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Graham Oppy Whynot

Why I Am Not a Christian (2006)

Graham Oppy

[A somewhat different version of this paper is forthcoming in Theism and Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives, edited by Paul Pistone and Quentin Smith, Oxford University Press.]

In 1927, Bertrand Russell gave a public lecture with the title “Why I Am Not a Christian.” I regularly use the transcript of this lecture as the first reading in a second-year undergraduate course on philosophy of religion that I teach at Monash University. In the present essay, I propose to give an overview of the content of Russell’s lecture, an indication of the ways in which my thinking has been influenced by it, and a brief description of the ways in which my own account of why I am not a Christian would differ from the account that Russell gives.


Russell’s essay begins with a characterization of Christianity. On his account, a Christian is at least committed to belief in God, in immortality, and that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and the wisest of men. While there are some who call themselves ‘Christians’ who would claim not to have all of these commitmentsand while there is room for further explanation of exactly what each of these commitments involvesI think that it is plausible that most ‘Christians’ do, indeed, believe in God, in personal immortality, andsetting aside certain subtleties in the interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinitythat Christ was the best and wisest of men.

Given this characterization, Russell goes on to say that if he is to explain why he is not a Christian, he must explain both why he does not believe in God and immortality, and why he does not believe that Christ was the greatest and wisest of men. There is a quite uncharacteristic logical slip here: given that a Christian must satisfy all of the conditions that Russell lays down, it would suffice for Russell to explain why he rejects any one of those conditions. However, even though it would suffice for Russell to explain why he rejects one of the stated conditions, it is not in the least bit surprising to find that he rejects each of them, and it is worth paying attention to the reasons that he gives in each case.

Russell groups the beliefs in God and immortality together as a single belief: belief in God and immortality. In the subsequent discussion, he focuses entirely on belief in God, allowing belief in immortality to slip from the picture. There is no logical error herebelief in God and immortality lapses if belief in God lapses. But it is worth noting that there is much to be said against belief in immortality. Of course, there are systems of religious belief in which there is commitment to immortality and yet no commitment to God, so it should not be thought that belief in immortality automatically lapses if belief in God lapses.

Russell’s case against belief in God proceeds entirely by way of consideration of arguments that might be advanced on behalf of that belief. Thus Russell implicitly commits himself to the claim that if there are no good arguments for belief in God, then one ought not to believe in God. Though this seems defensible, it is also worth looking for positive reasons for denying that God exists. There is no shortage of arguments that there is no God; a full discussion of belief in God surely ought to give consideration to those arguments.

By his own admission, Russell does not canvass all of the arguments that might be advanced for belief in God; but it seems reasonable to suppose that his intent is to canvass a representative selection of the best such arguments. Clearly, the arguments that Russell considers“the first cause argument,” “the natural law argument,” “the argument from design,” “the moral arguments for deity,” and “the argument for the remedying of injustice”are not the strongest arguments that might be given on behalf of belief in God, particularly given Russell’s formulations of these arguments. Nonetheless, I do think that the point of view defended in this part of his paper is correct: there are no good arguments for belief in God. In other words, there are no theistic arguments that, once presented to him, ought to have changed Russell’s mind on pain of conviction of some kind of intellectual failure or misconduct. (For stronger defenses of this position, taking account of the best formulations of the best arguments that have been mounted for belief in God, see, for example: Mackie [1982], Martin [1990], Sobel [2004], Everitt [2004], and Oppy [2006].)

Apart from identifying failings in some theistic arguments, Russell also makes some observations about the true wellsprings of belief in God. On his view, the main reason why people believe in God is simply because this belief is inculcated in them from early infancy. Furthermore, according to Russell, the other important motives for belief in God are fear of the unknown (including, in particular, fear of death), and a desire for safety (including, especially, a desire for a big brother who will look after your interests and guarantee the satisfaction of your most deeply held wants). While I agree with Russell that nonbelievers are committed to merely causal stories about the prevalence and strength of belief in God, I think that any such story will be much more complicated than Russell (or Freud, Marx, Engels, or Durkheim) allows. There has been some interesting recent work in this areasee, for example, Lawson and McCauley (1990), and Atran (2002)but I do not think that we are yet close to a fully satisfying account.

As I noted earlier, Russell provides various objections to the claim that Christ was the best and wisest of men. One obvious objection that Russell considers, only to immediately set it aside, is that it is controversial whether the historical record supports the claim that Christ so much as existed. According to Russell, even if we suppose that we can take the Gospel narrative as a reliable historical record, there are reasons for thinking that Christ was neither especially wise nor especially good. However, before he lists some of these reasons, Russell makes some observations about the teachings of Christ that seem admirable to him (though they are rarely lived out by self-professed Christians)viz., “Resist not evil,” “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and “Go and sell what thou hast, and give [the proceeds] to the poor.” I am not so sure that any of these are admirable maxims; at the very least, I have serious reservations about each of them.

