Why I Am Not A Christian

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The English philosopher Bertrand Russell delivered a speech entitled "Why I Am Not A Christian" on March 6, 1927 at Battersea Town Hall. It was subsequently published as a pamphlet, and was later collected together with other atheistic essays by Russell as Why I Am Not A Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. The collected volume also includes the transcript of Russell's BBC radio discussion regarding the existence of God with Father Frederick Copleston.

The speech starts with a discussion of the various uses of the word "Christian" and "Christianity", pointing out that the term is used "in a very loose sense by a great many people", some of whom "mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life". Russell says that his rejection of Christianity is a rejection of belief in God, a rejection of belief in immortality and a rejection of the belief "that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness".

Russell then proceeds to discuss the traditional arguments for the existence of God: the first-cause argument, the argument from natural law, the teleological argument, the moral argument given by Immanuel Kant and the argument that God is required to bring about justice. Of religious believers, Russell says that the traditional arguments serve no purpose: "What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason."

Russell goes on to discuss the character of Christ, saying of three moral teachings of Christ (turn the other cheek, judge not lest ye be judged and sell that which thou hast and give to the poor): "All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian." Then Russell points to defects in the teaching of Christ: the belief in the imminent end of the world, and the moral teachings based upon those - take no thought for the morrow - are suspect for Russell. Christ's belief in the existence of Hell is a "serious defect in Christ's moral teaching" according to Russell: "I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment". Russell concludes that Christ's teachings are not quite as wise or virtuous as some people have said, and that Buddha and Socrates have higher moral characters.

Russell says of religion that "every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world". Religion, Russell concludes, is based on fear, terror of the unknown and "he wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes". Instead, Russell says that we need to overcome fear and instead hope for a future based on the use of intelligence in freedom: "We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face."

The title has been restated in works by a number of authors on religion: Ibn Warraq's Why I Am Not A Muslim, Kancha Ilaiah's Why I Am Not A Hindu and the Catholic theologian Hans Küng's Why I Am Still A Christian.