Bertrand Russell: ‘Why I am not a Christian: The Defects in Christ’s teaching’

I must admit that even as a Christian I was aware of these problems in Christ’s purported teaching – and shuddered. Eventually I found refuge in Islam. Bertrand Russell did not and became an atheist.

bertrand-russell_0446

Bertrand Russell was British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist and Nobel laureate. He wrote the essay Why I am not a Christian in 1927. Here is a small extract:

‘I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come. Then He says: There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, Take no thought for the morrow, and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count.

I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.’



Categories: Atheism, Bible, Christianity

52 replies

  1. In that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.’

    In regard to the second coming and the sayings of Jesus, I think that if there is one thing that Modern Biblical scholarship has shown us, it is that the Bible is not the infallible, inspired word of God and, therefore, we cannot really know or trust with 100% assurance that what the Bible relates is the very same as what Jesus actually said. There are some arguments that can be made in favor of Jesus saying he would return within the lifetimes of those who witnessed his ministry. But we really cannot know for sure what he actually said or taught exactly. The Gospels were written by unknown pseudepigraphal authors, who basically put words into the mouth of Jesus and then attributed their stories back to well known patriarchs.

    So I think it is wrong to say that Jesus was not superlatively as wise as a HUMAN and Prophet could possibly be. It is more proper to say that the unknown fallible human forgers of the Gospels were unwise in relating stories that were not entirely factual.

    However, I can see how Bertrand Russell could have easily lost faith, and turned to Atheism based on the information that he had about the Bible in his own time. I wonder if his decision might have been different if he had access to the more recent findings about the Bible. Would he have arrogantly remained a committed Atheist…..

    or would he (like PW) also have found refuge in Islam?

    Liked by 1 person

    • why don’t you spend less time posting comments and more time studying?

      Like

    • PW,
      There was a time when the highest aspiration a person could have was to spend their lifetime studying theology and becoming a scholar of religion and the related sciences. This is how so many great scholars arose in Islam, and why the Muslims invented the concept of Universities. Now days, it seems the majority of people only have the ambition to get a corporate job, or some mundane work to pay the bills.

      Your advice to study more is very good and wise advice, and your blog itself is a great motivation to study theology and reflect more deeply.

      I have always been interested in comparative religion and would love to spend more time studying Islam, Qur’an, other faiths, and scholarly works. However, the realities of the secular world are pressing, and I have limited time due to working a full time Job. etc. Even so, Islam has taught me not to neglect what is most important in life, and I do my best to try and find balance between work and family responsibilities and furthering my knowledge in the matters of the Deen, and hopefully making some good Dawah in the process!

      Thanks for your positive comments, I really appreciate you and all the work you do on this blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ibn Issam, your comments are great, please continue posting and expressing your thoughts on this blog and arguments pertaining to Islamic apologetics and Biblical criticism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Infinity,
      Thanks for your kind remark and encouragement. You have made a lot of good comments, on this blog which I have enjoyed reading as well. Thanks!

      Like

  3. “For one thing, He certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of Man be come. Then He says: There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom;”

    His coming to earth and into our midst was the initiation of the Kingdom of God. Christ within a person is his coming. Those who believed in him and were filled with the Holy Spirit after he ascended lived to see the coming of the kingdom. Wherever and whenever 2 or 3 are gathered in his name, there he is in their midst and in his kingdom.

    He also said that those people who do his will are in fact his mothers and brothers and sisters.

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    • Russell makes numerous errors. One of them is to cite stories of the misdeeds and misinterpretations of Christians as evidence that the Scriptures are inaccurate. It is fine to be genuinely confused and to misunderstand what the Scriptures say. It is wrong to judge the gospel based upon the failures of Christians; that is more of an excuse.

      Like

    • what is the gospel that Jesus preached according to the synoptic gospels?

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    • He taught that He is the gospel.

      Like

    • I asked for a quote – that is not a quote

      Like

    • “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
      Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it.…”
      “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was sowing, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil. They sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun rose, the seedlings were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seeds fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the seedlings. Still other seeds fell on good soil and produced a crop—a hundredfold, sixtyfold, or thirtyfold. He who has ears, let him hear.”
      “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and slipped away. When the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. So the servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘if you pull the weeds now, you might uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At the proper time I will tell the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

      Like

    • ok fine. Notice how different that is to the gospel preached by Christians today.

