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Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  18,501 ratings  ·  683 reviews
Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questio ...more
Paperback, 266 pages
Published October 30th 1967 by Touchstone (first published May 1957)
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Jun 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nobels
"Why I Am Not A Christian?"

If I ask myself that question, the answer will be:

"I am not a Christian because I read the Bible, both Old and New Testament, from cover to cover, and consider it complete nonsense to believe that to be literal, figurative or symbolical truth."

"Why do I not believe Christianity is good?"

Because I read Bertrand Russell. As a young, impressionable person, I used to lament the fact that I was not given "the gift" of belief, as it seemed to come with confidence in the be
Ahmad Sharabiani
Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects, Bertrand Russell
Why I Am Not a Christian is an essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell. Originally a talk given 6 March 1927 at Battersea Town Hall, under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, it was published that year as a pamphlet and has been republished several times in English and in translation.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز شانردهم ماه آوریل سال 1975 میلادی
عنوان: چرا مسیحی نی
Mar 01, 2016 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
[Original review, Mar 1 2016]


[Update, Dec 21 2019]

In the interests of balance, here's the editorial from this week's edition of Christianity Today:

Trump Should Be Removed from Office

It’s time to say what we said 20 years ago when a president’s character was revealed for what it was.


In our founding documents, Billy Graham explains that Christianity Today will help evangelical Christians interpret the news in a manner that reflects their faith. The
Jun 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
By the time I read this book, I was already not a Christian, but it was still hard for me to read. It was kinda like accidentally figuring out a magician's trick. You knew he wasn't *really* doing magic, but seeing how he did it somehow made the world less fun.

That said, this is a great book. It's not without bite, but it's also not bitter. Having been a big fan of Russell's epistemological books, I was impressed that this book displayed the same clarity of thought and communication. His logical
You just have to read this. Even if you are a Christian, you should read about every point of view, to form or change (or not) your own. Russell explains complicated things which such clarity, a little of humor... It doesn't get tedious, at all.
Take "The argument of design", for instance.
I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan, the
May 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
After reading most of the "new Atheist" books -- I read the ones by Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens -- this old one by Betrand Russell is still miles better than they. To be sure, I disagree with most of what he says, but his writing is much more clear-headed and articulate than the new ones. There really aren't many new arguments the new generation of atheists bring to the table, therefore I think it is reasonably fair to use Russell's as the standard bearer for them all.

Jun 25, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love these essays! Russell never argues that faith is impossible, but makes it clear why he doesn't have it. (I cannot believe in a god who, given an infinite universe and millions of years in which to perfect it, can come up with nothing better than the nazis and the KKK) - paraphrase
Kevin Shepherd
"One of the works of literature for which [Russell] was awarded the Nobel Prize is a widely read essay first delivered as a lecture in 1927 entitled, 'Why I Am Not a Christian.' ...I haven't forgotten it yet, and I have promised myself that I never will. ...If you were to read his essay, and in the interest of open-mindedness I would urge you to do so, you would find that Bertrand Russell, who is one of the world's foremost logicians as well as a philosopher and mathematician, undoes with logic ...more
Jul 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: spiritualistic
I probably would have liked this book a lot more if I had read it when I was younger, but now I find Russell's critique of religion profoundly disappointing. For a logician and philosopher of his caliber, his proofs--on the reasons why the basis of religious belief is existential terror, for example--are unconvincing and sometimes shockingly sloppy. They tend to rely on a straw-man caricatures that he sets up and knocks down, rather than actually engaging with the roots of faith or the complexit ...more
Russell, Bertrand

Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other w
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This book contains a collection of essays, on the complex nature of religion. Being brought up in a religious background, I was taught many aspects about Catholicism as a child, and almost into my teenage years, and it was only then that I began to start questioning it, and my so-called beliefs. I realised I didn't actually believe any of it. I have considered myself an Atheist, for many years.
Russell explains to us how well organised religion and Christianity is terribly destructive and also hi
Alex J. O'Connor
I think I had admittedly underrated Russell until reading this. A wonderful example of forward thinking, and his influence can be clearly recognised in the works of contemporary thinkers (particularly Sam Harris' views of morality and Christopher Hitchens' linkage of Stalinism and state religiosity). Definitely worth reading.
P.J. Sullivan
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Russell first defines what he means by a Christian: someone who believes in God, the immortality of the soul, and Jesus Christ. Then he explains why he does not believe. Step by step he dismisses as fallacious the arguments for the existence of God: the first cause argument, the argument from design, etc. Then he discusses whether we survive death. Then the character of Jesus, as presented in the Gospels. He agrees that Jesus was an admirable man, but not divine and not the best or wisest of men ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
My downstairs roommates are away for a while, and I am catsitting. It just so happens that my downstairs roommates also have an extensive collection of books. Books that have been on my to-read list for YEARS. And here they are, in one location, with no chance of someone checking them out before I can get my hands on them. So every other day, I brave the cat (actually, a hellbeast), feed and water it, and select a new tome.

One of this week's selection was "Why I Am Not a Christian." I should ve
James Hold
Jan 27, 2020 rated it did not like it
If I were to describe this book/essay in a single word, it would be 'dishonest'. A more fitting title would be 'Why I Am an Atheist'. Only 'Not a Christian' has greater shock value, generating instant PR that hypes the book and promotes sales. So maybe Bert knew what he was doing after all.

