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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. Why I am not a Christian -- Has religion made useful contributions to civilization? -- What I believe -- Do we survive death? -- Seems, madam? Nay, it is -- Free man's worship -- On Catholic and Protestant skeptics -- Life in the Middle Ages -- Fate of Thomas Paine -- Nice people -- New generation -- Our sexual ethics -- Freedom and the colleges -- Can religion cure our troubles? -- Religion and morals -- Appendix: How Bertrand Russell was prevented from teaching at the College of the City of New York


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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. Why I am not a Christian -- Has religion made useful contributions to civilization? -- What I believe -- Do we survive death? -- Seems, madam? Nay, it is -- Free man's worship -- On Catholic and Protestant skeptics -- Life in the Middle Ages -- Fate of Thomas Paine -- Nice people -- New generation -- Our sexual ethics -- Freedom and the colleges -- Can religion cure our troubles? -- Religion and morals -- Appendix: How Bertrand Russell was prevented from teaching at the College of the City of New York

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

  1. 4 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. 4 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 سال1975میلادی عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیست 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 سال1975میلادی عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیستم؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: روح الله عباسی؛ تهران، روز، سال1347 ؛ در108ص؛ موضوع متن سخنرانیهای و نوشتارهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیستم: مقالاتی چند راجع بمذهب و موضوعات مربوط به آن؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل ؛ مترجم س.الف. س. طاهری؛ در268ص؛ عنوان: چرا مسیحی نیستم؛ نویسنده: برتراند راسل؛ مترجم: عبدالعلی دستغیب؛ تهران، فرهنگ، سال1351؛ در311ص؛ چرا مسیحی نیستم، متن یک سخنرانی‌ است که «برتراند راسل» در روز ششم ماه مارس سال1927میلادی در انجمن ملی غیرمذهبیان، در شمال «لندن» ایراد کرده، که سپس به صورت جزوه‌ ای، در همان سال چاپ شده است؛ این سخنرانی، به همراه مقالات دیگر در پیرامون مذهب منتشر شده، و در سال1351هجری خورشیدی، با ترجمهٔ جناب «عبدالعلی دستغیب» توسط انتشارات فرهنگ در ایران منتشر شده ‌است؛ «راسل» با تحلیل آنچه که به معنای اصطلاح مسیحی است، آغاز می‌کنند، و توضیح می‌دهند، که چرا ایشان به «جاودانگی خدا» باور ندارند، و به همین دلیل است که او فکر نمی‌کند که «مسیح»، بهترین و عاقلترین مرد، به عنوان الگو، برای مسیحیان باشد؛ او استدلالهای گوناگونی برای وجود خدا را در نظر می‌گیرد، و به مفاهیم مربوط به الهیات مسیحی می‌پردازد؛ ایشان نظریه‌ های «داروین» را مورد حمایت خویش قرار می‌دهند؛ «راسل» همچنین از وجود تاریخی عیسی مسیح شکایت می‌کنند و به اخلاق درباره ی دین می‌پردازند، که، به نظر ایشان، عمدتاً مبتنی بر ترس است تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 05/10/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 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

    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.

  5. 5 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 4 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 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

    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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    "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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Théodore