Among the teachings of Christ that Russell finds deficient, he particularly cites various teachings concerning the imminent Second Coming (placed within the lifetime of Christ’s contemporaries) and teachings about Hell and eternal punishment. As Russell correctly notes, the latter have been the cause of enormous suffering and mental torment across the succeeding centuries. He next remarks on the curious story in which Christ curses a fig tree because it is not bearing fruit, even though it is the wrong season for figs, and on the story of the Gadarene swine, in which the pigs seem to be quite unfairly mistreated. Finally, Russell makes the inflammatory claim that organized Christianity “has been, and still is, the principal enemy of moral progress in the world” (89). While I think that there is some truth in each of these observations, there is also a considerable amount of overstatement. For example, that organized Christian churches have often been enemies of moral progress is uncontroversial, but it is unclear that they have been worse than other religious and social institutions in this regard. As we all know, it is very easy to mistake mere correlations for causal relations; we should not be too quick to suppose that widespread correlation of Christian belief with ignorance, misery, and suffering is evidence that Christian belief has been a major causal agent in the production of that ignorance, misery, and suffering.


My parents were Methodists, and I grew up with quite conventional Christian beliefs in God, immortality, and the goodness and wisdom of Christ. In my early teenage years, I came to have doubts about these Christian beliefs. As I recall, there was no external impetus for these doubts; rather, I simply began to examine the beliefs as I lay awake at nights, and found them wanting. Over a period of about six months, prior to my fourteenth birthday, I moved from being a quite conventional Christian to being a firmly convinced atheist, without once discussing any of the relevant considerations with other people, and without reading anything on these matters. After my conversion, I engaged in heated discussions with fellow students and teachers about belief in God, and was encouraged to read relevant materials. I recall being urged to read the wager argument in Pascal’s Pensées by one of my school teachers; I can’t say that I was in the least bit impressed.

For my sixteenth birthday, I was given a copy of The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, which I read with great interest. Of the further works that I was prompted to read by this initial stimulusapart from Russell’s History of Western Philosophy, which I found very hard to understandI recall, in particular, Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (but I didn’t get beyond the first few sections) and Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian. I do not recall whether I thought that Russell’s arguments in the title essay were good or notI expect that I did not have the intellectual sophistication needed to make that kind of judgmentbut I certainly found the outlook that he expressed congenial.

After I completed high school, I enrolled in an undergraduate medical program at the University of Melbourne. I found that I was much more interested in reading philosophy than in studying embryologyin particular, my copy of The Portable Nietzsche was much thumbedand, at the end of my first year, I transferred to a combined arts/science degree with majors in mathematics and philosophy, and minors in physics and history and philosophy of science. The first philosophy essay that I wrote was on Descartes’ ontological argument (in Meditation V); in that essay I accepted Anthony Kenny’s critique of Descartes’ argument. However, apart from a second year subject in philosophy of religion taught by Bruce Langtry, I had no further opportunities to pursue philosophy of religion until I completed my graduate studies in philosophy. Throughout that time I gave little attention to questions about belief in God: I was firmly convinced that there is no God, and had no motivation to pursue inquiry in this field.

Following the completion of my Ph.D., I became an unemployed visitor attached to the philosophy program in the Research School of Social Science at the Australian National University. The head of the Department of Philosophy in the Faculties at ANU approached me to ask whether I could give the lectures in a second year course on philosophy of religion. I jumped at the chance, and began an eager quest to learn as much as I could about the subject. (I had about one month to prepare before the semester began.) I read an enormous amount, and then produced extensive notes for each of the twenty-six lectures that I gave. Moreover, during the course of the semester I wrote three papers that were accepted for publication in different specialist journals.

Even at this stage, I do not think that it was written in stone that I would become a philosopher of religion. Around the same time I published a similar number of papers in aesthetics, and had some arguably more prestigious publications in philosophy of language. However, more or less on a whim, I decided to apply for an Australian Research Council postdoctoral fellowship, and found myself with three years of research funding for study in the field of philosophy of religion in the philosophy program at RSSS. During this time, I wrote Ontological Arguments and Belief in God, and established a clear research trajectory in the field.

There has not been very much change in my global outlook on the question of belief in God since the time that I became a nonbeliever. It has always seemed to me that there is no God hypothesis to which I ought to give more than negligible credence. More generally, it has always seemed to me that there is no kind of supernatural hypothesis that deserves non-negligible credence. Reality is described by science; there are no metaphysical spooks hiding behind the scenes.

