before the New Atheism fad of the early aughts and during that time as well and now I have reread it afterward. There is an enjoyment in believing one has taken on a dangerous knowledge that one sees the illusions of the herd for what they are. I am not going to go over the arguments for atheism. I have long ago found that discussion as tiresome. I want religion out of politics but I no longer take snarky delight at being above the unenlightened believers. I think religious thi I read this book before the New Atheism fad of the early aughts and during that time as well and now I have reread it afterward. There is an enjoyment in believing one has taken on a dangerous knowledge that one sees the illusions of the herd for what they are. I am not going to go over the arguments for atheism. I have long ago found that discussion as tiresome. I want religion out of politics but I no longer take snarky delight at being above the unenlightened believers. I think religious thinking is more a natural default of people for various reasons. Whether it be overactive agency detection that strongly social animals have built into their brains and magical thinking and finding associations between seemingly unrelated events that come from such clever creatures. in fact, most religious thinking is a byproduct of the strengths of the human mind and even if fallacious is not really an indictment of the religious. It is the most natural thing in the world for us and takes a lot of unnatural effort to leave such thinking behind. The atheists might ultimately be right (maybe) but that doesn't mean religious and magical thinking is going to go away anytime soon and I am not sure it is all that bad in the first place anymore anyway.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Brendan

    A mediocre atheism. If you want the real stuff, read Nietzsche, Marx, or Freud. No one has said anything original on the subject since they.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jazzy Lemon

    Written in 1927, with so much insight and truth. Having been a victim of a religious "Christian" cult, I agree 100% with Mr. Russell.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Xander

    I am kind of disappointed by this book. It is a collection of various essays and lectures of Bertrand Russell on religion. More specifically, it contains the force and direction of his religious critique. Although the essays contain a wide variety of topics (such as sex, free thinking, scientific inquiry, metaphysics and morality), the main thoughts can be summarized rather concise: 1. Religion has a negative impact on intellectual integrety, kindliness and courage. It closes off the human mind f I am kind of disappointed by this book. It is a collection of various essays and lectures of Bertrand Russell on religion. More specifically, it contains the force and direction of his religious critique. Although the essays contain a wide variety of topics (such as sex, free thinking, scientific inquiry, metaphysics and morality), the main thoughts can be summarized rather concise: 1. Religion has a negative impact on intellectual integrety, kindliness and courage. It closes off the human mind from understanding nature and facing her as she is; it promotes immoral acts by its followers and condones inhumane practices (such as slavery, persecution and discrimination of others); and it cultivates a weak attitude towards life and other people. In short: religion is poison - to paraphrase the late Christopher Hitchens. 2. The reason why most people are religious are primarily through education by parents and schools - in other words: indoctrination. Secondarily, it is the fear of death, but of life as well, that draws people emotionally towards religion. It is very comforting when there is a big brother in the clouds, giving your life purpose and watching over you. In the same vein, it is highly comforting when life is not perishable after bodily death - whether in the form of a resurrection or an immortal soul. 3. Religion is defended nowadays solely on account of its moral use. Without religion, morality is unfounded, and hence we can do anything we want. Russell, instead of falling for this trap, simply admits that morality is relative (to time, culture, etc.) and counters that religion can not be a foundation of morality. That is, Christ's teachings contained falsehoods, notions of eternal punishment and retribution in the End-times. Nevermind that religious people have used their creeds for the most horrible offences to fellow human beings - and still do. 4. When it comes to its social impact, religion works to suppress individual thinking, freedom of women and an open attitude towards the world; it also works to foster intolerance to deviants and non-believers and a mindset that falls prey to dishonesty (through cognitive dissonance, as we would nowadays explain). In short: religion, though obviously a human need (out of fear), is rather a nuisance and a roadblock to a better world. This better world has to be created by human intelligence, we cannot base our desires and designs on un-provable and highly unlikely concepts. These subjects are nothing new for the people who might be interested in this book (assuming most of them are already aware of the general arguments for and against religion). Also, this edition contains many essays and a huge appendix, but one gets the feeling that it's been used as filler; to justify demanding a full price for two or three interesting essays (of about30 pages in total). There is nothing intrinsically bad about this book; and I fully subscribe to Russell's religious views; yet I feel kind of unsatisfied and slightly scammed by the publisher.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Διόνυσος Ελευθέριος

