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146 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rational survey of the irrationality of christianity
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...
Published on 24 Mar 2001

versus
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. There is nothing that Dawkins says that Russell did not say (and say it better). What comes across though is how dated some of his arguments are - for example that the universe is eternal (this was pre-big...
Published 3 months ago by David Robertson


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146 of 163 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A rational survey of the irrationality of christianity, 24 Mar 2001
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 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Breath of Fresh Air, 15 Mar 2005
By 
Don Bay (Froson Sweden) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lucid, provocative and utterly sensible, 30 May 2006
By 
Liam Herringshaw (St John's, Newfoundland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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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33 of 40 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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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
This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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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3.0 out of 5 stars Dated but still the main atheist work, 2 April 2014
By 
David Robertson "The Wee Flea" (Dundee, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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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. There is nothing that Dawkins says that Russell did not say (and say it better). What comes across though is how dated some of his arguments are - for example that the universe is eternal (this was pre-big bang) and his laissez faire attitude to women and sex - arguing that virgins should not be allowed to be teachers! Well written, clever but ultimately falls far short of a realistic challenge to Christianity. In response to this book Solas CPC (of which I am director) commissioned a number of people to write 'Why I am not an Atheist'. Feel free to get it to get the other side. My own contribution is an answer to Russell.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Genuis..., 1 Nov 2013
This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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 English on-line dictionary; I found it in the Spanish dictionary).
In my view, Why I am not a Christian is not the best essay in this collection. I particularly liked his explanation of the 'modern' family in The New Generation.
Do read the appendix which gives an account of why he was prevented from teaching at the college of the city of New York. Unbelievable!
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4.0 out of 5 stars A master of reason., 12 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
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 their cosy little world. A master of reason.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not quite Great..., 10 Aug 2010
By 
Magic Lemur (Somewhere in Madagascar) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Why I am not a Christian: and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
One of the things I thought while reading The God Delusion is that:
"Surely this book is not unprecedented. Surely there have been other identikit books where the author goes through the arguments for God one-by-one & knocks them all flat..?"

Although there are apparently other books that do this, this one is not one of them and instead it is basically a collection of essays, rather than a complete demolition of the God hypothesis. Russell uses many arguments to dismiss elements of Christianity, but there is no one essay that completely grasps the nettle (although the title essay does a pretty good job).

The essays essentially range over bits and pieces of religious dogma and there are several themes that crop up notably:
1. Christians often differ from Christ's teaching (and Christ's teaching was not especially merit-worthy).
2. Religious movements (be they Christian or Soviet Communist) are no substitute for reasoned, independent thinking.
3. 1920's attitudes to sex were prudish in the extreme and unhealthy for Children and society.
and
4. Most philosophical arguments brought forth for God (e.g. the universe needs a cause and God is the basis of morality) are deeply flawed.

All of these are interesting in their own right, and there are also other pieces about Thomas Paine and 2 sections on the 'New York College' controversy (where Russell was refused an academic position due to the actions of religious zealots in positions of power.)

Sadly though, as these essays are a collection of Russells writings on religion, they tend to repeat certain themes & are not as quotable or applicable as modern non-believers would desire. Indeed I could only find one quotation (from the end of the title essay) which is in wide circulation, compared to the rash of Hume and Voltaire quotations doing the rounds.

That is why I can't fully endorse this book and feel slightly frustrated that Russell never did one grand Magnum Opus to collect his thoughts on religion in one authoritive tome (with the arguable exception of History of Western Philosophy).

So, if you (like me) are after things to enhance your perspective on atheism, then do read this book. However, if you are after bulletproof arguments and answers to the deeper questions, then I recommend you finish the latest works of the 'Four Horsemen' (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) first...
Oh, and also try the Tao Te Ching - proof that not all ancient literature was God-based or backwards...

P.S. On a lighter note, if you want to hear a satire from the 60's of Bertrand Russell and his philosophical musings, try Portraits From Memory (Bertrand Russell) by the inimitable Jonathan Miller.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful attack against dogmatism, 17 Aug 2000
By A Customer
This book is a collection of essays written by Bertrand Russell in a long span of time, going from the end of the 19th Century to the 1950's. These essays were collected by the editor, Professor Paul Edwards, under the common title of "Why I am not a Christian", which is the title of the first essay in the book. As it can be evinced from the title, all the essays are powerful and keen attacks against the dogmas of the Christian religion, which Russell regarded as dangerously impairing the healthy development of human civilization in general and individual psyche in particular. Nowadays, some of Russell's essays might be considered outdated and obsolete because society has already evolved in the direction they pointed; but it must be remebered that at the beginning of the Century and even in the 30's or 50's his ideas on sex, on marriage and on the education of children were completely new.
Finally, this book does not deal only with the debunking of Christian mythology and dogma: there is also an interesting essay on "Life in the Middle Ages" and a passionate biographical essay on Thomas Paine, the great American revolutionary. Perhaps Bertrand Russell thought that between the great patriot ostracized by his countrymen and the professor of philosophy exposed to the fury of the bigots there were more than passing similarities...
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