    Location - Earth , year 2214, Paris - Sydney highway. Christianity has recently become mandatory by law. Humming song, in a crummy truck - ".... I feel prettyy, oh, so prettyy, I feel pretty and witty and gayyyyyy... " Sigh.. - Please, Max, don't start again ! - Shut the fuck up, Bertrand, I'm trying to calm down, I have to save the world today, I'm nervous. - You're not nervous, Max, you're mad. And slow down, there are cops everywhere here. Yikes ! one has already caught up with us... ( a Location - Earth , year 2214, Paris - Sydney highway. Christianity has recently become mandatory by law. Humming song, in a crummy truck - ".... I feel prettyy, oh, so prettyy, I feel pretty and witty and gayyyyyy... " Sigh.. - Please, Max, don't start again ! - Shut the fuck up, Bertrand, I'm trying to calm down, I have to save the world today, I'm nervous. - You're not nervous, Max, you're mad. And slow down, there are cops everywhere here. Yikes ! one has already caught up with us... ( a police officer in front of the truck door ) : - Good Christian licence, sir ! - You mean driving licence, officer ? - No, sir, your Good Christian licence , please. - What the fuck...I'm on the Candid Camera, isn't ? - No, sir, do you have it or not ? - No, sir, but I'm a good Christian, believe me. - Any proof, sir ? - Ughhh.....I have nine children, officer. It's enough ? - That doesn't mean you're a good Christian, sir. That means you're just mad, Mr. ...Max. Another proof ? - Aaah, I'm God's messenger, sir. My friend Bertrand can prove it. - Who is God, sir ? - Oh, my...You're asking me for a Christian license but you don't know who God is.... - I'm a cop, sir, but I don't know all the people. - Listen, officer.... God is your Boss, you know.... - You're mad, Mr.Max. My boss is Mr. Robo. - I think you're not a good Christian, officer.. - Why, sir ? - Ask Bertrand, he's a specialist. - Why, Mr. Bertrand ? - I explained this in a book, my friend. Buy the book. - I don't read books, sir. - It's ok, officer, you'II survive.

  11. 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. 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.

  12. 5 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jo (The Book Geek)

    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.

  14. 5 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.

  15. 5 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.

  16. 5 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 4 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 :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Camila N.

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

  20. 5 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

    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.

  22. 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

  23. 5 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.

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

  25. 5 out of 5

    Andrei Vasilachi

    "Conquer 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 ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men." I think this quote has everything you need to know about this essay. Intelligence as a good in itself? Really? What guides intelligence? — Freedom? The lack of explanation for his own arguments bothered me throughout this work. The criticisms were OK, "Conquer 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 ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men." I think this quote has everything you need to know about this essay. Intelligence as a good in itself? Really? What guides intelligence? — Freedom? The lack of explanation for his own arguments bothered me throughout this work. The criticisms were OK, albeit full of platitudes; but a proper explanation and actual philosophy was severely lacking. It rather seemed to me as a set of opinions which were neither original nor very convincing (for me). This essay was a lecture delivered at Battersea Town Hall in London, on 6th of March 1927. It has some arguments that I agree with, but which are, frankly, too obvious and intellectually vacuous. Being an agnostic I tend to look at both sides of this issue and give credit where it's due when I hear good criticisms. But this time I expected more from Russell.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jan vanTilburg

