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Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) [Paperback]

Bertrand Russell
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 Feb 2004 Routledge Classics

While its tone is playful and frivolous, this book poses tough questions over the nature of religion and belief.

Religion provides comfortable responses to the questions that have always beset humankind - why are we here, what is the point of being alive, how ought we to behave? Russell snatches that comfort away, leaving us instead with other, more troublesome alternatives: responsibility, autonomy, self-awareness. He tells us that the time to live is now, the place to live is here, and the way to be happy is to ensure others are happy.

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Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) + History of Western Philosophy (Routledge Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (2 Feb 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415325102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415325103
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,552 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). Philosopher, mathematician, educational and sexual reformer, pacifist, prolific letter writer, author and columnist, Bertrand Russell was one of the most influential and widely known intellectual figures of the twentieth century. In 1950 he was awarded the Noble Prize for Literature in 1950 for his extensive contributions to world literature and for his "rationality and humanity, as a fearless champion of free speech and free thought in the West."

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 men's 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

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
146 of 163 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I first came across this book when I was at school. Our divinity teacher, a clergyman, was asked about it and he told us not to read it because it was wicked. The result was that most of the class read it and, in my case, it was the first step to becoming an atheist.
Russell, in his fifteen essays, is humane, rational and tolerant. Indeed, he exhibits many of the qualities his christian critics appear to lack. Anyone who approaches this book with an open mind will be encouraged to think about beliefs and superstitions which from childhood many of us were encouraged to accept uncritically. The result, for some readers, will be to discover a freedom of thought and action outside the stultifying, and often nonsensical, strictures of religious belief. This is a stimulating book which has the capacity, if approached with an open mind, to change your life for the better. In reading it you have nothing to lose except what William Blake descibed as "mind forged manacles." Russell is a helpful step towards intellectual freedom.
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81 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air 15 Mar 2005
By Don Bay
A compilation of lectures and essays dating back to the 1920s, the contents of this book is liberating for any inquiring person feeling trapped in the nonsense of religious superstition. Years ago while attending college in the U.S., I came across this book and was captured by this quotation on the back cover:
"Religion, since it has its source in terror, has dignified certain kinds of fear and made people think them not disgraceful. In this it has done mankind a great disservice: all fear is bad..."
This book stripped the blindfold of religion from my eyes and opened the way toward rational thought. I never looked back. It's a good starting point for anybody wanting to step free of the muck that clutters too many minds, whether Christian or any other religion. Beyond this book are several others on a variety of subjects displaying Russell's compelling clarity of thought. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell is certainly one I can recommend. Give it a shot; you have nothing to lose but your chains.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WATCH OUT ... It'll make you think! 20 Feb 1999
By A Customer
I snatched this book off the shelves when I saw it, eager to dive in, and it did not disappoint me at all. Living in the Bible Belt as I currently do, it is amazing to see the closed-mindedness of the local Bible-thumpers. Every other day the letters to the editor have some religious overtones to them. A profile of a prominent local atheist brought the same kind of ignorance and fear that Russell himself was forced to deal with. If anything else in the book doesn't make you question organized religion and its bid for world-dominance, the tragic story of Russell's failed bid to teach at the City College of NY will show you how afraid religion (specifically Christians) do not want anyone bucking the system and thinking for themselves. A must read for all people, followers of organized religion or not.
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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, provocative and utterly sensible 30 May 2006
Bertrand Russell's greatest skill was to communicate complex and provocative ideas with clarity and logic. Why I Am Not A Christian includes a variety of essays, some more immediately accessible than others, but the title work is as calm and reasonable dismantling of Christianity as could possibly be written. There is no point me reiterating his arguments here, but Russell makes so persuasive a case that the only conclusion is thus: if you believe Christianity is what it claims to be, you clearly haven't given the subject proper consideration
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Can You Believe If You're Thinking? 9 May 2010
By demola
This is a beautiful critique on the fallacy of religious belief and not just christianity. Simply, we believe because we are brought up to. There is no indispensable reason for God as much as there has never been a creditable attestation of the presence or existence of God. Russell debunks all the usual arguments in support of a God. In other essays he goes on to debunk religious and moral authority maintained to crimp individuality and freedom. The essay "Nice People" is an awesomely comical take on all those "nice" people always doing things just for your own good. The same nice people whose closet fantasies are just as ribald as any saucy poet's verse. And the account of how Russell was prevented from teaching at a college in America is instructive as to the destructive power of those who set out to defend our young. A must read.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
This book is a collection of short essays on Russell's approach to Christianity, theological argument and the impact of religion on the world. If it were released today, rather than 80 years ago, it would hardly seem controversal at all, but for its time it caused a bit of a stir. Simon Blackburn writes an interesting preface, discussing T.S Eliot's response to it, and there is also a interesting account of Russell's ban from teaching at chicago university because of his "immoral" views. However, the highlight of the book without a doubt is the Russell-Coppleston debate on the existence of God. It is worth getting this book just for that. The other essays address issues such as life after death, the treatment of nice people, and occasions of christian brutality and bigotry through history, e.g. the treatment of Thomas Paine.

To conclude, I thought the book was clearly written, well mannered and used many reasonable grounds of critique. It is far better than the recent flurry of anti-religious texts lining the shelves of book shops. But it didnt persuade me that the world would be better off without religion, or adress many aspects of the (christian) religious ways of life.

One last note of interest; whilst the 'new atheism' (Dawkins, Dennett etc) use darwinism as the primary grounds for atheism, Russell mentions Darwin and natural selection only once briefly... something there to think over.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Dated but still the main atheist work
I loved reading this. Having spent much time in discussion with many of the 'new' atheists, it was great to discover that there are arguments are not new at all. Read more
Published 21 days ago by David Robertson
5.0 out of 5 stars Genuis...
I very much enjoyed reading this book. The use of language is very much of its time and I did find myself reaching for the dictionary more than once (formiculary was not in the... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Biro
2.0 out of 5 stars Arrogance
In this book Bertrand Russell shows his abosulute arrogance and ignorance. He also absolves himself of any responsibilility as he sees fit. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Miss F.L.Shaw
5.0 out of 5 stars general review
This collection of Russell's essays shows why he was without doubt one of the greatest philosophers of his time. Read more
Published 9 months ago by honesty!!
4.0 out of 5 stars A master of reason.
A bit dated now in its language, but he puts the case so well for why he is(was) not a Christian; good examples in the essays of how 'the establishment' views anyone that threatens... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Phil Willis
3.0 out of 5 stars High on opinion, low on fact.
For a supposedly intelligent man Bertrand Russell's writings on religion were remarkably myopic and prejudicial as this collection of essays demonstrates. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Neutral
5.0 out of 5 stars Very good
Very good read. Bertrand Russell expresses himself brilliantly, with both humour and intellect. A pleasure to read. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Dragongem
3.0 out of 5 stars This shows how much progress humanity has made in the past 50 years
I was quite surprised how weak Russell's arguments are, as set out in his 1927 speech 'Why I am not a Christian'. Read more
Published on 11 Dec 2011 by Ray Rational
4.0 out of 5 stars Like having a best friend/ VIP round for tea
Bertrand Russell shares many good ideas in,' Why I am not a Christian'. I admire that he is not afraid to take an honest critical evaluation of religion, specifically Christianity. Read more
Published on 6 July 2011 by A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for the new non-believer!
I thought I ought to try reading some Bertrand Russell and someone recommended this as a good starting point. She was quite right. Entertaining and thought-provoking.
Published on 8 Nov 2010 by h1vac
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