I have sometimes wavered on the question whether there can be reasonable belief in God hypotheses, and in supernatural hypotheses more generally. I once read a paper at the Australasian Association of Philosophy with the title “It is not rational to believe in God.” However, for the most part, I have adhered to the view that the existence of God is one of those matters on which reasonable people can reasonably disagree: those who believe in God need not be guilty of some failure of reasoning, even though their beliefs are not appropriately linked to the way that things really are.


If I were to fill Russell’s shoes and give a lecture with the title “Why I Am Not a Christian,” my lecture would have many similarities to the one that Russell gave. I would start by giving a slightly stronger characterization of what it is that Christians believe. Although there is considerable variation in Christian belief, Christians are typically committed to some close variant of the claim that there is an immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good creator (ex nihilo) and sustainer of all things who is three persons in one substance, with one of these three persons being numerically identical to a human being who died to atone for human sins; that this being exercises providential control over free human beings; that he will bring about the bodily resurrection of all to eternal life; that he allows some lives to lead to eternal bliss, and other lives to lead to eternal torment; and that he is the author of authoritative (and perhaps even inerrant) scripture, viz., the Christian Bible. I think that this account entails the claims upon which Russell focusedChristians do believe in God and immortality, and they do think that Christ was the best and wisest of human beingsbut it captures more of the commitments that are entailed by Christian belief.

I think that there are no good argumentsno arguments that ought to persuade nonbelievers to change their mindsfor Christian belief as I have just characterized it. Indeed, I suspect that many Christians actually agree with me on this point, insofar as they claim that much of what is involved in Christian belief (as I understand it) is only known on the basis of something like personal revelation. Moreoverthough I admit that this is more contentiousI think that there are no good arguments for much weaker claims entailed by what I take to characterize Christian belief, e.g., the claim that there is an immaterial, omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good creator (ex nihilo) and sustainer of all things. Since I have argued at length for this claim elsewhere (see, in particular, Oppy [2006]), I shall not try to repeat those arguments here. I do not think that there is any short route to this conclusion; one simply has to work one’s way carefully through all of the extant arguments.

While I do not think that there are good arguments that there is no Godi.e., arguments that ought to persuade Christians to give up their Christian beliefs on pain of conviction of irrationalityI do think it worthwhile to set out some of the grounds for my rejection of the claim that the Christian God exists. Here, then, are some things that I do believe, and that I take myself to have good grounds for believing.

If there is anything contingent in the world, then there is brutei.e., inexplicablecontingency in the world. Hence, if there is anything contingent in the world, then there are thingsevents, factsthat simply have no explanation. In particular, then, there is no justification for supposing that belief in God is justified simply because the truth of that belief would account for otherwise inexplicable contingency in the world. If we are puzzled by why the world is one way rather than some other way that it might have been, our puzzlement cannot be removed by supposing that the world is the way it is because God chose to make it that way. If we are worried by unexplained contingency, we shall want to know why God chose to make the world that way: postulating God does not remove the unexplained contingency, but it does land us with a whole new raft of explanatory burdens and commitments. This is not progress.

If we suppose that there is a concept of cause that has proper application to our world, then there are events and occurrences that simply lack causes, including, in particular, events and occurrences where entities come into existence and processes commence. Consequently, I do not think that the thought that God might be the initial cause for what would otherwise be uncaused initial events and occurrences justifies belief in Godfor God’s actions and decisions are also events and occurrences that, on the intuition in question, stand in need of causes. Of course, if there is a concept of cause that has proper application to our world, then our world might have a “Russian doll” structure, with a series of causes extending back into the past, each cause preceded by an earlier causeeven if all such chains of causes converge on an initial, but merely ideal, point or plane. However, it seems to me that, on the supposition that the concept of cause has proper application to the world, it is more likely that there are events and occurrences that simply lack causes than that the world has a “Russian doll” causal structure.

If we suppose that there is some intelligible sense to an objective conception of “perfection,” then it is highly plausible that, if there were a perfect being, it would simply be unable to create an imperfect universe: i.e., a universe whose history was less than optimal on any dimension of evaluation. In particular, it is highly plausible that if there were a perfect being, it would simply be unable to create a universe in which there are departures from moral perfection. But it is very plausibleif not utterly obviousthat the universe that we inhabit is populated with events and occurrences that do mark departures from moral perfection. So it is highly plausible to suppose that, on our initial assumption about objective perfection, there is no perfect being. While this claim hardly cuts against the claim that the Christian God existssince the Christian God is continuous with the God of the Old Testament, and it is hardly contentious that the God of the Old Testament is less than morally perfectit is equally clear that this claim does cut against the views of many contemporary Christian philosophers of religion.