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    • “what is the gospel that Jesus preached according to the synoptic gospels?”

      that is not a request for a quote

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    • it was intended to be one

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    • “ok fine. Notice how different that is to the gospel preached by Christians today.”

      that is a sample. if i quote everything he said in the synoptics, i’ll get in trouble. yes, those verses are preached today.

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    • the verses are mentioned in preaching – but they are not what Christians understand by the gospel are they?

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    • the verses are mentioned in preaching – but they are not what Christians understand by the gospel are they?

      i can’t speak as an authority on what Christians understand by the gospel. My impression is, of course that is the gospel as Christians understand it. those verses are preached in sermons and taught in Sunday school, etc. they are included in the n.t.

      maybe i don’t understand your question. why wouldn’t they be understood as the gospel?

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    • Well let me ask you this: in your own words what is the gospel?

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    • Well let me ask you this: in your own words what is the gospel?

      If I preach, i get in trouble, but you asked.

      He is the gospel, Paul. He loves you, right now, right where you are, this exact moment in time. In fact, he loves you so deeply, so personally and intimately that He surrendered His life– his friendships, his love to be with his mom, everything in his life that he loved to be with you right now. that is what the gospel is, i think. i know in my heart.

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    • That’s not the gospel that is normally preached. No mention of Jesus dying for the sins of the world etc.

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    • ‘Cause phonies have come
      And wrongs been done
      Even killing in Jesus’ name
      And if you’ve been burned
      Here’s what I’ve learned
      The Lord’s not the one to blame

      For He’s not just a religion
      With steeples and bells
      Or a salesman who will sell you
      The things you just want to hear

      For his Love was such
      That he suffered so much
      To cause some of us
      Just to follow, follow

      So many laughing at Jesus
      While the funniest thing that he’s done
      Is love this whole stubborn rebellious world
      While their hate for him just goes on

      And love just like that
      Will bring him back
      For the few he can call his friends
      The ones he’s found true
      Who’ve made it through
      Enduring until the end
      The ones he’s found true
      Who’ve made it through
      Enduring until the end

      keith green

      Liked by 1 person

  4. paul, often, when you respond to christians, i feel upset.

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  5. and even if we suck and even if our motives are less than pure, that shouldn’t necessarily prove that he sucks

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  6. I need to say these things cause I love you so
    And I’m sorry you get angry when I say that you just don’t know
    But there’s a Heaven waiting for you and me
    I know it seems every time we talk I’m only trying to just make you see

    And it’s only that I care
    I really only want just to see you there
    Please try and overlook my human side
    I know I’m such a bad example and you know I’m so full of pride
    But Jesus isn’t like that, now He’s perfect all the way
    I guess that’s why we need him, cause by ourselves, there’s just no way

    keith green

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    • “I need to say these things cause I love you so”

      after tina turner used to get battered by her husband , she had enough of jesus’ saying ” do not divorce” and made a son

      “what’s love got to do with it “

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    • Hank,
      If the four canonized Gospels don’t convince any rational minded person, what makes you think that “The Gospel of Keith” Will?

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    • Hank,
      If the four canonized Gospels don’t convince any rational minded person, what makes you think that “The Gospel of Keith” Will?

      Your question, if anything can be gleaned from it, proves the gospel is the word of God.

      Nothing is new under the sun. The arguments used to try to disprove Jesus was God still fall into several categories. Nothing here is special.

      He is the defining Person in all of history. Even on a blog about various religions, the bulk of the comments revolve around Him.

      The hatred for Him far exceeds what makes sense on a strictly human level. He was, to say the least, a man of peace and kindness and generosity, yet the relentless vicious attacks suggest anything but that. Only the fact that He was God explains the irrational frenzied stupor. When He acknowledged He was, “I AM”, immediately people tried to kill Him right there on the spot. Even just his name, by itself, stirs powerful passions. Some hope that if they can just blast Him with an abundance of cruel, off the wall, disparaging remarks, somehow He’ll fade away into insignificance. Problem is, He’s just not insignificant. He’s exactly the opposite as is proven right here daily.

