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on 2 January 2016
Having read the reviews, I wonder what people thought they were buying. Obviously there are a few discomfitted Christians providing low votes, only to be expected, given the subject matter. What really surprises me are the reviews saying the book is mainstream or not a thorough philosophical tear-down of belief in God. The book is what it is, and a product of its time. The ideas have become mainstream, but at the time must have been radical and many modern atheists have adopted and expanded its ideas. The book is also a collection of essays, so a unified, coherent "tear-down" is unrealistic.
What shines throughout this book is Russell himself: the clarity of thought and expression is marvellous, complex ideas are expressed with seeming ease. Russell also doesn't shy away from the resulting (then controversial) outcomes of his reasoning.The sheer humanity of Russell's thinking is shot through this work.
The section about losing the position at New York college was fascinating, and should serve as a warning in our own time about the shutting down of academic freedom in our own times.
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on 24 March 2001
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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on 15 March 2005
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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on 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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Bertrand Russell was all of the above, and more. A true polymath, who lived the very full life, to the age of 97. I first read this work when I was a freshman in college, and felt it was long overdue for a re-read. It is a collection of 15 essays that mainly address religious and moral issues, which were written over more than half a century, from 1899 to the mid-1950's. Many of them were talks that he had given, back in those pre-TV days when people went to listen to speakers in person. Russell's preface for this work is dated 1957.

The first two essays, including the one that was used for the collection's title are rather scathing denunciations of organized religion in general, and Christianity in particular. Russell presents his arguments against those arguments that "prove" the existence of God. He rightly points out the contradictions involved in those who purport to be Christians, but do not follow the teachings of the Bible. Most famously, and certainly one you do not hear in the mega-churches of today, concerns the chances of a rich man getting into Heaven... that is, the equivalent of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. And, of course, there is no comma after the straightforward commandment: Thou Shall Not Kill. Russell selects a few more, for example: Mathew 16:28: "There are some standing here who will not taste death till the Son of Man will come into his Kingdom." Thus, the "second coming" was predicted for the near future, in Biblical terms. He does note the comfort some congregational members derived from noting that their Minister, who was also preaching about an eminent "second coming" later that day was planting trees.

The collection includes an excellent essay "The Fate of Thomas Paine." As Russell says: "He incurred the bitter hostility of three men not generally united: (William) Pitt, Robespierre, and (George) Washington." Further: "Paine's importance in history consists in the fact the he made the preaching of democracy democratic." Whereas Burke argued that the "Act of Settlement" following the Revolution of 1688 was good for all time, Paine took the much more common sense approach: "Paine contends that it is impossible to bind posterity, and that constitutions must be capable of revision from time to time." Paine was "connected" at the highest levels: Lafayette gave him the key to the Bastille, after it fell, to carry to George Washington, as thanks for the inspiration which, in part, was a catalyst for the French revolution. Yet his too-often common sense views inspired the enmity of the ruling authorities, and he would die, poor, and denied even a decent burial. A valuable essay that should be assigned reading in every school.

There is an essay entitled "Our Sexual Ethics," which largely anticipated the changes in our sexual morals over the last half century. This topic is covered in several other essays as well. Russell notes: "The greatest influence toward effecting monogamy is immobility in a region containing few inhabitants." And: "There is no other adult activity for which children are forbidden to prepare themselves by play, or in regard to which there is expected to be a sudden transition from absolute taboo to perfect competence." Another "common sense" advocacy, for the happiness of the partners involved, is that there should be a complete disassociation between money and sex. Like Aldous Huxley, he was predicting the ultimate demise of the family unit, with selected women chosen (and paid!) to bear children that would be raised by the state. Hum!
A judge ruled that Russell was not "suitable" for teaching at the College of City of New York, due, in part, to his "unsuitable" views. This is covered in an excellent appendix, as well as Russell's own response in an essay "Freedom and the Colleges."

I found a few of his essays pedantic, and his 1899 essay, on metaphysics, entitled: Seems madam, nay it is" sophomoric. As others have, he seems to turn atheism into its own religion, and therefore can be rather dogmatic. The only good that organized religions have accomplished? Predicting the eclipses in ancient Egypt. In "Our Sexual Ethics" he repeatedly addresses why men are jealous (if they must support the child, they want to know that it is theirs), but never considers why women can be jealous. And, concerning his legal battle to teach at the College of the City of New York, he says: "For example, I have observed with interest that, although I have criticized the Soviet Government severely ever since 1920...critics ignore all this and quote triumphantly the one or two sentences in which, in moments of hope, I have suggested the possibility of good ultimately coming out of Russia." Would I fall into that "critic" category by reminding him of the following sentence that I quoted in my review of his book, The Conquest of Happiness that he wrote in 1930? "The creation of an organization may be a work of supreme importance. So is the work of those few statesmen who have devoted their lives to producing order out of chaos, of whom Lenin is the supreme type in our day."

Russell was a very impressive man, whose social criticisms, even after a half century, I largely concur with. Still, at times, he was illogical, and did have his own "feet of clay." 4-stars for this collection of his essays.
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on 20 February 1999
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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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2016
This short book presents several essays and articles written by Bertrand Russell concerning the subject of Christianity. The titular essay, originally a lecture from 1927, outlines the general reasons behind Russell's rejection of Christian faith and his acceptance of atheism. The remainder of the articles contribute to the overall theme - addressing specific issues relating to the belief in God.

Throughout, Russell adopts a well-reasoned, clearly argued perspective - and one that is both insightful and interesting to read. Perhaps one of the most fascinating essays is "The Existence of God" - involving a debate between Russell and a Christian priest, exploring the cosmological and philosophical questions ascertaining to the possibility of God's existence. Yet none of these essays in this book are comprehensive: Russell's purpose was to insight thought and entice engagement in a debate concerning religion, not to offer a thorough or systematic denunciation of faith.

The content of this book was written between the 1920's and 1950's - and, in some regards, it's now dated. Many people are today more aware of the limitations and weaknesses of Christian arguments, just as many people are today more willing to question God's existence and the role of the church in society. Yet when Russell proposed the ideas found in this book, many at the time (especially in the USA) considered his views heretical.

Whether you're religious or not, this book is worth reading. I highly recommend it. Note, this item is available new for under £15 - so I suggest looking for the most reasonable seller.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2016
This short book presents several essays and articles written by Bertrand Russell concerning the subject of Christianity. The titular essay, originally a lecture from 1927, outlines the general reasons behind Russell's rejection of Christian faith and his acceptance of atheism. The remainder of the articles contribute to the overall theme - addressing specific issues relating to the belief in God.

Throughout, Russell adopts a well-reasoned, clearly argued perspective - and one that is both insightful and interesting to read. Perhaps one of the most fascinating essays is "The Existence of God" - involving a debate between Russell and a Christian priest, exploring the cosmological and philosophical questions ascertaining to the possibility of God's existence. Yet none of these essays in this book are comprehensive: Russell's purpose was to insight thought and entice engagement in a debate concerning religion, not to offer a thorough or systematic denunciation of faith.

The content of this book was written between the 1920's and 1950's - and, in some regards, it's now dated. Many people are today more aware of the limitations and weaknesses of Christian arguments, just as many people are today more willing to question God's existence and the role of the church in society. Yet when Russell proposed the ideas found in this book, many at the time (especially in the USA) considered his views heretical.

Whether you're religious or not, this book is worth reading. I highly recommend it. Note, this item is available new for under £15 - so I suggest looking for the most reasonable seller.
0Comment| One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 August 2016
This short book presents several essays and articles written by Bertrand Russell concerning the subject of Christianity. The titular essay, originally a lecture from 1927, outlines the general reasons behind Russell's rejection of Christian faith and his acceptance of atheism. The remainder of the articles contribute to the overall theme - addressing specific issues relating to the belief in God.

Throughout, Russell adopts a well-reasoned, clearly argued perspective - and one that is both insightful and interesting to read. Perhaps one of the most fascinating essays is "The Existence of God" - involving a debate between Russell and a Christian priest, exploring the cosmological and philosophical questions ascertaining to the possibility of God's existence. Yet none of these essays in this book are comprehensive: Russell's purpose was to insight thought and entice engagement in a debate concerning religion, not to offer a thorough or systematic denunciation of faith.

The content of this book was written between the 1920's and 1950's - and, in some regards, it's now dated. Many people are today more aware of the limitations and weaknesses of Christian arguments, just as many people are today more willing to question God's existence and the role of the church in society. Yet when Russell proposed the ideas found in this book, many at the time (especially in the USA) considered his views heretical.

Whether you're religious or not, this book is worth reading. I highly recommend it. Note, this item is available new for under £15 - so I suggest looking for the most reasonable seller.
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on 9 May 2010
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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