Why I am Not a Christian.doc

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    Why I am Not a ChristianBertrand RussellMarch 6, 1927

    Why I Am Not a ChristianAn Eamination o! the "od#Idea andChristianity

    As your chairman has told you, the su$%ecta$out &hich I am 'oin' to s(ea) to youtoni'ht is *Why I Am Not a Christian+* erha(s

    it &ould $e as &ell, -rst o! all, to try to ma)eout &hat one means $y the &ord *Christian+* Itis used in these days in a .ery loose sense $ya 'reat many (eo(le+ /ome (eo(le mean nomore $y it than a (erson &ho attem(ts to li.ea 'ood li!e+ In that sense I su((ose there&ould $e Christians in all sects and creeds0

    $ut I do not thin) that that is the (ro(er senseo! the &ord, i! only $ecause it &ould im(lythat all the (eo(le &ho are not Christians ## allthe Buddhists, Con!ucians, Mohammedans,and so on ## are not tryin' to li.e a 'ood li!e+ Ido not mean $y a Christian any (erson &hotries to li.e decently accordin' to his li'hts+ I

    thin) that you must ha.e a certain amount o!de-nite $elie! $e!ore you ha.e a ri'ht to callyoursel! a Christian+ he &ord does not ha.euite such a !ull#$looded meanin' no& as ithad in the times o! /t+ Au'ustine and /t+homas Auinas+ In those days, i! a man saidthat he &as a Christian it &as )no&n &hat he

    meant+ 3ou acce(ted a &hole collection o!creeds &hich &ere set out &ith 'reat

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    (recision, and e.ery sin'le sylla$le o! thosecreeds you $elie.ed &ith the &hole stren'tho! your con.ictions+

    What is a Christian4

    No&adays it is not uite that+ We ha.e to $e alittle more .a'ue in our meanin' o!Christianity+ I thin), ho&e.er, that there aret&o di5erent items &hich are uite essential

    to anyone callin' himsel! a Christian+ he -rstis one o! a do'matic nature ## namely, that youmust $elie.e in "od and immortality+ I! you donot $elie.e in those t&o thin's, I do not thin)that you can (ro(erly call yoursel! a Christian+hen, !urther than that, as the name im(lies,you must ha.e some )ind o! $elie! a$out

    Christ+ he Mohammedans, !or instance, also$elie.e in "od and immortality, and yet they&ould not call themsel.es Christians+ I thin)you must ha.e at the .ery lo&est the $elie!that Christ &as, i! not di.ine, at least the $estand &isest o! men+ I! you are not 'oin' to$elie.e that much a$out Christ, I do not thin)

    that you ha.e any ri'ht to call yoursel! aChristian+ ! course, there is another sense&hich you -nd in Whita)ers Almanac) and in'eo'ra(hy $oo)s, &here the (o(ulation o! the&orld is said to $e di.ided into Christians,Mohammedans, Buddhists, !etish &orshi(ers,and so on0 $ut in that sense &e are all

    Christians+ he 'eo'ra(hy $oo)s counts us allin, $ut that is a (urely 'eo'ra(hical sense,

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    &hich I su((ose &e can i'nore+ here!ore Ita)e it that &hen I tell you &hy I am not aChristian I ha.e to tell you t&o di5erentthin's8 -rst, &hy I do not $elie.e in "od and in

    immortality0 and, secondly, &hy I do not thin)that Christ &as the $est and &isest o! men,althou'h I 'rant him a .ery hi'h de'ree o!moral 'oodness+

    But !or the success!ul e5orts o! un$elie.ers inthe (ast, I could not ta)e so elastic a

    de-nition o! Christianity as that+ As I said$e!ore, in the olden days it had a much more!ull#$looded sense+ or instance, it includedthe $elie! in hell+ Belie! in eternal hell -re &asan essential item o! Christian $elie! until(retty recent times+ In this country, as you)no&, it ceased to $e an essential item

    $ecause o! a decision o! the ri.y Council, and!rom that decision the Arch$isho( o!Canter$ury and the Arch$isho( o! 3or)dissented0 $ut in this country our reli'ion issettled $y Act o! arliament, and there!ore theri.y Council &as a$le to o.erride their "racesand hell &as no lon'er necessary to a

    Christian+ Conseuently I shall not insist that aChristian must $elie.e in hell+

    he Eistence ! "od

    o come to this uestion o! the eistence o!

