Why I Am Not a Christian

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Why I Am Not a Christian is an essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell in which he explains why he is not a Christian. Originally a talk given March 6, 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 was later published, with other essays, in the book, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects.



What is a Christian?

Russell points out that "Christianity" is a vague notion, and sets out to define the word. He concludes that someone should minimally satisfy the following requirements in order to be called a Christian:

  • Believe in God and immortality.
  • Believe that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men.

Russell goes on to note that there may be some stricter definitions of Christianity, which also require such things as belief in hell. However, pointing to examples of Christians who do not believe in hell, Russell dispenses with this requirement.

The Existence Of God

Russell considers and rejects a series of arguments proposed to prove the existence of God. Many of these are very succinct presentations of arguments presented elsewhere in Iron Chariots. He includes:

The Moral Arguments For Deity

Russell refers to Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, saying that Kant dispensed with the three primary intellectual arguments for God. Though not mentioned here, the three arguments are the ontological argument, the cosmological argument, and the physico-theological argument. Then, Russell says, Kant invented the moral argument as a fourth argument and was convinced by it.

Kant claims that there would be no morality without a God, but Russell dispenses of this by describing a form of the Euthyphro dilemma.

"The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good."

The Argument For The Remedying Of Injustice

The Character Of Christ

Defects In Christ's Teaching

The Moral Problem

The Emotional Factor

How The Churches Have Retarded Progress

Fear, The Foundation Of Religion

What We Must Do

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