Why I am Not a Christian
an Examination of the God‐Idea and Christianity
[March 6, 1927]
[The lecture that is here presented was delivered at the Battersea Town Hall under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, England. It should be added that the editor is willing to share full responsibility with the Hon. Bertrand Russell in that he is in accord with the political and other opinions expressed.]
As your chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is "Why I Am Not a Christian." Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word "Christian." It is used in these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians ‐‐ all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on ‐‐ are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full‐blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.
What is a Christian?
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite ...
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