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Shvoong Home>Arts & Humanities>Russel about theology Summary

Russel about theology

Book Summary   by:Bhagirath285     Original Author: Bertrand Russel
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In his 1949 speech, "Am I an Atheist or an Agnostic?", Russell expressed his difficulty over whether to call himself an atheist or an agnostic:

As a philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive argument by which one can prove that there is not a God. On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think that I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because, when I say that I cannot prove that there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
– Bertrand Russell, Collected Papers, vol. 11, p. 91
Though he would later question God''s existence, he fully accepted the ontological argument during his undergraduate years:

For two or three years...I was a Hegelian. I remember the exact moment during my fourth year when I became one. I had gone out to buy a tin of tobacco, and was going back with it along Trinity Lane, when I suddenly threw it up in the air and exclaimed: "Great God in Boots! -- the ontological argument is sound!"
– Bertrand Russell, Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 1, 1967.
This quote has been used by many theologians over the years, such as by Louis Pojman in his Philosophy of Religion, who wish for readers to believe that even a well-known atheist-philosopher supported this particular argument for God''s existence. However, such theologians should note that, elsewhere in his autobiography, Russell mentions the following:

About two years later, I became convinced that there is no life after death, but I still believed in God, because the "First Cause" argument appeared to be irrefutable. At the age of eighteen, however, shortly before I went to Cambridge, I read Mill''s Autobiography, where I found a sentence to the effect that his father taught him the question "Who made me?" cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question "Who made God?" This led me to abandon the "First Cause" argument, and to become an atheist.
– Bertrand Russell, Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, Vol. 1, 1967.Write your abstract here.
Published: September 25, 2007   
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