Why I am not Christian is a collection of essays written by secular philosophers and academics. I am only writing on the most famous essay of the collection, a transcript of a lecture given by the famed Bertrand Russell at the National Secular Society. This lecture was a short rebuttal to every well known argument for God and some of the arguments for Christianity. His lecture has been renowned by many as a quick, concise deconstruction of religious thinking and apologism. That is too quick of a judgment.
His lecture first goes through the well known arguments for God, pretty much all of which can be seen in The Reason for God book I wrote a review on. Russell briefly runs through explaining each argument, and then points out a particular flaw in said argument that deconstructs the entire conclusion. He does not spend the time to give a full rebuttal and his alternative worldview to each argument, but it was not necessary to prove the theist apologist wrong. As I explains in my The Reason for God review, I do not find any of the mainstream arguments for God’s existence entirely convincing, but I also do not find any of the mainstream arguments against God’s existence convincing either. There are additional argument that we rarely hear about that keep me in theism, and I’ll one day explain them.
In short, his arguments against the theist appeals were quite convincing. His shockingly short rebuttals were satisfactory for the point he wanted to convey, although much more could have been discussed. For example, he dismisses the First Cause argument on the basis that the universe could have been the first cause without God and then proceeds to talk about other arguments. Brutally short and concise, Russell gets the point across without unnecessary commentary. He later starts talking about religious thinking and Jesus, and his views on both.
His dismissal of religious thinking as incompatible with science shows his ignorance of history and utter arrogance for an academic of his esteem. To claim a clash between faith and reason at the level in which Russell does is a moronic outcry secularists have tried for centuries in this plea for academic legitimacy that they once did not have. Now that they do, they insist that this legitimacy is only for them and delude their audiences with dogmatic bullcrap about how men of religion are less intelligent or not free thinking. Academic arrogance of this kind is usually only seen in extreme right wingers or children, but Russell proves to be an exception.
He then proceeds to dismiss Jesus as “the best and wisest of men.” Now most non-Christians will agree that Jesus was not “the best and wisest of men”, but Russell’s reasoning stems from academic dishonesty and hypocrisy. Many of the fellow secularists of his time relented that Jesus was the pinnacle of moral character in the history of man while not supernatural in any way. Russell first states that “historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all” as if he has never entered through a university door before. The existence of Jesus is not questioned by any legitimate historian of our time for a number of well documented reasons that I assume Russell rejects because he lacks the level of reason he so preciously propagates. Let me be clear: Jesus, beyond a doubt, existed during the Roman occupation of Palestine by all historical accounts.What he did and who he was is what is up for debate.
Russell continues his dismissal of Christ on the grounds that Christ believed in his imminent second coming. I won’t address whether or not Russell interpreted scripture right, but this has almost nothing to do with Christ’s moral character or wisdom for that matter. Russell throws another red herring in his dismissal of Christ in that Christ warned of a hellfire, something Russell doesn’t find moral. This kind of skewed logic isn’t even shown by extreme right wingers or children. I find murder of innocents wrong, and if my friend was going to be murdered I would certainly try to warn him. Likewise, Christ believed of a coming hell, and chose to warn his companions of its coming. Whether Christ was right or wrong is irrelevant, Russell seems to insist that it is immoral either way to warn someone of something you find immoral that may happen to them.
In conclusion, the secular philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell brilliantly shatters every mainstream argument for God’s existence in a few minutes of reading. His criticisms of Christianity, however, fall short and are academically dishonest and rationally inconsistent. I honestly advice that you only read the first part of Russell’s essay, and not waste your time with his criticisms of Jesus and Christianity. If you do choose to read the whole thing, you have been warned.
TO BE CONTINUED with a review on the essay Why Bertrand Russell was not a Christian by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith.