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

Continuing with a discussion of morality, Russell considers the argument that a just afterlife must exist to balance the injustice found in this life.

"That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, 'After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here then the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.' Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: 'The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.' You would say: 'Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment;' and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe."

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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