Bertrand Russell What I Believe Essay

Of course there is another sense which you find in Whitaker’s Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshippers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians.

The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.

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.

I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men.

If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian.

THE FIRST CAUSE ARGUMENT Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause.

(It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God).

As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. Belief in eternal hell fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times.

In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override Their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian.

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