Great Books that Criticize Religion


Why I Am Not a Christian is a book of essays which includes a copy of a speech by Bertrand Russell, the Welsh-born philosopher and mathematician, who delivered it to the National Secular Society in South London in 1927. In his speech, he explains why he does not believe in God and immortality, and also why he does not believe that Jesus was the best and wisest of men.

It’s witty and light, although of serious intent. Bertrand Russell demolishes multiple arguments in favor of God’s existence one by one, easily and understandably. Here is live ammo for atheists who feel they must argue with theists!

Then he explains why he does not think Jesus the best of men. Russell compares Him to Socrates, and Socrates comes out the easy winner. Essentially, Socrates was kind to his enemies, tolerant of opposing views, and didn’t threaten anyone with Hell. Finally, Bertrand Russell discusses the reasons, as he sees it, that humans remain theistic.

Christians as a rule are brought up to their beliefs, as Buddhists are, and Hindus.

Because someone believes something sincerely that he or she learned as a child doesn’t make it true, it just makes it a strongly held belief. Also, Christians are trained to believe that an attack on Christianity is an attack on social order and good behavior. Not so, says Russell, consider all the evils perpetrated in the name of Christianity. Finally, Mr. Russell states his belief that the basis of all religion is fear. We should put our faith in science, he says, and not live in fear. We should trust in human intelligence, and not grovel before a tyrant we ourselves have created. I read this essay online and greatly enjoyed it. I haven’t read the other essays yet, but if they’re up to this standard, wow!

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens, has some great phrases, and some great arguments, but is not up to Bertrand Russell’s standard. It’s almost childish in its level of invective and immoderation. As far as I could tell, according to Mr. Hitchens religion is responsible for just about all the evils in the world today. Any number of Catholic saints and prelates were actually evil. Martin Luther King Jr. did some good in the world, but only because, unbeknownst to himself, he was actually a humanist. Dr. King, a Baptist minister, was not really a Christian at all. No one will deny that evil has been done in the name of religion, but is that because religion is evil? Many may debate this issue, but not Mr. Hitchens. The book is a long vivid rant, really, and can be enjoyed as such.

The Golden Compass – a book against organized religion

The Golden Compass, which is called Northern Lights outside the U.S., is certainly against organized religion. Whether it is anti-religion is another question. This book, written by Phillip Pullman, is one of those children’s books that adults can enjoy, or else an adult fantasy that children can understand. It seems to take the position that children, at least, are inherently good, that they have something like a guiding spirit, and that their instincts, as well as their reason, are to be trusted. It is institutionalized religion that takes the heat in this dark and beautiful book. I’d say it’s definitely worth the time, whatever your age or spiritual orientation.

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