Warum ich kein Christ bin : [über Religion, Moral u. Humanität]

by Bertrand Russell

Other authorsMarion Steipe (Translator)
Paperback, 1988



Call number

CI 6604 C554



Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt


While its tone is playful and frivolous, this book poses tough questions over the nature of religion and belief. Religion provides comfortable responses to the questions that have always beset humankind - why are we here, what is the point of being alive, how ought we to behave? Russell snatches that comfort away, leaving us instead with other, more troublesome alternatives: responsibility, autonomy, self-awareness. He tells us that the time to live is now, the place to live is here, and the way to be happy is to ensure others are happy.

User reviews

LibraryThing member pjsullivan
Russell first defines what he means by a Christian: someone who believes in God, the immortality of the soul, and Jesus Christ. Then he explains why he does not believe. Step-by-step he dismisses as fallacious the arguments for the existence of God: the first cause argument, the argument from
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design, etc. Then he discusses whether we survive death. Then the character of Jesus, as presented in the Gospels. He agrees that Jesus was an admirable man, but not divine and not the best or wisest of men. He gives examples from the Gospels.

He believes that all religions are false and harmful. He even calls religion "a disease born of fear" and "a source of untold misery to the human race." Fear leads to cruelty, he says. "A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world is suffering."

He explains his agnostic views with his usual lucidity. Russell was not an atheist; he was just not convinced by the arguments for God. He was always wary of certainties. So this book does not resolve anything, but it will give you plenty to think about. It is not a difficult read.
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LibraryThing member tungsten_peerts
This is neither Russell's best nor his most cohesive work (there is a good deal of repetition between the essays, and they were written for a number of different venues); however, this is Bertrand Russell we're talking about ... so for this reviewer, anyway, the temptation to mark particularly good
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passages was strong. For the most part these essays sparkle with the usual fire.

I will say that the long Appendix (not written by Russell) detailing how Russell was prevented from teaching at the City College of New York leaves me breathless with revulsion.

Certainly in these frighteningly Bible-thumping times in the U.S., this material is highly relevant.
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LibraryThing member WinterFox
The question of whether there is a god, and if so, what our relations with them should be, is a timeless one. I decided to read this book as a counterpoint to a book arguing for the existence and relevance of god a month or two ago. In contrast, Russell's point of view, expressed eloquently and
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forcefully, is that he believes there not to be a god, and that religion has by and large been a force for tyranny, anti-intellectualism, and negativity in the world through history. He attempts to refute the reasonable arguments for the existence of god, as well as rejecting the moral ones, and finally deploring the policies of religion that have listed until this day, in many cases, such as being anti-contraception.

Russell's prose is very well-written and persuasive, and the longest essay of the book, What I Believe, lays out a very interesting way of life for people to follow, as well. Other essays, concerning other atheists and their fate (on Thomas Paine), dealing with children, the ethics of sexuality, and other topics, are also very well done. Since it's a list of essays on similar topics, there is certainly overlap, but it's not too great, and that they were written at different times allows one to see the growth and changes in his thought over time.

I really enjoyed this book, and found it both thought-provoking and something that I will carry with me over time. The final essay, regarding how Russell was refused employment at the City College of New York by local government due to his atheism in 1940, shows that the influence of religion on politics and authority were already apparent, and the effects of atheism overblown, even then. It may have gotten worse since, but it's still visible in our past.

This one's definitely worth reading, if you have an open mind about the question of religion.
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LibraryThing member fundevogel
Honestly this book didn't seem all that focused on religion or Christianity, especially considering Russell seems to always find a way to tie a complaint or two about religion into his books. (At least he has in every one I've read so far, I imagine it would be harder in his math books.) The essay
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the book takes it's title from doesn't put any significant consideration into why Russell was an atheist, just why he disapproved of the Christian church, which seems like a pretty big piece to leave out of a book by an atheist that's theoretically about religion.

There are several essays that directly relate to religion, I really liked "Can Religion Cure Our Troubles" and there are a few that you might be able to kinda sorta relate back to religion, but you'd be making the connection there, not Bertrand. An example of that would be the essay on Thomas Paine. I know Thomas Paine was very outspoken about religion, but the extent to which it comes up in the essay is that he pissed off Jefferson and Washington for running his mouth off about his non traditional beliefs (he was Deist). They shared those beliefs they just weren't about to admit it and didn't like Paine's uncompromising literature. That probably accounts for about two sentences of the essay.

Another of my favorites, "Nice People", could certainly point the finger at hypocritical behavior of some Christians...or any other person that projects a mantle of moral superiority while acting without disregard for the well-being of other people. It certainly never singles Christians out, or any other group for that matter. The essay does just fine coyly listing examples of the sorts nice behavior practiced by "nice people". For example:

"Above all they keep alive the pleasures of the hunt. In a homogeneous country population, such as that of the English shire, people are condemned to hunt foxes; this is expensive and sometimes even dangerous. Moreover, the fox cannot explain very clearly how much he dislikes being hunted. In all these respects the hunting of the human being is better sport, but if it were not for the nice people, it would be difficult to hunt human beings with a good conscience. Those whom the nice people condemn are fair game; at their call of "Tallyho" the hunt assembles, and the victim is pursued to prison or death. It is especially good sport when the victim is a woman, since this gratifies the jealousy of the women and the sadism of the men."

