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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Theologian's Nightmare, September 17, 2005
This review is from: Bertrand Russell on God and Religion (Great Books in Philosophy) (Paperback)
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This book consists of twenty-one essays written by Bertrand Russell (1872 to 1970) between 1912 and 1961. They were compiled and edited by Al Seckel, a member of the Bertrand Russell Society and one who has lectured extensively on Russell's life and work. According to Seckel, "the purpose of this collection is to bring together in one...volume some of Russell's most delightful thought-provoking essays on [organized] religion."

Some topics discussed are agnosticism, atheism, rationalism, churches, God, the soul, science, free thought, sin, and faith. He examines these and other topics with "rational skepticism" which is "withholding judgment where the evidence is not sufficient, or, even more so, when there is contrary evidence."

This collection of essays definitely captures the scope and depth of Russell's thinking on religion. His logic and reasoning are impeccable. I now understand why he was called "the world's most famous atheist."

The book is divided into five parts. Here are the titles of my favorite essays taken from each part:

I. (6 essays)

(1) Why I am not a Christian.
(2) The faith of a rationalist. (No supernatural reasons are needed to make humans kind.)

II. (5 essays)

(1) A debate on the existence of God. (Between Russell and a Father of the church.)

III. (2 essays)

(1) Science and religion.

IV. (6 essays)

(1) An outline of intellectual rubbish.
(2) The value of free thought. (How to become a truth-seeker and break the chains of mental slavery.)
(3) Ideas that have harmed mankind (and womankind).
(4) Ideas that have helped mankind (and womankind).

V. (2 essays)

(1) The theologian's nightmare.

Before the first essay begins, there is a brief biography of Bertrand Russell (later Lord Russell) by Seckel. It is very thorough as evidenced by the more than 55 footnotes at its end.

Finally, the only problem I had with this book is with regard to referencing. All essays are not referenced or inadequately referenced. I know that Russell in his other works extensively referenced. Thus, I'm not sure if Seckel edited out references to save space and assumed that the reader would believe everything Russell said due to his reputation. On a subject like this, I think references should have been kept in. Also, there is a bibliography at the end of the book. But it is really just a list of books written by Russell.

In conclusion, this is a fascinating collection of essays by one of most prolific and brilliant thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. Now I understand why Russell won the 1950 Nobel Prize in literature!!

**** 1/2

(essay collection published 1986; acknowledgements; biography of Bertrand Russell; 5 parts or 21 chapters; main narrative 300 pages; "bibliography;" name index; subject index)

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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 21, 2007 12:42:09 PM PDT
J M says:
Extremely helpful. Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 21, 2007 1:01:30 PM PDT
Dear J M:

I'm glad my review was helpful to you.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Uncle Stevie
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Location: London, Ontario, Canada

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