Why I Am Not a Christian

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Why I Am Not a Christian is an influential essay by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell.

Originally a talk given March 6, 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, including translations into other languages.

Contents[edit]

Russell begins by defining what he means by the term Christian and sets out to explain why he does not "believe in God and in immortality" and why he does not "think that Christ 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 and goes into specifics about Christian theology. He argues ad absurdum against the "argument from design", and favors Darwin's theories.

Russell also expresses doubt over the historical existence of Jesus and questions the morality of religion, which is, in his view, predominantly based on fear.

History[edit]

The first German edition was published in 1932 by Kreis der Freunde monistischen Schrifttums, a monist association in Dresden inspired by Ernst Haeckel. In 1957 Paul Edwards preferred Russell over the then more trendy Ludwig Wittgenstein and published the essay and further texts referring to the background of The Bertrand Russell Case. Russell had been denied a professorship in New York for his political and secular views and his tolerance for the gay till graduation version of homosexuality. Some countries banned the book, including South Africa.[1] The enhanced version has been republished in various editions since the 1960s. The New York Public Library listed it among of the most influential books of the 20th century.[2]

The title has inspired other books in a snowclone fashion. William E. Connolly's Why I Am Not a Secularist (2000) deals directly with various aspects of Russell's argument. He sees Russell's approach as an attempt to exchange a previous center of gravity in public life, based on a Jewish-Christian heritage, with another that is secular-minded. Connolly doubts this exchange of one one-fits-all authoritative approach to public ethics and public reason for a new one that all "reasonable" citizens should abide by.[3] He asks instead for new forms of public engagement that allow for more and more varied perspectives to interact (and restrain) each other. He counts on various important philosophers, from Nietzsche, Freud, and Judith Butler to Michael J. Shapiro and Michel Foucault to have provided such views. Connolly argues that Russell-style secularism, although admirable in its values, may undercut its own goals of freedom and diversity as a result of a narrow and intolerant understanding of the public sphere and reason.[3]


Similarly-titled works by other authors[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Literarische Umschau" - E. Katzmann, Karl Ude [ed.]: Welt und Wort. Literarische Monatsschrift, 14 (1959), 200.
  2. ^ New York Public Library website
  3. ^ a b William E. Connolly, Why I Am Not a Secularist, Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 1999, ISBN 9780816633319, pp. 5ff

External links[edit]