    It’s very clear in this book that Russell is against any sort of religion or creeds. When ‘believes’ go before intelligence and science, human suffering thru the ages was all but sure. A slightly dated bundle of essays about religion and metaphysics. We all know logic and faith do not go well together and Russell approached religion with a very logical mind. It’s all about a human’s innate urge for answers about the unknown. So they come up with (obscurantist) myths which satisfy us and it’s calle It’s very clear in this book that Russell is against any sort of religion or creeds. When ‘believes’ go before intelligence and science, human suffering thru the ages was all but sure. A slightly dated bundle of essays about religion and metaphysics. We all know logic and faith do not go well together and Russell approached religion with a very logical mind. It’s all about a human’s innate urge for answers about the unknown. So they come up with (obscurantist) myths which satisfy us and it’s called religion. Then organizations take over and people are raised in beliefs dependant on where one lives. It’s difficult to think outside ones culture bubble. (I experience that too) Russell seems to be able to have done that. Remarkable viewpoints on religion for a guy who voiced them in the 1920s and 1930s. Nowadays most of his views are widespread. But still a cause of much controversy considering the often heated comments in the reviews I’ve read. Many commentators are taking the reviews very personal. It’s making them uncomfortable it seems? It’s not easy to read criticism on lifelong beliefs and they are not easily swayed. This book should be read in the sense of: ‘Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good’. And of course, what is good? And religious people then go to their faith and their scriptures, commentaries and explanations to sort that out. We all know where and when in the name of religion questionable things have happened (to put it mildly). But also good things. People find solace in their faith. Churches do organize a lot of charities and help out. Russell points out mainly the bad things and the inconsistencies of religion. Religion. What is it? A set of thoughts to understand the world. Which in itself is good. And also a set of rules how to live. And there it can get tricky. Russell (p.44) sees “that the three human impulses embodied in religion are fear, conceit and hatred. The purpose of religion is to give an air of respectabity to these passions, provided they run in certain channels. It is because these passions make, on the whole, for human misery, that religion is a force for evil since it permits men to indulge these passions without restraint, where but for its sanction they might, at least to a certain degree, control them. In the preface of this book Russell summarizes his main objections against religion. In the rest of the book we get insights in various topics on this subject. He thinks that “all the great religions [...] both untrue and harmfull.” “The religion one accepts is that of the community in which one lives. So the influence of environment is obvious. The conviction that it is important to believe this or that, even if free inquiry would not support the belief, is one which is common to almost all religions...[...] The consequence is that the minds of the young are stunted...[...] A habit basing convictions upon evidence and of giving to 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” => Well said in 1957 for todays world (2022), is full of “alternate facts”! Russell stated that this is true for all creeds. Besides the first essay (Why I am not Christian) this book deals with a lot of (religious topics). From ‘What I Believe’, ‘Life in the Middle Ages’ to ‘Our Sexual Ethics’. The editor who put together this book (1957) puts the importance of this book like this: “A book like this, with its uncompromising affirmation of the secularist viewpoint, is all the more called for today (1957), because the religious offensive has not been restricted to propaganda on a large scale. It has also assumed the shape of numerous attemps, [...], to undermine the secular character of the US.” JvT: we know now (2022), that the 1960-ish brought all that to a stop. But today the fanatics of all kind of creeds are still out there and loudly heard. * Why I am not a Christian. (1927) A lecture with arguments. He tries to argue why it is that God does not exist. (First-cause, natural-law and design argument). Following are a couple of moral arguments. He makes a case against (some) of Christ’s teachings. Then he points out the real reason why people accept religion, which has nothing to do with argumantation; they accept it on emotional grounds. Churches have retarded progress, Fear, the Foundation of Religion; terror of the unknown and the wish to have a kind of elder who stands by you. He ends with a plea that a good world needs knowledge, kindliness and courage. Dated I thought. Could not agree with all he said. But most of it still holds true today, * Has Religion made Useful Contributions to Civilization? (1930) A further fulmination against all religion. He sees it as: “a disease born of fear and a source of untold misery to the human race.” He postulates that the teachings of Christ has had extraordinary little to do with the ethics of Christians. To judge christianity from a social and historical point of view, we must consider the church, not Christ. Same goes for other creeds. As soon as ‘experts’ come to explain the teachings of the master all goes wrong. How good the intentions may be. He makes a strong case