    As with every other time I have read Russell, I found Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects very pleasurable to read. Russell's clear and organized style of writing is somewhat of a rarity in philosophical writing. On the other hand—but also just like the other times I have read his work—he begins with a deep, but almost entirely tacit, faith in Reason's reason, a faith we can no longer seriously share with Russell in a world which finds itself after Nietzsc As with every other time I have read Russell, I found Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects very pleasurable to read. Russell's clear and organized style of writing is somewhat of a rarity in philosophical writing. On the other hand—but also just like the other times I have read his work—he begins with a deep, but almost entirely tacit, faith in Reason's reason, a faith we can no longer seriously share with Russell in a world which finds itself after Nietzsche's writings. For the task of trying to understand many aspects of the modern world descriptively, I think Russell is a gem; for the task of trying to grapple with the normative consequences of that helpfully described world, I think Russell lacks a deeper understanding about what it is to be human. Nevertheless, this is a terrific collection of essays that I highly recommend to everyone.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Miri

    All. the. stars. This is the most excited I've ever been while reading philosophy. I can't believe how progressive Russell was, saying things almost a century ago that I still feel radical for believing now. About the lack of logic and evidence inherent to religion, of course, and further, the active damage religion causes. But in the more specific details, too: He advocates healthier attitudes toward sex, sex education, masturbation, nudity, and birth control. From what I can tell he was essent All. the. stars. This is the most excited I've ever been while reading philosophy. I can't believe how progressive Russell was, saying things almost a century ago that I still feel radical for believing now. About the lack of logic and evidence inherent to religion, of course, and further, the active damage religion causes. But in the more specific details, too: He advocates healthier attitudes toward sex, sex education, masturbation, nudity, and birth control. From what I can tell he was essentially a feminist; if nothing else, he explains how these harmful attitudes toward sex have been explicitly geared toward keeping women in submission. And given the time period it’s surprising how few things he said that are no longer acceptable—there was an offensive comment each about sex workers and the mentally ill, two groups that I think even now are among the last to gain respect, and a few mentions of "primitive savages." That is the idea—that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian tradition in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion. You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. He quotes John Stuart Mill: “My father’s rejection of all that is called religious belief was not, as many might suppose, primarily a matter of logic and evidence: the grounds of it were moral, still more than intellectual. He found it impossible to believe that a world so full of evil was the work of an Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness.” This is the same reason I left the church I grew up in. Many Mormons have trouble with the historical inconsistencies of the church’s origins, so that’s what people generally assume when someone leaves it, but I was never interested in church history and so didn’t even get to that point. For me, it was the simple fact that my conscience told me certain things were wrong, and there my church was, doing all of those things. That was the end of my belief on the local scale, and the beginning of the end of my belief on the global scale. From a 1954 essay called “Can Religion Cure Our Troubles?” If a theology is thought necessary to virtue and if candid inquirers see no reason to think the theology true, the authorities will work to discourage candid inquiry. In former centuries they did so by burning the inquirers at the stake. In Russia they still [in 1954] have methods which are little better; but in Western countries the authorities have perfected somewhat milder forms of persuasion. Of these, schools are perhaps the most important: the young must be preserved from hearing the arguments in favor of the opinions which the authorities dislike, and those who nevertheless persist in showing an inquiring disposition will incur social displeasure and, if possible, be made to feel morally reprehensible. In this way, any system of morals which has a theological basis becomes one of the tools by which the holders of power preserve their authority and impair the intellectual vigor of the young . . . As soon as it is held that any belief, no matter what, is important for some other reason than that it is true, a whole host of evils is ready to spring up. This is certainly the attitude I grew up with; Mormons are very afraid of exposure to “apostates,” and warned constantly to keep themselves safe by avoiding anything critical of the church. It’s funny to think of myself as an ex-Mormon now, because if there’s any connotation to that epithet for me, it’s totally positive—but when I was growing up, the phrase marked someone as a kind of movie villain, a person who would actively try to trick me away from the gospel. If the church is not now as bad as the Soviet Government, that is due to the influence of those who attacked the church: from the Council of Trent to the present day, whatever improvements it has effected have been due to its enemies. I see this as an incredibly important point. Because people love their religions, and they want to believe the best of them. They look at their church and they understand that it used to be worse, that those things were bad, but they think that the church has gotten better, and it’s doing its best. But religion shouldn’t get credit for making the changes they were forced, by their enemies, to make. (The Mormon church banned black people from its priesthood, and they only stopped doing it in 1978—fourteen years after the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t do it because God suddenly decided it was time (as they claim), or because they suddenly understood that it was racist. They did it because they had to, because it was almost fucking 1980, and the world around them wouldn’t have accepted it anymore.) When two men of science disagree, they do not invoke the secular arm; they wait for further evidence to decide the issue, because, as men of science, they know that neither is infallible. But when two theologians differ, since there are no criteria to which either can appeal, there is nothing for it but mutual hatred and an open or covert appeal to force. Christianity, I will admit, does less harm than it used to do; but that is because it is less fervently believed. This seems like a statement that might draw criticism, but at the same time I feel like it’s completely self-evident. The Bible is very violent, and historically so was Christianity. That’s not the case anymore, but it’s not because the Bible changed—it’s because people no longer believe they have to adhere literally to its every word. The most dangerous features of Communism are reminiscent of the medieval church. They consist of fanatical acceptance of doctrines embodied in a sacred book, unwillingness to examine these doctrines critically, and savage persecution of those who reject them. If there is any such thing as “evil,” I believe this is it. Not an outside force, not a devil causing people to “fall” from goodness. Evil is entirely human, and it’s in the way we treat anyone who’s not exactly like us. From the last and shortest essay, “Religion and Morals,” in 1952: I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good. I admit at once that new systems of dogma, such as those of the Nazis and the Communists, are even worse than the old systems, but they could never have acquired a hold over men’s minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth. Stalin’s language is full of reminiscences of the theological seminary in which he received his training. What the world needs is not dogma but an attitude of scientific inquiry combined with a belief that the torture of millions is not desirable, whether inflicted by Stalin or by a Deity imagined in the likeness of the believer. I genuinely believe that the world can’t move forward as long as we’re all divided by religion. It keeps people living according to the morals of the past; it convinces them that “earthly” problems are only temporary, and will be sorted out after we’re dead; it requires cognitive dissonance and encourages confirmation bias. The whole structure of religion, everything about the way it teaches people to think, is in opposition to a peaceful, rational, egalitarian society. As long as we divide humanity into mutually exclusive worldviews that talk about “unbelievers” and “infidels,” we can’t possibly hope to stop fighting over them. As long as people grow up learning to accept “facts” with no evidence, we’ll have no defense against people like Donald Trump, who just say whatever is convenient for them utterly regardless of what exists in reality. There will never be world peace, or any kind of equality worldwide, until we’ve gotten rid of religion. Every time I see an article about the increasing secularism in the world, I feel a tiny spark of hope, and I try not to let it be crushed by the knowledge of how long it will be before we get there.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tajei