All and all the book is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the essays are great. But a fair chunk are just so-so and two of them didn't read like Bertrand at all. This is the consequence of the essays being drawn from the first fifty years of Bertrand's writing. Two essays written in the 'ots lack all of the confidence, wit and simplicity that make Bertrand so enjoyable to me. They sounded an awful lot like a unsure, but overachieving college student that tries too hard to write seriously by using cold, formal and overly decorated language.

The book ends with a reasonably detailed account of Bertrand's dismissal from New York City College before he actually got a chance to start. It's a pretty outrageous case of ideological bigotry. Though he had widespread support of the college's board, students and their parents Russell was ousted by what amounted to an angry mob and a shady judge that decided that Bertrand's astonishingly modern, but shamelessly misrepresented views on sex, marriage and (egads) masturbation would corrupt students and encourage them to violate New York's penal laws. These were laws that among other things made extramarital sex and cohabitation a felony, especially if it was with "an unmarried female of any age of a previously chaste character".
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LibraryThing member Devil_llama
One of the first books I read on freethought and agnosticism, this still holds a fond spot for me. Although the arguments presented here would not be new to me at this time, this was the first time I had heard many of them presented. Unlike many of today's philosophers, Russell writes lucid prose
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with clarity rather than obfuscation. From what I've read, and what I've observed from the philsophy departments I've been associated with, I believe Russell was truly one of the last original thinkers in the field. This book made a big impression on me, and I need to reread it soon.
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LibraryThing member sealford
I read this book many years ago when I was an agnostic who was still trying to figure out the great mysteries of Christianity. Even now, I question all of the things that I was taught as a child, but that is another story entirely. I certainly understand Russell's thoughts and opinions, though I
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may be inclined to disagree with a few of them. Nevertheless, he works desperately to prove his point, and that part cannot be ignored. I think he was a man who long sought to find the truth, and this book takes us down that search right along with him.
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LibraryThing member Jonathan_M
Exactly what the subtitle promises: a collection of essays on religion and related subjects. Russell always expressed himself clearly and unambiguously (his refusal to plunge into the lumpy, opaque stew of metaphysics was an invaluable gift to philosophy), and I agree with his sentiments almost
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entirely. But, paradoxically, that's the problem with this book. It states the obvious over and over again, quickly becoming monotonous; the reader rarely feels challenged. Why I Am Not a Christian does, however, contain an excellent piece entitled "The Fate of Thomas Paine", which by itself is worth the price of admission. It's the finest thing Russell ever wrote, and should be on every high school's required reading list to provide a little perspective on the whitewashed history of the American Revolution.
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LibraryThing member yapete
Classic treatise on atheism from a deep thinker. Some essays are better than others (a bit outmoded language) - but a very worthwhile read.
LibraryThing member andyray
these ratinjgs here are as pernicious and prejorative as the indiv idual's mind who rates the book. having said that, i am joyful with Russell's sardonic style. I do wonder if tghe Lord Bertrand read much of Mark Twain as they both have this acerbic knife they uswe on their enemies (or those who do
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not agree with them). he essays were read by thiks writer during his early college days (mid 1960s), and I remmeber being enthralled at the man's erudition, yet being "common enough" to be understood by the layman. The piece at the end explaining the process of Lord Russell's being blackballed by the New York city political system was eye-opening. Next time anyone calls a New Yorker a "liberal," I'm going to jump in whatever fray they are in and they WILL take note of what I say. YOU WANT A LIBERAL? read this book.
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LibraryThing member yeremenko
A classic, and just as powerful today as when it was written.
LibraryThing member Ramirez
A call to reason from a great thinker.
LibraryThing member aitastaes
evastating in its use of cold logic,” (The Independent), the classic essay collection that expresses the freethinker’s views to religion and challenges set notions in today’s society from one of the most influential intellectual figures of the twentieth century.

Dedicated as few men have been
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to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself—questions about man’s place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire.

“I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue,” Russell declares in his Preface, and his reasoned opposition to any system or dogma which he feels may shackle man’s mind runs through all the essays in this book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954.

The book has been edited, with Lord Russell’s full approval and cooperation, by Professor Paul Edwards of the Philosophy Department of New York University. In an Appendix, Professor Edwards contributes a full account of the highly controversial “Bertrand Russell Case” of 1940, in which Russell was judicially declared “unfit” to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York.

Whether the reader shares or rejects Bertrand Russell’s views, he will find this book an invigorating challenge to set notions, a masterly statement of a philosophical position, and a pure joy to read.
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LibraryThing member TheCrow2
Collection of Russell`s short critical essays about Christianity. Interesting to see how valid and thought provoking his arguments are 80-100 years later.
LibraryThing member dcunning11235
Good, clear writing; ideas that sound very current (for better or worse, the discussion has not changed much in 60 - 80 years); a lot to recommend this fairly short read.

Purely for historical reasons, it was interesting to read the last portion of the book concerning the furor over Russell's
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appointment to a professorship in New York, and the social, political and (extra-) legal wranglings to keep him from "corrupting the youth." It serves as a reminder how much things have changed, and how quickly; and how much is at risk today in parts, geographically and otherwise, of the country that seem so ready to rush into a reversal of liberal ideals.
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