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Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects Paperback – October 30, 1967
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'Devastating in its use of cold logic.' - The Independent
'The most robust as well as the most witty infidel since Voltaire and he can not fail to sharpen men's sense of what is entailed both in belief and unbelief.' - The Spectator
'What makes the book valuable is life-long uncompromising intellectual honesty.' - Times Literary Supplement--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Russell writes with a great deal of simplicity and gentle British good humor. He attacks beliefs (especially the belief in God's and Christ's inherent goodness and in the sexual mores of his day) rather than people, by and large, which is the mark of a truly humane person.
Unlike many modern philosophers his arguments do not require an advanced degree or even an advanced vocabulary to follow. And because the book is made up of fairly short essays on a variety of subjects rather than one long argument, it can be read at leisure without losing the thread of discussion.
Overall, I highly recommend this book for anyone with even a slight interest in the subject matter at hand.
Before diving into his arguments, it's important to understand the layout of this book, as the title can be a bit misleading. This compilation includes 15 essays written between 1899 and 1954 and a lengthy (25% of the entire work) appendix written by Dr. Paul Edwards on the topic of the 1940 "Bertrand Russell Case." Despite the primary title (taken from one relatively short essay), the work includes topics beyond religion such as the cruelty of the Middle Ages, the heroism of Thomas Paine and grave threat to liberal democracy entailed in declining academic freedom. That said, Russell's views on morality and religion are infused throughout the essays and provide some degree of coherence.
Russell's arguments against Christianity generally fall into the following categories: 1) there is no compelling evidence for a Creator (i.e. deism) and much less evidence to believe in theism, 2) the teachings of Jesus, while generally admirable, include many pernicious tenets, 3) Christians have routinely ignored the admirable tenets of Jesus, and 4) the net impact of Christianity has been decidedly negative for mankind.
Regarding the first, Russell is on much firmer ground in his criticisms of theism than of deism. He convincingly deals with the First Cause, Natural Law and Morality arguments for a Creator.Read more ›
Many years ago, during my first year in college, my humanities teaching assistant explained to our little section that there are basically two writing styles: Kant and Russell. Russell worked hard to write clearly, and consequently, readers of his works are able to chart the inconsistentcies and changes in his philosophy over time. Kant's style, on the other hand, was to write in such a manner that no one in their right mind could be certain what Kant was trying to say. As a result, everyone today still believes Kant to be brilliant. Our section was to strive to be Russell, and not Kant (The sucess of our striving was largely mixed and debatable, but that is beside the point).
Russell is a good writer--and this book adresses the subject. For me (and I am speaking only for myself here--I'm not calling anyone a fool or a pervert or trying to create a strawman. If you think I am, my e-mail address is available, so please write me--if you care. I'll edit this review), this book addresses Blaise Pacal's rationale for "faith:" If you believe in the christian god, and there is no god--you really have not lost anything. But if you do not believe in the christian god (or whatever system of beliefs is at issue), and it turns out to be "true"--why, you've lost a whole big bunch, swimming around in that lake of fire.....Read more ›
The less positive reviews of this book mainly come from two directions. The first is that some people have been disappointed to find that the book is not a comprehensive case against Christianity, and includes "irrelevant" material. That's because the book is not a manifesto: it's simply a collection of essays on different topics, not all of them about Christianity. "Why I am not a Christian" is the title essay, not the theme of a connected book. In the same way the essay "In Praise of Idleness" is the title essay of Russell's book "In Praise of Idleness", but someone who expects every essay in that entertaining collection to be about idleness will of course be disappointed.
Some of the other, stronger, comments appear to be manifestations of the odium theologicae, and unintentionally justify Russell's scepticism concerning the notion that monotheistic belief leads to tolerance, kindness, or even peace of mind.
In the title essay Russell outlines his ethical case for rejecting religion. That is, the idea of YHWH or Jehovah or "God" struck Russell as essentially a personification of all that is worst in humanity: cruel, intolerant, vengeful, violent, aggressive, an enthusiastic proponent of the slaughter of people who happen to live in other tribes or believe in a different version of YHWH, and certainly no friend of good things like intelligence, independence or beauty (or animals). Many decent Christians share Russell's ethical revulsion for the wars and persecutions brought about by Christianity and the other monotheistic religions, which continue to the present day.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'll list below some notes on these essays. Note that the contents may vary from those I've given; I've seen slightly different versions of these tables. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Rerevisionist
It is mostly common sense. However, those who want to believe will not agree with the book.Published 11 days ago by Anne R. Lavallee
Well-written, witty and informative. A gentle yet firm declaration of principle.Published 1 month ago by John H Gilliss
To me Russell' views are too subjectivel and full of grudgesPublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Bertrand Russell is one of the most careful thinkers I've ever encountered. He thinks you should believe what's true, not whatever you want.Published 2 months ago by Thomas Gill
I read this book many years ago when I was an agnostic who was still trying to figure out the great mysteries of Christianity. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Stephanie Elkins