    Even though Russell is one of my favourite figures all-round, I didn't find this book especially insightful or inspiring, perhaps because it's now well trodden ground (and maybe wasn't back then, in fairness to him). But an interesting book nonetheless — it would be the kind of Lit essay that scores an A for mechanistic competence rather than the one that scores an A for insight. He also doesn't touch on two of the things which I think are "standard" in this field: problems with science and the Even though Russell is one of my favourite figures all-round, I didn't find this book especially insightful or inspiring, perhaps because it's now well trodden ground (and maybe wasn't back then, in fairness to him). But an interesting book nonetheless — it would be the kind of Lit essay that scores an A for mechanistic competence rather than the one that scores an A for insight. He also doesn't touch on two of the things which I think are "standard" in this field: problems with science and the ontological argument, which are the most interesting/convincing! So the book isn't quite comprehensive in refuting theist arguments. It was also a bit 虎头蛇尾 (deteriorates as it goes along), but I particularly liked this bit from the second essay: "Vitalism as a philosophy, and evolutionism, show, in this respect, a lack of sense of proportion […] they regard the facts of life, which are personally interesting to us, as having a cosmic significance […] the great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy". (Sorry Nicholas I know you don't like quotes.) But you can skip some of them — A Free Man's Worship most especially. And the title is somewhat misleading: not all the essays are about religion.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell “Why I Am Not a Christian” is a very representative book of essays of the great British philosopher and man of many talents, Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). This book includes the following essays: 1. Why I AM Not A Christian, 2. Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?, 3. My Religious Reminiscences, 4. A Free Man’s Worship, 5. Religion and Metaphysics, 6. Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?, 7. How I Came by My Creed; Or, What I Believe, a Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell “Why I Am Not a Christian” is a very representative book of essays of the great British philosopher and man of many talents, Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). This book includes the following essays: 1. Why I AM Not A Christian, 2. Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?, 3. My Religious Reminiscences, 4. A Free Man’s Worship, 5. Religion and Metaphysics, 6. Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?, 7. How I Came by My Creed; Or, What I Believe, and 8. Why I Am a Rationalist. Positives: 1. Well-written collection of essays despite the fact that these essays were written decades ago. 2. The lucid thoughts of the great British philosopher Bertrand Russell. 3. Eight essays that cover a wide-range of Russell’s lifetime. 4. Destroys the first-cause argument. “If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.” 5. A look at the argument from design. “You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it.” 6. Gives reasons on why people believe in “God”. 7. The main reason to doubt Christ’s moral character. “There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.” 8. Religion and fear. “Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes.” 9. Defender of science as the best tool to find out the truths of our world. “To my mind the essential thing is that one should base one's arguments upon the kind of grounds that are accepted in science, and one should not regard anything that one accepts as quite certain, but only as probable in a greater or a less degree. Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.” 10. He provides insights into his evolution from a believer to an atheist. : During the four following years I rejected, successively, free will, immortality, and belief in God, and believed that I suffered much pain in the process, though when it was completed I found myself far happier than I had been while I remained in doubt.” 11. A look at the contributions of religion to society. “The churches, as everyone knows, opposed the abolition of slavery as long as they dared, and with a few well-advertised exceptions they oppose at the present day every movement toward economic justice.” 12. The objection to religion. “The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.” 13. Find out the three human impulses embodied in religion. 14. Explains the desires of religion to be in control. “Men desire to be in control because they are afraid that the control of others will be used unjustly to their detriment.” 15. Eye-opening factoid. “I expect you know that in America men are still sent to prison for Atheism, not only in Fundamentalist States, but even in States of the East, and altogether there is in that part of the world an enormous need of propaganda on these matters.” Negatives: 1. The book wasn’t professionally edited for the Kindle. 2. There are much better and sophisticated arguments today but in Russell’s defense he inspired a lot of the great thinkers of today. In summary, this is a wonderful and cogent introduction to atheism. The great British philosopher Bertrand Russell passed away in 1970 and I would urge readers to view some of talks online. The essays are uneven; some are much better than others. Philosophy has evolved a lot since the times of Russell and there are much better and sophisticated arguments made today but the book is still a worthwhile read. I recommend it. Further suggestions: “How to Defend the Christian Faith” and “The Christian Delusion” by John Loftus, “God: The Failed Hypothesis” by Victor Stenger, “Natural Atheism” and “Atheism Advanced” by David Eller, “Soul Fallacy” by Julien Musolino, “Free Will? By Jonathan M.S. Pearce, “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by Peter Boghosian, “God Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens, “The Believing Brain” by Michael Shermer, “Faith vs. Fact” and “Why Evolution Is True” by Jerry A. Coyne, “Nonbeliever Nation” by David Niose, “Trusting Doubt” by Valerie Tarico, “Nailed” by David Fitzgerald, “Think” by Guy P. Harrison, and “The Science of Miracles” by Joe Nickell.