Here's the deal: Burt doesn't believe in a Creator, a Supreme Being, or a Higher Power greater than himself. And he singles out Christianity to make his point. Why? Why not Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism? Or C
Mark Hebwood
Ah well... I don't know about this. I must say I expected more, and would have needed more for this to be an intellectually satisfying exchange (between my thoughts and Bertrand's). I have thought about the subject of religion for a long time, and I am fascinated by the fact that it exists. What does religion deliver to a believer? What is the epistemological quality of religion, and if there cannot be one (which is what I would argue), why can believers "not see that"? Equally, why can I, as a ...more
عماد العتيلي
Aug 18, 2015 rated it really liked it

This is the very first book I read for Bertrand Russell. I admit: it's huge!
Though I totally disagree with Russell's view of God, but I really loved this book.
There are a lot of inspiring lines I loved.
This man is truly wise.

The part of the book I liked the most was the 'Good Life' part!
It was really fascinating. I read it more than three times!


Regarding 'God' issue, I think that Russell, just like all other atheists and agnostics, is not actually condemning God. He is condemning religious
Camila N.
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Nobody makes me laugh as much while reading philosophy as this incredible sir.
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are many questions. The task of a philosopher is to shatter the certainty of the readers. The philosopher will make you think for yourself based on reasoning.
This book does it splendidly well. Of particular focus,is the views of Russell regarding religion. The first essay is probably the best known- why I am not a Christian?. Russell scrupulously proves it : firstly, by refuting the existence of God on philosophical grounds( design argument, first cause, moral argument etc.).Next, he proce
May 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Disclaimer: My upbringing in a religious home and eventual rejection of religion certainly predisposes me to a book of this subject matter.

I have personally experienced the best and worst of religion as it functions both socially and personally. I find Russell's thoughts incredibly well articulated and very enlightening to me. "Why I Am Not a Christian" and "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?" are must-reads for anyone, regardless of their religious or non-religious stance
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
I read this book before the New Atheism fad of the early aughts and during that time as well and now I have reread it afterward. There is an enjoyment in believing one has taken on a dangerous knowledge that one sees the illusions of the herd for what they are. I am not going to go over the arguments for atheism. I have long ago found that discussion as tiresome. I want religion out of politics but I no longer take snarky delight at being above the unenlightened believers. I think religious thi ...more
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy, religion
A mediocre atheism. If you want the real stuff, read Nietzsche, Marx, or Freud. No one has said anything original on the subject since they.
Jazzy Lemon
Written in 1927, with so much insight and truth. Having been a victim of a religious "Christian" cult, I agree 100% with Mr. Russell.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am kind of disappointed by this book. It is a collection of various essays and lectures of Bertrand Russell on religion. More specifically, it contains the force and direction of his religious critique. Although the essays contain a wide variety of topics (such as sex, free thinking, scientific inquiry, metaphysics and morality), the main thoughts can be summarized rather concise:

1. Religion has a negative impact on intellectual integrety, kindliness and courage. It closes off the human mind f
Διόνυσος Ελευθέριος
Dec 28, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to Διόνυσος by: Monica Morrison
As with every other time I have read Russell, I found Why I Am Not a Christian: And Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects very pleasurable to read. Russell's clear and organized style of writing is somewhat of a rarity in philosophical writing. On the other hand—but also just like the other times I have read his work—he begins with a deep, but almost entirely tacit, faith in Reason's reason, a faith we can no longer seriously share with Russell in a world which finds itself after Nietzsc ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
All. the. stars. This is the most excited I've ever been while reading philosophy. I can't believe how progressive Russell was, saying things almost a century ago that I still feel radical for believing now. About the lack of logic and evidence inherent to religion, of course, and further, the active damage religion causes. But in the more specific details, too: He advocates healthier attitudes toward sex, sex education, masturbation, nudity, and birth control. From what I can tell he was essent ...more
Oct 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: owned
Even though Russell is one of my favourite figures all-round, I didn't find this book especially insightful or inspiring, perhaps because it's now well trodden ground (and maybe wasn't back then, in fairness to him). But an interesting book nonetheless — it would be the kind of Lit essay that scores an A for mechanistic competence rather than the one that scores an A for insight. He also doesn't touch on two of the things which I think are "standard" in this field: problems with science and the ...more
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: atheism-religion
Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

“Why I Am Not a Christian” is a very representative book of essays of the great British philosopher and man of many talents, Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). This book includes the following essays: 1. Why I AM Not A Christian, 2. Am I An Atheist Or An Agnostic?, 3. My Religious Reminiscences, 4. A Free Man’s Worship, 5. Religion and Metaphysics, 6. Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?, 7. How I Came by My Creed; Or, What I Believe, a
Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it
Recently I watched the movie God is not Dead (which I did not like). During the scene where the Christian student stands up to his atheist professor, the professor adds an assignment for the whole class as punishment for this one student's recalcitrance. The assignment is to read Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian on top of their other assigned reading.

I chuckled for I was, ironically, reading this very book at the time. Russell was a world-famous philosopher and outspoken atheist. The
Sep 07, 2015 added it
Shelves: article, philosophy
its one of my favorite part:

"Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the
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Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS, was a Welsh philosopher, historian, logician, mathematician, advocate for social reform, pacifist, and prominent rationalist. Although he was usually regarded as English, as he spent the majority of his life in England, he was born in Wales, where he also died.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 "in recognition of his var

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“I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian god may exist; so may the gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.” 731 likes
“That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.

You find as you look around the world 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. 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.

You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, 'This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.' Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.

That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. 'What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”
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