that the church is responsible for the suppression of women. The conception of sin, bound with christian ethics, does an extraordinarily amount of harm. Sexual education is paramount to mental and physical health. Further he sums up (again) logical objections to religion. A paragraph about how the concept of the individual soul had a profound influence upon the ethics of christian communities: the doctrine of the immortality of the individual soul. He does not quite explains this when he concludes: that this concept has had disastrous effects upon morals and the metaphysical separation of body and soul has had disastrous effects upon philosophy. A source of Intolerance. The doctrine of Free Will versus Behaviour as a result of physical and chemical laws. The Idea of Righteousness: that what is approved by a church. As a consequence a new prophet could maintain that his revelation was more authentic than his predecessor, hence the multitude of churches. The last part of this paragraph emphasizes to get rid of religious doctrine that prevents us from having a rational education, causes wars, prevents teaching of the ethic of scientific co-operation in place of old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. * What I Believe. (1925) This is about the good life: inspired by love and guided by knowledge. - Nature and Man Are mind and matter separate? Soul and Body? Not for Russell. It’s metaphysical superstition. That is what this paragraph is about. Man is part of nature. With all it’s laws. “If we were not afraid of death, I do not believe that the idea of immortality would ever have arisen.” - The Good Life A life inspired by love and guided by knowledge. Love at its fullest is an indissoluble combination of delight and well-wishing. Scientific knowledge. Example: your child is ill; love makes you want to cure him and science tells you how. - Moral Rules The practical need of morals arises from the conflict of desires. Interesting statement: superstition is the origin of moral rules. Russell specifically condems how thru education children get indoctrinated with morals steeped in religious dogma’s. Luckily (JvT) most of that is history. At least in the West. This article was written in 1925. - Salvation: Individual and Social. One of the defects of traditional religion is its individualism. A dialog between the soul and God. Russell believes we need rather a social than an individual concept of welfare. He places this in the concept of the good life. This life demands a multitude of social conditions. As said, the good life requires love and knowledge. - Science and Happiness. Man’s actions are harmful either from ignorance or from bad desires. Malevolance caused by fear. Fear of ruin. Everyone wants security. Justice gives that; an equal claim of all human beings thru social changes to bring security. Science can help with all this. * Do we Survive Death? (1936) The continuity of a human body is a matter of appearance and behaviour, not of substance. * Seems, Madam? Nay, It Is. (1899). In which he asserts that metaphysics cannot supply the place of religion. It is justified by intellectual curiosity alone. A treatise of metaphysica can give people comfort. Reality, being experienced by no one, exist only in metaphysics. For religious comfort belief is essential and we do not get that from the metaphysic which we believe. p.101 where he quotes Bradley: “,with certain persons, the intellectual effort to understand the Universe is a principal way of thus experiencing the Deity....And this appears,” he continues, “to be another reason for some persons pursuing the study if ultimate truth.” * A Free Man’s Worship (1903) About humanity (p.115): “United with his fellow man by the stronger of all ties, the tie of a common doom, the free man finds that a new vision is with him always, shedding over every daily task the light of love.” The universe is without purpose. Good and Evil are ideas that throw no light upon the nonhuman world. p.109: “Shall our God exist and be evil, or shall he be recognized as the creation of our own conscience?” Lots of flowerly words to come to this conclusion (p.114): The free man’s worship: abondon the struggle for private happiness, expel eagerness for temporary desire, strive for eternal things. * On Catholic and Protestant Skeptics (1928 Thoughts of a typical Protestant freethinker: James Mill (1773-1836). Rejection of religion not logic and evidence, but moral, more than intellectual: how can a world so full of evil be the work of Author combining infinite power with perfect goodness and righteousness. The Reformation was all about the great and decisive contest against priestly tyranny for liberty of thought. Protestant is individual, Catholic’s virtue has an element of submission, to God via conscience and the authority of the church as the repository of Revelation. One might say Protestants like to be good and have invented theology in order to keep themselves so, whereas Catholics like to be bad and have invented theology to keep their neighbors good. Hence the social character of Catholicism and the individual character of Protestantism. * Life in the Middle Ages. (1925) Some ramblings. Not very interesting. * The Fate of Thomas Paine (1934) A description of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) and his ideas. Thomas Paine was an England-born political philosopher and writer who supported revolutionary causes in America and Europe. Published in 1776 to international acclaim, “Common Sense” was the first pamphlet to advocate American independence. It was for the sake of freedom from monarchy, aristocracy, slavery, every species of tyranny, that Paine took up the cause of America. On true religion: doing justice, loving mercy, make ones fellow humans happy. * Nice People (1931) Satirical essay in which nice people are those who have nasty minds. Mainly the high ranking people who had everything and were in control. The nice people in all countries were in control during WWI. And in the name of morality induced the young people to slaughter one another. People afterwards had no patience anymore for these ‘nice’ people!!! With their so called ethic and morals!!! * The New Generation (1930) In the old days man was subject to nature. The resulting sense of impotence was utilized by religion in transforming fear into a duty and resignation into a virtue. For modern man nature is raw material for scientific manipulation. It is no longer satan who makes sin but bad glands and unwise conditioning. Russell is very clear about sin: it is what is disliked by those who control education. But with new knowledge comes new responsibility. Especially to the getting and rearing of children. Russell makes a plea to use the new scientific and psychogical insights for the education of children. Families are smaller, children become more important. The family unit becomes less important. The state takes over. But as long as the states are in the grip of moral and religious prejudices (remember this is 1930, although nowadays (2022) many states seem to revert back!) which make it incapable of dealing with children in a scientific manner. Russell leaves nothing to the imagination what he thinks about the main institutions: “The governments of the worlds, in combination with the churches, whose influence depends upon human misery and impotence” are incapable. Conventional moral teaching us a cause of suffering to the young and it should be replaced by something more kindly and scientific. * Our Sexual Ethics (1936) In which Russell explores the changing morals of sex and the resulting change in roles of male and females in society. Very dated, but the principles are sound. Monogamy was till then “ensured” by: - immobility, not much chance to meet others - superstition, it’s a sin - public opinion, everybody knows one another. Not anymore. He sees a conflict between jealousy and the impulse of polygamy. Interesting viewpoint for 1936: If women are to have sexual freedom (of course!) fathers must fade out and wives must no longer expect to be supported. He pleads for no children before 20, sexual experience as to make a sound choice in mariage, divorce should be possible, free sexual relations from economic taint, wives live by the scale of their sexual charms, the man is expected to bear the joint expenses. Well, that latter is surely not the case anymore. Primitive impulses: Modesty and Jealousy. Many sexual taboes. Prudery. Which seems to be rooted deep in human nature. Jealousy he sees as the most potent single factor in the genesis of sexual morality: the desire of males to be certain of paternity. Without security in this respect the patriarchal family would have been impossible and fatherhood with all its economic implications, could not have become the basis of social institutions. Of course, there were no corresponding rights of wives, their unhappiness seemed not important. Well the claim if equality of women has changed all that! Further he goes into the topic of knowledge on sexual subjects. It should be open and accessible to children. * Freedom and the Colleges (1940) (published after Russell was deemed “unfit” to be a professor at City College, New York.) The essence of academic freedom is that teachers should be chosen for their expertness by their peers. Having expressed opinions which controverts with those in power should not be an issue! Toleration of minorities is an essential part of democracy. * Can Religion Cure our Troubles? (1954) Russell clearly does not think that morals are dependant upon religion. * Religion and Morals (1952) The important virtues are kindness and intelligence.

  27. 5 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.

  28. 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. "

  29. 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.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paige McLoughlin

    I read this in the 1990s when I was introduced to Russell in my analytic philosophy class I took in the mid-1990s. I read it once or twice then and I read it in the aughts when I got interested in New Atheist debates for a while. I mean Russell is a good writer and the bad boy/girl pose of Atheist is a fun persona to take on and poke fun of the pious for a person with little religious feeling in the first place. I kind of grew tired of the movement when it started to turn right and started using I read this in the 1990s when I was introduced to Russell in my analytic philosophy class I took in the mid-1990s. I read it once or twice then and I read it in the aughts when I got interested in New Atheist debates for a while. I mean Russell is a good writer and the bad boy/girl pose of Atheist is a fun persona to take on and poke fun of the pious for a person with little religious feeling in the first place. I kind of grew tired of the movement when it started to turn right and started using "political correctness" criticism as a gateway to Pepe. I dunno I am still probably somewhat irreligious but the debates are stale and the topic completely milked and I kind of think there are other fish to fry before debating a deity goes on my "to do" list these days.

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