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Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects Paperback – Oct 30 1967

4.0 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (Oct. 30 1967)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671203231
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671203238
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 200 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 122 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #76,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


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 mens 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 alternate Paperback edition.

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.

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Format: Paperback
I admit that reading a book with the title "Why I am Not a Christian" on the bus while to my right a fellow traveler studied the New Testament made me feel quite ill at ease. The title seems to suggest that the author is an argumentative dissenter - and the reader by implication too, since he seems to enjoy this kind of literature.
Then, why read a collection of essays that are for the most part over 70 years old?
Firstly, for the clear style and the straightforward logic of Russell. He does not beat about the bush: "My own view on religion is that of Lucretius [a Roman philosopher of the first century BC, author of "On the Nature of the Universe"]. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race."(24). This statement sums it up nicely for Bertrand Russell; and as expected, Russell's answer to the questions in the titles of the essays "Has Religion made useful Contributions to Civilization?" (1930), "Do we survive Death?" (1936), and "Can Religion Cure our Troubles?" (1954) is a resounding NO.
Secondly, as a warning how overly optimistic we tend to be when it comes to improving human beings by scientific means. Today, some people think that humans can be genetically "improved". In the 1930s, some people - including Russell - thought "that hatred and fear can, with our present psychological knowledge and our present industrial technique, be eliminated altogether from human life."(45) Well, three quarters of a century later we still live in a time of hatred and fear.
Thirdly, for the often unusual and surprising angle from which Russell looks at the seemingly familiar. Take the Renaissance and the French writer Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), for example.
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Format: Paperback
Bertrand Russell is a terrific writer, and the essays collected in this book represent some of his best work. As the title makes clear, most of the book is dedicated to Russell's thoughts on religion, which are somewhat less than flattering. Be aware of what you're getting into, though. If you want a thorough treatment on the rationality of religious belief in a philosophical context, you're better off with something like George H. Smith's "Atheism: The Case Against God." Russell is more concerned with the social and moral effects of religion, which is certainly no less interesting, but it's a somewhat different topic.
The Amazon review of this book mentioned that some of the essays included herein are outdated, since they deal with contemporary social and ethical concerns of the early twentieth century. That may be true, but I still found them to be very interesting reading. Reading about the social character of an age through the eyes of someone like Russell, rather than in a book of history, seems to make that part of our past all the more real. It's interesting to see what the world was like at the time, and where Russell thought it was going. Sometimes there are surprises about what's gotten better and what's gotten worse.
In addition to Russell's essays, the book includes an appendix which details the manner in which Russell was prevented from teaching philosophy at New York City College, which is also interesting reading, if rather disturbing. The number and the zealotry of those calumniators to whom the idea of a prominent atheist teaching philosophy was such anathema were simply disgusting.
If you're interested in reading the freethinker's point of view, you could do little better than Russell. He is far more engaging than most philosophers, and all of these essays are thoughtful and well worth your time.
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Format: Paperback
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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