Russell XV: Judging Christ

judgeThe next section we’ll examine in Russell’s speech, “Why I’m Not a Christian” deals with the teachings of Christ:

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries.

Of course, the idea that what Christ meant by “judge” is the same thing as is done in court is questionable at best. Personally, I’m more inclined to think that it is obviously untrue.

Still that is not Russell’s biggest mistake. It goes without saying that no Christian follows Christ’s teachings as she should. The apologist could completely agree to every accusation of hypocrisy leveled by the atheist and it wouldn’t advance us one step toward rejecting either God’s existence or his goodness. At most, it would show us why people need God’s grace so badly.

This has been a consistent mistake among the New Atheists. Reading their published work, it is legitimate to wonder if they understand that “Does God exist?”, “Is God good?”, and “Is religion socially healthy?” are different questions. They (and, much more, their fans) seem to think that answering any one of these questions in the negative settles the others in the same way.

Nor do they understand that none of these questions have been decided in the negative, we are much closer to the opposite with all three of them.

For his part, Russell at least admits that the same charge of hypocrisy could be leveled against himself and, presumably, any other atheist:

All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

Why it is different for Christians, he does not say. But it is difficult not to think it is because Russell believes Christians claim to have been granted some kind of supernatural power for perfect behavior, rather than what we do claim to have: forgiveness for our failure to live up to these high standards.

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2 responses to “Russell XV: Judging Christ

  • makagutu

    Nor do they understand that none of these questions have been decided in the negative, we are much closer to the opposite with all three of them.

    How close are we to knowing if a god[s] exist?
    How close are we to knowing if god[s] are good?
    Is religion socially healthy is an ongoing debate. In the future we can make conclusions on this.

    You are using your interpretation of scripture to berate Atheists while there is a greater possibility that not all christians even the ones in your specific sect do not agree with you.

  • Debilis

    Okay, I think this makes for part four. I hope my responses prove interesting.

    I definitely wouldn’t put a percentage on these questions. I’d merely say that (regarding God’s existence) materialism seems to me to have greater logical difficulties than theism and (regarding God’s goodness) that there are more and better arguments in favor of a benevolent creator than an evil one.

    Again, I apologize if it seemed that I was berating atheists. These comments were directed at the New Atheists alone, and I think we can agree that my comments are quite tame relative to their zingers.

    But, I fully agree that I’m using my own interpretation of scripture, as I am arguing for my view. This is only problematic if:

    1. I were arguing that all Christians agree with me – or claimed that there are never Christians who have silly understandings of Christianity, or

    2. My beliefs were particularly radical, as opposed to being well within the mainstream of Christian theology.

    In fact, I’ve been frustrated by the New Atheists’ (but not all atheists’) assumption that all Christians walk in step with Jerry Falwell. His has always been a minority view, and part of the point of this series was to make clear my own frustration that this particular group of atheists have used this minority interpretation of the Bible to berate all Christians.

    As such, I think it is perfectly fair for me to point out the differences between my beliefs, and what the New Atheists take my beliefs to be. I only want to make it clear that I am not applying these comments to all atheists.

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