      For those who expect their numerous and wild accusations against Him to be addressed by His serious minded followers, try a new approach.

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    • “i am god”

      33“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

      34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ’d ? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?

      christian version :

      34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods” ’d ? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?

      Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God ’?

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  7. edward, i don’t think i can respond in a way that would be helpful.

    Like

  8. R.C. Sproul did a good job of answering Bertrand Russell’s statements in his book, The Last Days According to Jesus. I wrote an article on those verses, “Jesus Always Spoke the Truth”.

    Jesus’ “coming soon” was about His coming in judgment in 70 AD, which in deed did happen; and there is another literal physical coming at the end of time still future to us, which Muslims also believe in.

    https://apologeticsandagape.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/jesus-always-spoke-the-truth/

    The old King James Version, “take no thought for the morrow” did not mean that literally – rather it means, don’t be overly worried. Make plans, do your job, go to work, plant, etc. but stop worrying. As a Jewish man trained in the law and the book of Proverbs, Jesus knew all about the balancing wisdom of what the book of Proverbs says.

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    • quote :
      Do not lose faith by a delay of 2500 years that no one has come, or, according to the NT 2000 years or more. Rev 22:6-7… And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” “And behold, I am coming soon….”

      all lies. no “coming soon”

      those who fled to the mountains did not see

      quote:
      Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

      actually it was drawing near, according to the christian narrative “they were persecuted and executed…”

      quote:

      Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.

      actually christians have been alert in their persecution and execution of other people , yet no jesus.

      ““what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”

      christians do not flee to the mountains every year.

      they have lost trust in jesus’ words and carried on with their sinful lives.

      christians like the jews were exiled from the land of israel, but today they support man with man and women with women marriage in israel and think “god is working through them”

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    • read the article and several books before you make comments. You guys like to say “liar” too much, when you should realize there are differences of opinion and interpretation. You are not a good example of the verse Surah 29:46 – you violate your own Da’awa principles by not obeying this verse. use beautiful, good methods. حسن

      Like

    • its good to see Ken uphold the teaching of the Quran

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Jesus’ “coming soon” was about His coming in judgment in 70 AD, which in deed did happen; and there is another literal physical coming at the end of time still future to us, which Muslims also believe in.”

      it is a lie and a falsehood. nt jesus is proved false prophet.

      quote:

      A
      :But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

      B
      : then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

      C
      : But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ ”

      E
      “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

      how come false “prophet” worshipper like you wouldn’t play around with the “you will see” in verses A-C, but you give yourself license to play around with “you will see” in verses E?

      it is over for you people. reinterpretation cannot save jesus. he made a false prediction.

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    • “Jesus’ “coming soon” was about His coming in judgment in 70 AD, which in deed did happen; and there is another literal physical coming at the end of time still future to us, which Muslims also believe in.”

      what a lie. jesus brought no “judgement” on israel. he was judged and executed and then prayed to yhwh to forgive his executors . it would be a prayer in vain if he came “in judgement”
      you don’t want jesus to make prayers in vain , do you?

      the judgement in jerusalem triggered of the WORLDWIDE judgement and the appearance of jesus riding on clouds.

      it didn’t happen. no matter how much reinterpretation, jesus FAILED.
      mark thought he was going to see jesus
      luke thought it
      john kind of thought it would happen in johns head/mind.
      matthew thought it would happen in his time .

      paul definitely thought it would happen in his times.

      every christian in every year thought it would happen in his time. christians have killed and persecuted , murdered, destroyed families, caused division , continue to sin, yet no jesus.

      your sins are delaying your gods second coming. maybe you should go back sacrificing goats?

