Recently I watched the movie God is not Dead (which I did not like). During the scene where the Christian student stands up to his atheist professor, the professor adds an assignment for the whole class as punishment for this one student’s recalcitrance. The assignment is to read Bertrand Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian on top of their other assigned reading.
I chuckled for I was, ironically, reading this very book at the time. Russell was a world-famous philosopher and outspoken atheist. The title of the book is really just the title of an essay that is the first chapter. The essay is included in a variety of editions of books, each with slightly different other essays included. In the essay Russell quickly moves through a variety of reasons why he is not a Christian. Due to the scope covered, he does not go very deep into any one reason. Yet his arguments do manage to pack a punch and his influence on today’s atheists is obvious.
Actually, it might benefit more popular atheist writers to emulate Russell. I found myself more sympathetic to his arguments then to those of Dawkins, Harris and their ilk, though I am not sure why. Maybe it is distance – Russell is dead and unable to speak anymore so I only see his writings, not his obnoxious twitter posts. For whatever reason, there is something about Russell that both makes me like him more and challenges me more then contemporary atheists.
While I am challenged, and I enjoy a good challenge, I have no intention of abandoning Christianity. I think Christians ought to read books like this because asking and seeking answers to such questions does sharpen our faith. In the end, I think faith makes sense. In this vein, I enjoyed reading the debate between Russell and Catholic Frederick Copleston. Perhaps not surprisingly, I thought Copleston provided better arguments (guess that’s why I am still a Christian). So I’d recommend this book to Christians who are interested in tough questions, maybe to Christians who have read lots of Christian apologetics but not much from the other side. Its worth the read, even if I think the Christian case is stronger.