Apostate Café

By joshua


Posted in: articles

Why I Am A Christian - a response to Bertrand Russell, who is dead

Why I Am A Christian - a response to Bertrand Russell, who is dead
On the challenge of a co-worker, I read Bertrand Russell’s paper, [Why I am not a Christian][], and had a few comments on it. As I stated to the person who recommended I read it, there is no promise of stunning intellectual arguments here, for I am a layman, but it’s always fun to take issue with the writings of a dead person. That’s why Descartes is so popular. I agree with some of the things Russell had to say, but not all of them. If I understand his reasoning correctly, the argument is: 1. Christianity is not truthful because

- You cannot prove God exists and - Jesus Christ was not the ultimate moral being Christians claim; and 2. Christianity is harmful because people called Christians have done many bad things in the name of Christianity. On the point, *you cannot prove God exists,* I have no quarrel. I think attempting to do so by rational means is at best an intellectual exercise, and more often a misleading waste of time. I also agree that many people claiming to be Christians have done much harm in the name of Christianity, and they continue to do so. For quite some time I refused to call myself a Christian, preferring the cumbersome “follower of the teachings of Christ”; the term *Christian* has lost all specificity, and is impossible to tie down to a set of beliefs, behaviors, or experiences. Even those who hold orthodox “Christian” beliefs argue among themselves, and many using the name Christianity are *way* outside the orthodox set of beliefs. I finally grew tired of making the distinction, though, because it seemed to irritate a lot of people. On the morality of Christ, I would disagree. Russell’s use of the story of the barren fig tree was a good one, and is one that I am curious about. I know the story, but have never really thought much about it… it reminds me more of stories found in the Coptic Gnostic scriptures than one that fits with the rest of the four gospels. The distaste for hell, too, is an appealing argument, but is again an argument I disagree with. I do not believe that “hell” is an eternal resting place, because I do not believe this set of events (i.e., current human existence and the history / prophecy found in the Bible) is the final creation. Overall I have a problem with Russell’s argument, because I think he was vague. In a few places, he unfairly equivocated the official beliefs of the Roman Catholic or Anglican church with Christianity. Based on a disagreement with several of these, he concluded that Christianity is an “untrue” belief. *The* core Christian belief is that a substitutive act of redemption was performed by Jesus Christ. He didn’t argue against that, nor did he argue against the need of such a redemptive act. To rebuff him, though, is difficult. It is difficult to make a sound logical argument for the practice of Christianity, because anecdotal evidence makes a lousy base for any logical argument. My eventual return to Christianity is based on personal events, which, though great for my own intellectual satisfaction, do not do much to help someone else attempting to intellectually reconcile the practice of Christianity.