      Like

    • “read the article and several books before you make comments. You guys like to say “liar” too much, when you should realize there are differences of opinion and interpretation. You are not a good example of the verse Surah 29:46 – you violate your own Da’awa principles by not obeying this verse. use beautiful, good methods. حسن”

      i can link you to articles which would debunk your article. just admit it, take jesus’ words as they are and he is a FALSE and failed “prophet”
      this is not about dawah, good methods or anything else this is about your false god making false predictions about the heavens, earth, and IMMEDIATE worldwide judgement.

      mark ran off to the hills and was waiting and waiting and waiting till he no longer waited and said “they said nothing to anyone…”

      Like

    • “read the article and several books before you make comments.”

      what would happen if you don’t spin the following lies ?

      “you will see”

      “this generation”

      “some standing here”

      “IMMEDIATELY after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light”

      what would you make out of jesus? FALSE prophet who made FALSE predictions.

      //////////////////////////////////

      Imminence

      According to Jewish apocalypticists, this vindicaton of God was going to happen very soon. Standing in the tradition of the prophets of the Hebrew Bible, apocalypticists maintained that God had revealed to them the course of history, and that the end was almost here. Those who were evil had to repent, before it was too late. Those who were good, who were suffering as a result, were to hold on. For it would not be long before God would intervene, sending a savior — possibly on the clouds of heaven in judgment on the earth — bringing with him the good kingdom for those who remained faithful to his Law. Indeed, the end was right around the corner. In the words of one first-century Jewish apocalypticist: “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that that kingdom of God has come with power.” These in fact are the words of Jesus (Mark 9:1). Or as he says elsewhere, “Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away before all these things have taken place” (Mark 13:30).

      /////////////////////////////////

      it is over. just make “kingdom of god” in your mind and pretend you are in heaven.

      Like

  9. Hank,
    I love that Keith Green song!
    Good stuff; memories of when I was a young Christian.

    Like

    • I was referring to this one. ( I see you put 2 of them up.)

      ‘Cause phonies have come
      And wrongs been done
      Even killing in Jesus’ name
      And if you’ve been burned
      Here’s what I’ve learned
      The Lord’s not the one to blame

      For He’s not just a religion
      With steeples and bells
      Or a salesman who will sell you
      The things you just want to hear

      For his Love was such
      That he suffered so much
      To cause some of us
      Just to follow, follow

      Like

    • “Just follow, follow” God – not a man.

      Like

    • he loved Jesus didn’t he? no one like him since. one thing is for sure. he loved the lord.

      Like

  10. Christian and Jewish version:

    “33“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

    Muslim version:

    33“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, do not claim to be God.”

    Like

  11. “37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. 39 Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,”

    Isn’t Jesus confirming that he is claiming to be God by appealing to his works and calling the Jews to believe and stop charging him with blasphemy?

    Why did they try and take him again to stone him if he denied that he was claiming to be God instead of confirming his claim?

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    • ‘Why did they try and take him again to stone him if he denied that he was claiming to be God instead of confirming his claim?’

      read the rest of John 10. Jesus refutes their (and your) blasphemous claim that he is making himself out to be God.

      Like

    • “Isn’t Jesus confirming that he is claiming to be God by appealing to his works and calling the Jews to believe and stop charging him with blasphemy?”

      *appealing to his works
      *stop charging him with blasphemy

      his works are not even done by himself.
      if he thinks he is god, then the jew has every right to call him out for his blasphemy, just like they would call any other “god-man” out for his pagan blasphemy .

      you are reading his question like a trinitarian man worshipping pagan and you make a bufoon out of your god

      quote :
      Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?

      you are assuming :

      Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s ’?

      hello? because you just claimed to be “god” hello?

      “Why did they try and take him again to stone him if he denied that he was claiming to be God instead of confirming his claim?”

      because they thought he was demon possessed . any jew who went around saying that the father was filling him would be making offensive statements to the jews. such offensive statements does not imply co-equality with the father.

      Like

    • “Isn’t Jesus confirming that he is claiming to be God by appealing to his works and calling the Jews to believe and stop charging him with blasphemy?”

      “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High.’

      Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s son’?

      now we can see that your man is not claiming equality with the father .

      his works did’t make him a god in their eyes


      We are not stoning you for any good work,”

      Liked by 1 person

  12. So if a Muslim said that Allah was in him and he was in Allah it would not be blasphemy for him to say this?

    Like

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