Home > 26 in 52 > The indecent mind of Bertrand Russell

The indecent mind of Bertrand Russell


Why I Am Not a Christian

by Bertrand Russell

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages, but I’ve always put it on the back burner in favor of other books. Not to my surprise, I found it to be an interesting and enlightening read, both for its arguments against certain doctrines held today and as a window into the social and religious opinions of the mid-twentieth century.

The book opens with the essay from which the book draws its title. I’d already read this and defended it on this blog. It’s still a good read and the “where did God come from” response to the various first cause arguments for a god has a timeless force to it. As I said above, the book is also interesting for its commentary on mid-twentieth century social beliefs. Russell promotes and defends birth control quite vigorously. This seems odd in the current times, when birth control is ubiquitous and generally uncontroversial. Some of Russell’s views on child rearing and sexual practices among adults, while undoubtedly radical at the time, seem pedestrian. Some of those views haven’t aged well (particularly the child rearing ones), but others seem fairly normal. It’s certainly an indication of how far we’ve come.

The book concludes with an account of Russell’s appointment to a professorship at City College of New York and the subsequent controversy and dismissal. The judge’s ruling in the case is unfathomably stupid and it’s hard to imagine a more paradigmatic case of judicial activism. One wonders if the same kind of controversy could be summoned today; it seems doubtful, but you never know what would happen if an American university attempt to give, say, Richard Dawkins a position. In sum, the book is well worth a read and an interesting look at the mind of an amazing human being.

Categories: 26 in 52
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