Critique and Commentary on Bertrand Russell’s Arguments Against Christianity – Part 2

Continuing where my previous article on Bertrand Russell’s speech left off, I wanted to briefly address some of the remarks he made about Christ and religion in the rest of the speech. Each point deserves a thorough analysis, which I intend to perform in future articles. However, since there are so many points, I’ll only provide a small taste of things to come as I respond to his points.

Like many people with the INTP personality, Russell doesn’t like the idea of God sending people to hell. To fully understand why he is like this, we would have to dissect the mentality of these people. Obviously, that would take quite some time. It helps to be one, especially since not many people I know seem to grasp the mentality of these people. In any case, people with this specific personality like to see the best in people. They can be friends with anyone, regardless of readily apparent differences, so long as they aren’t being irritated by them. They see the general good in humanity, even if they tend to be irritated by specific individuals. However, in seeing the general good in humanity, there is a tendency to be too broad-minded, which loses focus on individual choice. That’s a key clue.

Most people want to go to paradise. Paradise is the place we each think we want to go. It’s the place where the rules of the world seem to dictate our happiness. And of course, the mechanics of real life never work out that way. Want your own island in the sun? Better get some sunscreen and watch out for the volcano! Want to have sex with all kinds of beautiful people? You’ll probably pick up some STDs and other medical-related problems. Want to live in a pile of riches? The tax collector, burglars, and a couple of Mormons are knocking at your door. And of course, you’ll never be fully satisfied. People like to imagine there is some paradise where all the rules work out in their favor, but there isn’t, so they’re stuck with real life and trying to make something of it.

So when someone tells you that you can go to heaven by walking away from everything that – at least at first glance – seems like it would be towards the paradise you want, naturally, you might think it’s bizarre and repulsive. To make matters worse, you might see that same person chasing a life like you and maybe even jealous of what you have. This seems to be more or less what Bertrand Russell is complaining about.

People often choose their beliefs over emotions. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it notes that some people reject the faith because of the scandalous activities of church members. It’s very key to note that many individuals, notably militant atheists, have a bitter taste in their mouth from religion, and many have had religious parents. While they often claim rational arguments are what lead them away from religion, I believe the actual reason is irrational, immoral people induce them into rejecting religion. I’ve read a number of stories from so-called “rational” individuals who complain about the character of church members or complain that they were not provided with the rational answers they were looking for as a kid. Most people are simpletons and don’t need a thoroughly logical answer for belief. Consequently, they disappoints the few of us who want that kind of answer. But if we don’t go looking for the few and far between deep thinkers who do have the answer, what excuse have we for complaining the answer isn’t there? I could expound upon this more, but let’s save that for another time.

Russell noted that emotions are a driving factor for people to choose religion. I definitely agree, and you can see that certain religions – especially one that offers hope like Christianity – often grow in times of persecution, or at least go underground. Russia came out an astonishingly Eastern Orthodox nation after the fall of communism. However, choosing religion due to its emotional factor does not make a particular religion true or false. Many people have become religious in times of peace and freedom, and I’m talking about adults, not just kids brainwashed into belief systems. If fear were the foundation of religion, I would expect it to up and vanish soon after the fear was gone. Instead, it tends to vanish more in prosperous nations – a topic I intend to address at a future time.

Virtue

Is it true that religion makes men virtuous? Is this why they choose religion? I dare say, despite Russell’s objections, that certain religion – when followed correctly – does make certain men more virtuous. Buddhism seems to have made Japan a very peaceful, polite nation. Christianity embedded in the European mentality many ideals – especially human freedom, respect for women, and so forth – that they embrace even though they now separate it from religion. Sadly, most people never actually see a religion practiced word-for-word and carried to its utmost extent. There are some exceptions. Many, many Muslims obey sharia law, and consequently, despite any peaceful ideals that Mohammad it said to have had, it’s quite evident that certain schools of Islam are breeding violence  – it’s not just the character of the people going in. Mother Teresa of Calcutta tried very hard to practice Christianity, and consequently, she won the Nobel Peace Prize.