  29. 5 out of 5

    David

    Recently I watched the movie God is not Dead (which I did not like). During the scene where the Christian student stands up to his atheist professor, the professor adds an assignment for the whole class as punishment for this one student's recalcitrance. The assignment is to read Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian on top of their other assigned reading. I chuckled for I was, ironically, reading this very book at the time. Russell was a world-famous philosopher and outspoken atheist. The Recently I watched the movie God is not Dead (which I did not like). During the scene where the Christian student stands up to his atheist professor, the professor adds an assignment for the whole class as punishment for this one student's recalcitrance. The assignment is to read Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian on top of their other assigned reading. I chuckled for I was, ironically, reading this very book at the time. Russell was a world-famous philosopher and outspoken atheist. The title of the book is really just the title of an essay that is the first chapter. The essay is included in a variety of editions of books, each with slightly different other essays included. In the essay Russell quickly moves through a variety of reasons why he is not a Christian. Due to the scope covered, he does not go very deep into any one reason. Yet his arguments do manage to pack a punch and his influence on today's atheists is obvious. Actually, it might benefit more popular atheist writers to emulate Russell. I found myself more sympathetic to his arguments then to those of Dawkins, Harris and their ilk, though I am not sure why. Maybe it is distance - Russell is dead and unable to speak anymore so I only see his writings, not his obnoxious twitter posts. For whatever reason, there is something about Russell that both makes me like him more and challenges me more then contemporary atheists. While I am challenged, and I enjoy a good challenge, I have no intention of abandoning Christianity. I think Christians ought to read books like this because asking and seeking answers to such questions does sharpen our faith. In the end, I think faith makes sense. In this vein, I enjoyed reading the debate between Russell and Catholic Frederick Copleston. Perhaps not surprisingly, I thought Copleston provided better arguments (guess that's why I am still a Christian). So I'd recommend this book to Christians who are interested in tough questions, maybe to Christians who have read lots of Christian apologetics but not much from the other side. Its worth the read, even if I think the Christian case is stron

  30. 4 out of 5

    ZaRi

    its one of my favorite part: "Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the its one of my favorite part: "Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it. "

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