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Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects Paperback – May 18, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


'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.

About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was born in England and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. His long career established him as one of the most influential philosophers, mathematicians, and social reformers of the twentieth century. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Barlow Press (May 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1409727211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1409727217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (263 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,737,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Carrie Laben on May 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
A lot of the arguments in this book could be, or have been, opposed by experienced and clever apologists. Nevertheless, this is the best book I have seen for the new, young, or lonely atheist.
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.
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Format: Paperback
Reading anything by Russell is like sitting in a single-person jury box while evaluating the arguments of a very bright, extremely lucid and highly opinionated attorney who tends to offer well-reasoned analysis but frequently crosses over into the realm of diatribe. As a result, it's very possible to agree with his general arguments despite dismissing some of his more extreme component statements.
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.
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5 Comments 346 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Unbelievable. That is the only word for the negative reviews....If you don't want anything other than a good laugh, sort these reviews with the most negative first. Who do these people think they are, calling Bertrand Russell a "fool" and a "hack"? And do those reviewers who cite to Acts of the Apostles and Paul's letter to Romans, the Epistles to Timothy et al, do they really think that is "evidence" to refute Mr. Russell's positions?
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.....
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3 Comments 88 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Like some of the other contributors I have a fondness for this book which arises, I suspect, almost as much from the forthrightness of its title as from its contents.
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.
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