    "od, it is a lar'e and serious uestion, and i! I&ere to attem(t to deal &ith it in any

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    adeuate manner I should ha.e to )ee( youhere until :in'dom Come, so that you &illha.e to ecuse me i! I deal &ith it in asome&hat summary !ashion+ 3ou )no&, o!

    course, that the Catholic Church has laid itdo&n as a do'ma that the eistence o! "odcan $e (ro.ed $y the unaided reason+ his is asome&hat curious do'ma, $ut it is one o! theirdo'mas+ hey had to introduce it $ecause atone time the reethin)ers ado(ted the ha$it o!sayin' that there &ere such and such

    ar'uments &hich mere reason mi'ht ur'ea'ainst the eistence o! "od, $ut o! coursethey )ne& as a matter o! !aith that "od dideist+ he ar'uments and the reasons &ere setout at 'reat len'th, and the Catholic Church!elt that they must sto( it+ here!ore they laidit do&n that the eistence o! "od can $e

    (ro.ed $y the unaided reason, and they had toset u( &hat they considered &ere ar'umentsto (ro.e it+ here are, o! course, a num$er o!them, $ut I shall ta)e only a !e&+

    he irst Cause Ar'ument

    erha(s the sim(lest and easiest tounderstand is the ar'ument o! the irst Cause+It is maintained that e.erythin' &e see in this&orld has a cause, and as you 'o $ac) in thechain o! causes !urther and !urther you mustcome to a irst Cause, and to that irst Cause

    you 'i.e the name o! "od+ hat ar'ument, Isu((ose, does not carry .ery much &ei'ht

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    no&adays, $ecause, in the -rst (lace, cause isnot uite &hat it used to $e+ he (hiloso(hersand the men o! science ha.e 'ot 'oin' oncause, and it has not anythin' li)e the .itality

    that it used to ha.e0 $ut a(art !rom that, youcan see that the ar'ument that there must $ea irst Cause is one that cannot ha.e any.alidity+ I may say that &hen I &as a youn'man, and &as de$atin' these uestions .eryseriously in my mind, I !or a lon' timeacce(ted the ar'ument o! the irst Cause,

    until one day, at the a'e o! ei'hteen, I read;ohn /tuart Mills Auto$io'ra(hy, and I there!ound this sentence8 *My !ather tau'ht methat the uestion, Who made me4 cannot $eans&ered, since it immediately su''ests the!urther uestion, Who made "od4* hat .erysim(le sentence sho&ed me, as I still thin),

    the !allacy in the ar'ument o! the irst Cause+I! e.erythin' must ha.e a cause, then "odmust ha.e a cause+ I! there can $e anythin'&ithout a cause, it may %ust as &ell $e the&orld as "od, so that there cannot $e any.alidity in that ar'ument+ It is eactly o! thesame nature as the

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    reason to su((ose that the &orld had a$e'innin' at all+ he idea that thin's mustha.e a $e'innin' is really due to the (o.ertyo! our ima'ination+ here!ore, (erha(s, I need

    not &aste any more time u(on the ar'umenta$out the irst Cause+

    he Natural#=a& Ar'ument

    hen there is a .ery common ar'ument !rom

    Natural =a&+ hat &as a !a.orite ar'ument allthrou'h the ei'hteenth century, es(eciallyunder the in>uence o! /ir Isaac Ne&ton andhis cosmo'ony+ eo(le o$ser.ed the (lanets'oin' around the sun accordin' to the la& o!'ra.itation, and they thou'ht that "od had'i.en a $ehest to these (lanets to mo.e in

    that (articular !ashion, and that &as &hy theydid so+ hat &as, o! course, a con.enient andsim(le e(lanation that sa.ed them thetrou$le o! loo)in' any !urther !or anye(lanation o! the la& o! 'ra.itation+No&adays &e e(lain the la& o! 'ra.itation ina some&hat com(licated !ashion that Einstein

    has introduced+ I do not (ro(ose to 'i.e you alecture on the la& o! 'ra.itation, asinter(reted $y Einstein, $ecause that a'ain&ould ta)e some time0 at any rate, you nolon'er ha.e the sort o! Natural =a& that youhad in the Ne&tonian system, &here, !or somereason that no$ody could understand, nature

    $eha.ed in a uni!orm !ashion+ We no& -ndthat a 'reat many thin's &e thou'ht &ere

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    Natural =a&s are really human con.entions+3ou )no& that e.en in the remotest de(th o!stellar s(ace there are still three !eet to ayard+ hat is, no dou$t, a .ery remar)a$le

    !act, $ut you &ould hardly call it a la& o!nature+ And a 'reat many thin's that ha.e$een re'arded as la&s o! nature are o! that)ind+ n the other hand, &here you can 'etdo&n to any )no&led'e o! &hat atoms actuallydo, you &ill -nd that they are much lesssu$%ect to la& than (eo(le thou'ht, and that

    the la&s at &hich you arri.e are statisticala.era'es o! %ust the sort that &ould emer'e!rom chance+ here is, as &e all )no&, a la&that i! you thro& dice you &ill 'et dou$le siesonly a$out once in thirty#si times, and &e donot re'ard that as e.idence that the !all o! thedice is re'ulated $y desi'n0 on the contrary, i!

    the dou$le sies came e.ery time &e shouldthin) that there &as desi'n+ he la&s o!nature are o! that sort as re'ards to a 'reatmany o! them+ hey are statistical a.era'essuch as &ould emer'e !rom the la&s o!chance0 and that ma)es the &hole $usiness o!natural la& much less im(ressi.e than it

    !ormerly &as+ ?uite a(art !rom that, &hichre(resents the momentary state o! sciencethat may chan'e tomorro&, the &hole ideathat natural la&s im(ly a la'i.er is due to acon!usion $et&een natural and human la&s+