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Russell on the impact of religion and intelligibility of belief
on 20 January 2010
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.