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Why I Am Not a Christian

Why I Am Not a Christian

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Why I Am Not a Christian is a 1927 essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

 by the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 philosopher
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

 hailed by The Independent
The Independent
The Independent is a British national morning newspaper published in London by Independent Print Limited, owned by Alexander Lebedev since 2010. It is nicknamed the Indy, while the Sunday edition, The Independent on Sunday, is the Sindy. Launched in 1986, it is one of the youngest UK national daily...

as "devastating in its use of cold logic", and listed in the New York Public Library
New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is the largest public library in North America and is one of the United States' most significant research libraries...

's list of the most influential books of the 20th century.

History


Originally a talk given March 6, 1927 at Battersea
Battersea
Battersea is an area of the London Borough of Wandsworth, England. It is an inner-city district of South London, situated on the south side of the River Thames, 2.9 miles south-west of Charing Cross. Battersea spans from Fairfield in the west to Queenstown in the east...

 Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society
National Secular Society
The National Secular Society is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no-one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of religion. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866...

, it was published that year as a pamphlet
Pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

 and was later published, with other essays, in the book, Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (ISBN 0-671-20323-1).

Contents


Russell begins by defining what he means by the term Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 and sets out to explain why he does not "believe in God and in immortality" and why he does not "think that Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 was the best and wisest of men", the two things he identifies as "essential to anybody calling himself a Christian". He considers a number of logical arguments for the existence of God
Existence of God
Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others. In philosophical terms, arguments for and against the existence of God involve primarily the sub-disciplines of epistemology and ontology , but also of the theory of value, since...

, including the cosmological argument
Cosmological argument
The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God...

, the natural-law argument
Natural-law argument
Natural-law argument for the existence of God was especially popular in the eighteenth century as a result of the influence of Sir Isaac Newton. Observers concluded that things are the way they are because God intended them to be that way, though He operated outside of the natural law, Himself, as...

, the teleological argument
Teleological argument
A teleological or design argument is an a posteriori argument for the existence of God based on apparent design and purpose in the universe. The argument is based on an interpretation of teleology wherein purpose and intelligent design appear to exist in nature beyond the scope of any such human...

 and moral arguments
Argument from morality
The argument from morality is one of many arguments for the existence of God. It comes in different forms, all aiming to support the claim that God exists with observations about morality...

 following what he describes as "the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations". He also goes into specifics about Christian theology
Christian theology
- Divisions of Christian theology :There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.- Sub-disciplines :...

, alleging defects in Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

's teaching and his moral character, in particular because Jesus believed in hell
Hell
In many religious traditions, a hell is a place of suffering and punishment in the afterlife. Religions with a linear divine history often depict hells as endless. Religions with a cyclic history often depict a hell as an intermediary period between incarnations...

 and everlasting punishment. He argues ad absurdum
Reductio ad absurdum
In logic, proof by contradiction is a form of proof that establishes the truth or validity of a proposition by showing that the proposition's being false would imply a contradiction...

against the "argument from design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

", and favors Darwin's theories
Evolutionism
Evolutionism refers to the biological concept of evolution, specifically to a widely held 19th century belief that organisms are intrinsically bound to increase in complexity. The belief was extended to include cultural evolution and social evolution...

:

Russell also expresses doubt over the historical existence of Jesus
Historicity of Jesus
The historicity of Jesus concerns how much of what is written about Jesus of Nazareth is historically reliable, and whether the evidence supports the existence of such an historical figure...

 and questions the morality of religion: "I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world." Russell concludes:

Similarly titled works by other authors

  • Why I Am Not a Scientist (2009) ISBN 0520259602 by biological anthropologist Jonathan M. Marks
  • Why I Am Not A Christian by historian and philosopher Richard Carrier
    Richard Carrier
    Richard Cevantis Carrier is an American historian. He is best known for his writings on Internet Infidels, otherwise known as the Secular Web, where he served as Editor-in-Chief for several years....

  • Why I Am Not a Muslim
    Why I Am Not a Muslim
    Why I Am Not a Muslim, a book written by Ibn Warraq, is a critique of Islam and the Qur'an. It was first published by Prometheus Books in the USA in 1995...

    , by Ibn Warraq
    Ibn Warraq
    Ibn Warraq is the pen name of a polemical author of Pakistani origin who is critical of Islam, and who founded the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society . He is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry focusing on Qur'anic criticism...

    , is a 1995 book also critical of the religion in which the author was brought up — in this case, Islam
    Islam
    Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

    . The author mentions Why I Am Not a Christian towards the end of the first chapter, stating that many of its arguments also apply to Islam.
  • Why I Am Not a Hindu, a 1996 book in a similar vein by Kancha Ilaiah
    Kancha Ilaiah
    Kancha Ilaiah is an Indian activist and writer. His books include Why I am not a Hindu, God As Political Philosopher: Budha's challenge to Brahminism, A Hollow Shell, The State and Repressive Culture, Manatatwam , and Buffalo Nationalism: A Critique of Spiritual Fascism.- Bibliography :*Why I Am...

    , an activist opposed to the Indian caste system.
  • Why I Am Not a Jew , by David Dvorkin, is a similar essay published in Free Enquiry Magazine explaining the author's transition from Judaism to atheism.
  • Why I Am Still a Christian is a book by Catholic theologian Hans Küng
    Hans Küng
    Hans Küng is a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and prolific author. Since 1995 he has been President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic . Küng is "a Catholic priest in good standing", but the Vatican has rescinded his authority to teach Catholic theology...

    , published in 1987.
  • Why I Am Not a Secularist is a book by political theorist William E. Connolly
    William E. Connolly
    William E. Connolly is a political theorist known for his work on democracy and pluralism. He is the Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His 1974 work The Terms of Political Discourse won the 1999 Benjamin Lippincott Award.-Biography:Connolly was raised in...

    , published in 2000.

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