It can be difficult to see how morals somehow “work”, especially when they force people into obviously undesirable situations. Russell uses a marriage between a woman and a man with an STD as an example, and he says the church would force them to stay together. Let’s consider this scenario (even though it’s a classic situational-ethics dilemma). There are medical ways of treating the disease now, but even without that, there is prayer and abstinence. Of course, abstinence in marriage seems rather disappointing if you don’t see it as an opportunity to grow in self-control and love. After all, if you love someone, you’ll need to restrain yourself until sex is best for the both of you (even if both of you are perfectly healthy human beings). Not restraining yourself shows obedience to instinct, which can get you into trouble in other ways – a topic that deserves expanding on at another time. Secondly, I mentioned prayer. Overlooking the possibility of a miracle healing diminishes one’s expectations of God. God is not a candy machine, but now and then, he does provide miracles for the sake of individuals.

Considering the broad effects of morals and ethics, the arguments based on unique scenarios start to diminish in importance. Good and evil form a fractal surface. It may be very situational at times, but nevertheless, one side is clearly black and another is clearly white. There is no grey, even though it may seem that way at times.

Human society is like a giant, complex machine (maybe a grandfather clock or a car). If all of the pieces work together correctly, everything works. But if even one piece falls out of place, tons of other pieces start to fail, even if they are correctly aligned. Good people suffer in a bad world. Bad people prosper in a bad world. People think morals don’t work, but that’s because they are seeing the broken human machine. Naturally, it’s not going to look like morals work. And indeed, being a good person will not necessarily lead you into great situations. However, you can start to taste the benefits of morality if everyone around you acts morally. They don’t have to subscribe to a certain religion to follow and enjoy the benefits of religious moral principles.

Minor Quibbles

The minor quibbles of Russell were nitpicks about the character of Jesus. Apparently, Russell feels empathy for the herd of pigs that Jesus cast the demons into, and he feels empathy for the fig tree that Jesus killed out of season, remarking that Jesus should have known better. It deserves comment that these two types of things – pigs and fig trees – are not valuable like people, and thus if God wishes to destroy them, they shall be destroyed. So Jesus commanded their death? What about the fact that for hundreds of years, God demanded the slaughtering of animals in atonement for sin? It seems, however, that people with the INTP personality like Russell tend to ascribe too much value onto the living things in this world more than they respect God’s ownership over it, even though God could recreate it at a whim and we can’t.

But what is perhaps most bizarre is that Russell seems to treat these stories as fact (for the sake of the argument) without accepting their stunning conclusions. If it so happens that Jesus commanded devils to enter picks and commanded the death of the fig tree and those things did happen, then clearly, Jesus has a remarkable power unlike any man on the face of the earth! But if those things did not happen, then such stories may be fabrications, and if so, we can’t really say that they speak of the true person – nor the true character – of Jesus of Nazareth, and thus it seems unfair to attribute to him such folly.

Another quibble of Russell was that of insults made by Jesus. People with the INTP personality tend to become liberal (from an economic and social standpoint), and liberals in general tend to be quite offended at insults. That was one of their biggest complaints about Donald Trump. Someone like Jesus going around insulting people doesn’t make him out to be the most appealing leader. On the other hand, if you could actually look into the mind of your neighbor and see the wickedness inside, it would probably be quite repulsive, and you may even stop believing in the goodwill of mankind. Moreover, the truth is the truth. What do we call someone who lies? A liar. What do we call someone who steals? A thief. What do we call someone who murders another human being? A murderer. Saying that they aren’t those things would be a lie. Saying nothing about what they are doing just encourages them do it more because there’s no backlash. Jesus commanded his disciples to not to call someone else a fool. If Jesus is God, he gets to do what he wants, but if he was only a man, he is definitely a hypocrite… and a fool.

Concluding Remarks

Obviously, there are tons of things touched on in Russell’s arguments. I intend to go into many of these things in future articles. I won’t do it here because I need to present you with my own foundation so you can see where my ideas are coming from. It will take quite some time to write all that out, so your patience, please.

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