Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH: Why I Am Not a Christian
Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects is a collection of essays and speeches given by philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, including the essay Why I Am Not a Christian.
Contents of Collection
Why I Am Not A Christian (1927)
Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization? (1930)
Differences Between Founders of Religions and Their Current Form
- Russell details how many religions, including Christianity and Buddhism, do not follow the original teachings of their founders. Russell lists the ideas of Matthew 19:21 , Matthew 5:9 , Matthew 6:6 , and Matthew 7:1 as teachings that the Christian church does not follow. Russell then posits that religious leaders use their interpretations of the teachings of their founders to gain power and to stop truth. Examples of this include Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, and Sigmund Freud. Russell also notes that religion has done nothing to help with social problems such as slavery and economic justice.
Christianity and Sex
- Russell notes that women have been held inferior due to religion's "Strict Moral Code". Examples include the teaching of virginity and prohibition of sex before marriage, no right to divorce, and no right to birth control. Russell then objects to the Church's stance on the spread of syphilis, stating that the religious believe that the sinful and even their spouses and children should be punished for their sexual practices. The Church's position as to sexual education also gives young people the idea of sex as sinful and goes against human nature. Russell then presents the Problem of evil and a form of the Euthyphro dilemma.
The Objections to Religion
- Russell divides his arguments against religion into two groups:
- Intellectual Objections
- Russell notes the subjectivity of belief and that the morals of a religion are followed and preached by believers who get them from their beliefs; therefore, the truth of a religion is important to whether those morals are valid. Russell then notes that the definition of God is vastly different from different time periods, which is due to the expansion of scientific knowledge and "candor", which Russell espouses.
- Moral Objections
- Intellectual Objections
The Soul and Immorality
- Russell posits that the soul emerged through the loss of political power and that many religions favor faith over works and consider the breaking of moral codes as worse than the hurting of society. Russell then states that "Christian ethics has made itself completely individualistic. I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity has been to make men more egotistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made them; for the impulses that naturally take a man outside the walls of his ego are those of sex, parenthood, and patriotism or herd instinct" (p.34), which hurts society. Russell then gives a few bible quotations, which show Christianity's negative view of the family and the breakup of family for belief. Russell then notes the strange beliefs about the reasons that some people get into heaven and some do not. Russell then notes that there is no logical reason for condemning the actions of Spaniards, who baptized the infants of Mexicans and Peruvians and then killed the babies.
Sources of Intolerance
- Russell begins by noting that the Jews created the ideas of a chosen people and of an emphasis on personal righteousness. Other religions that emerged at the same time as Judaism did not have the doctrines that all other religions were false, a doctrine that Christianity has inherited and used for intolerance. Russell then states that Christianity's "mildness" is only due to its reaction to freethinkers who were prosecuted for their scientific knowledge.