Why I Am Not a Christian (1927)

Bertrand Russell



        One: Belief in God

                  No specific idea of what God is like?

        Two: Belief in immortality

                  If one does not believe in life after death one is not a Christian?

        Three: Belief in Christ as the best and wisest of men

                  Needn’t believe he was divine?

        Doesn’t require a belief in Hell.

        Russell rejects all three



        1st cause argument (Cosmological argument)

                  Positing God as cause of the world doesn’t help, as who caused God?

                  World could have always existed

                  No reason why world couldn’t have come into existence without a cause

                  You should be able to give Richard Taylor’s response to each of these objections

        Design argument

                  Argument that world must have been designed to suit living beings is undermined by the realization that living beings adapted to the world and that is why the world seems such a nice fit for living beings

                  Not likely a good and all powerful being would have designed a world with all the defects of our world (this is a version of the problem of evil)

        Moral arguments

                  Divine Command theory of right and wrong: Right is what God commands and wrong is what God forbids

                    -        If what is right is right because God commanded it then we can’t praise God for his commands and such commands are arbitrary (lacking a good reason)

                    -        If God commands something because it is already right, then right and wrong are independent of God

                  Argument for remedying injustice: In this world, sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer we need to suppose a God who will bring justice into this world

                    -        But why assume the world must be just?

                    -        Given that the world we know if filled with injustice, why assume the rest of reality is any different?



        Not the wisest, because he predicted the second coming and it hasn’t happened

        Not the best of men

                  Christ had a good deal of moral excellence and perfection, such as:

                    -        Turn the other cheek, judge not lest one be judged, and if one wants to be perfect, go and sell what you have and give to the poor (he criticizes Christians for not liking or living up to this teaching)

                  But was not the best or most perfect person

                  Socrates or Buddha were better men.

        Objections to Christ’s moral views

                  (1) Christ believed in and threatened hellfire and eternal damnation

                    -        This has caused unspeakable miser in those who believed they have sinned;

                    -        A truly good person would not put such fears and terror into the world

                    -        Any profoundly humane person wouldn’t believe in everlasting punishment

                    -        Hell-fire as a punishment for sin is a doctrine of cruelty and it has brought cruelty into the world

                  (2) Christ’s vindictive fury against disbelievers and those who would not listen to him detracts from his excellence

                                      Socrates, for example, had a different attitude

                    -        “Only way to God is through me”

                    -        If you don’t believe in me you will go to Hell




                  Don’t attack religion; it makes people virtuous and w/o it, they’d be evil.

                    -        Are atheists immoral people?

        Negative (Russell’s view)

                  Religion is the source of much evil in the world

                  The stronger the religious fervor, the worse the situation

                  Consider the inquisition (Church persecuting heretics), witch burning (millions of women)

                  Organized churches have been a principle impediment to human progress (support for Nazis, Southern churches support for segregation)


                  God’s will and human good not the same

                    -        Religious based morals not tied to human happiness

                                      Sex is bad; fear, shame

                    -        Prohibition of contraception and affects on world population



        Brainwashed in infancy

        Fear/terror of meaningless, death, the unknown

                  That the universe will eventually die out

        Need for safety and comfort (a big brother looking out for you)



        Virtuous person is not a religious person,


                  Unworthy of free and rational people

                  Debasing, not worthy of self-respecting people

                  Slavishly subdued by terror

                  Fetters human intelligence using ancient words of ignorant people

                  Belief in God a crutch

        Instead look to human intelligence and science

                    -        “to conquer the world”

                  Look to our own efforts to improve the world

                  Need a fearless outlook

                  Faith in human intelligence

        Does such a humanism manifest an undue faith in humans?

        As if we are so great we can solve all our problems?

                  A kind of hubris? Arrogance?