Friday, 27 May 2016

"Why I am Not a Christian" - Bertrand Russell



Bertrand Russell. 1872 to 1970. Born into the British aristocracy. Recognised as being a leading light in philosophy. His robust prose deflates the pomposity of religious thought, the utter fraudulent manner in which it attempts to control by fear those it seeks to subjugate to its authority. Reading him now one can only marvel at how authoritative he was in his chosen field but also how challenging and ground-breaking. Predating Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the other Horsemen of New Atheism by some 75 years. 

He attacked organised religion in a manner that cost him a job at a New York University.  His views would have been received by a far less liberal society than  the one we now live in. I can only imagine how the establishment would have fixated on his apparent heresy. The church would have undoubtedly been scathing of his views, possibly even attacking him with their vitriol as he would have seemed a dark threat to their faith, indeed a brick thrown through their stained glass windows.


Unlike Dawkins or Sam Harris, Russell used a great deal of withering humour mixed with his acid. His keen wit and indisputable knowledge made him a formidable foe whose ability to illustrate how deviant and evil organised faith can be cost him dearly at times even if it gained him huge respect among fellow rationalists.

Like Dawkins, his approach was forensic. His cold logic proving faith or religion  not only had no place in the 21st century, or even the 20th when this book was published, but that humankind does not need to worship false deities to have worthy morals. With Harris, whose dislike seems focused on one faith in particular - Islam - Russell attacks the religion that featured largest in British life during the author's time on Earth - Christianity. Also, again unlike Harris who appears to approve of waging war on Islam, Russell was a pacifist having spent time in prison for his convictions.

"I found prison in many ways quite agreeable. I had no engagements, no difficult decisions to make, no fear of callers, no interruptions to my work. I read enormously; I wrote a book, "Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy"... and began the work for "Analysis of Mind"

"Why I am Not a Christian" is not cruel. It harbours no desire to cause harm to anyone but seeks only to evaluate then educate those who hold belief rather than execute received knowledge. Russell does not suggest those of faith are wicked merely that they are misguided. It is a cracking read which remains at the forefront, even with those people mentioned in mind, those New Atheists, of challenging the corruptions of blind faith.

75 years on, Monotheism still plagues our lives but thanks to people like Bertrand Russell the cracks in the foundations of faith are revealed for what they are...poppycock.
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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

2 comments:

Antares said...

Read this when I was 15... made a colossal impact on me! At 18 as an exchange student in the US I was invited to Williamsburg, Virginia, to participate in a mock-UN conference. During one of the side workshops the facilitator asked each of us to name two well-known figures, living or dead, we would absolutely enjoy meeting. I picked Bertrand Russell and God (I recall my answer compelled the facilitator, a friendly young man, to come up and have a private chat with me afterwards; he said his mind was blown!)

Russell Duffy said...

If only those two could have met - God and Bertrand Russell - man, what a conversation that would have been.