If we suppose that claims about human free actions are intelligible, then it seems to me that it is a mistake to think that human beings have what philosophers call ‘libertarian’ freedom, as opposed to ‘compatibilist’ freedom. To act freely is simply to act on one’s normally acquired beliefs and desires in the absence of certain kinds of constraints, and there is no inconsistency in the thought that actions that possess this kind of freedom have physical causes. On the libertarian conception of freedom, one acts freely only if, in the very circumstances in which one acted, it was within one’s power to do otherwisewhich is incompatible with efficient causation of action. But as I see it, the only alternative to efficient causation is absence of causation; and, if one’s actions are only ‘free’ because they have no causes, then this is not a kind of ‘freedom’ worth wanting. Among the consequences of this view, two are particularly important. First, it is a mistake to suppose that the free choices of a supernatural agent might be ‘ultimate’ explainers: for if ‘freedom’ is libertarian, then what is appealed to ultimately has no explanation; and if ‘freedom’ is compatibilist, then free choices are no less in need of explanation than any other kinds of events. Second, given that freedom is ‘compatibilist,’ it is very hard to see how the presence of evil in the world might be explained in terms of the value that freedom possesses; for there surely are possible worlds in which agents always freely choose the good, and it is very hard to see why a perfect creator either could not or would not make one of those worlds if it made any world at all.

If we suppose that our ordinary mentalistic vocabulary should be given a realistic construal, then I take it that our ‘mental’ states are nothing other than certain kinds of states of our brains. I do not deny that there are imperfections in our current understanding of consciousness; but I do not see how the postulation of spooky mental stuff promises to give any additional insight. Moreover, I take it that the welter of information that we possess concerning neural deficits, and the nature of various kinds of physical impacts on our ‘minds,’ provides very strong reason for denying that we are essentially nonphysical spooks who are only contingently wired up to our bodies. Of course, there is some alleged data that supports the distinct existences hypothesis; but I take it that, after due consideration, we should find that reports of out-of-body experiences, astral travel, and the like are not reflections of how the world really is.

If asked to engage in fundamental metaphysical speculation about the nature of our world, I would give greatest credence to a kind of supervenient naturalism. Alas, it is no easy matter to give an exact characterization of supervenient naturalism. Intuitively, the idea is that, if one fixes the natural properties of our world, and does nothing more, then one fixes all of the properties of our world. So, for example, in order to bring about the distribution of mental properties that there is in our universe, a (hypothetical!) universe-builder would need to do nothing more than fix an appropriate distribution of naturalphysical, chemical, biologicalproperties across an appropriately natural frame. Of course, if we bring time into the picture, then it might be the case that which mental properties are instantiated here and now is only fixed by the distribution of natural properties across all of space and all of prior time. That is, in general, it may be the case that for any spatiotemporal region in which one wishes to bring about a certain distribution of supervenient properties, there is some spatiotemporal region of the universe which is such that all that one needs to do is to fix the appropriate natural properties on that region. Note that this view does not require that it is possible, even in principle, for cognitive agents to figure out a priori what the supervenient properties in a given region are, given only a specification of the distribution of natural properties in some other appropriately related region. Supervenient naturalism is an ontological doctrine; it says nothing at all about the best ways to regulate inquiry (though it does say that, if you want to hit on the truth, then you should not postulate supernatural objects and properties).

If asked to provide a broad outline of the history of the universe since the Big Bang, I wouldto the best of my abilityoutline the history that is delivered to us by our best sciences. In particular, I would insist that life appeared on Earth some billions of years ago, and that human beings are directly descended from those ancestral life forms. Moreover, I would insist that there is no need to appeal to the hypothesis of intelligent design to explain any of the features that our universe has possessed over the course of its history. Furthermore, I would say that any impulse to postulate intelligent designers to explain structural or organizational features of the universe should be matched by an impulse to postulate further intelligent designers for those intelligent designersto explain the structural or organizational features of the beliefs, desires, and intentions of the initial intelligent designers.

If asked to provide a broad outline of recent human historysay, the last 10,000 yearsI would provide an outline in which there is no mention of the actions of supernatural agents, and no mention of the occurrence of miraculous events. Of course, I might mention well-known reports of the actions of supernatural agents, and well-known reports of the occurrence of miraculous events; but I would insist that all such reports are simply mistaken. In particular, I would insist that none of the religions that have a place in recent human history have supernatural origins; and I would insist that there have been no miraculous events that provide support for particular religious beliefs. All of the religions that have a place in recent human historyand all of the writings that are associated with those religionscan be happily accommodated within the supervenient naturalism outlined earlier. Moreover, in principle, there are purely naturalistic explanations for all religions, religious beliefs, religious writings, religious experiences (and reports thereof), and so forththough, in practice, we may not always be able to fix on those explanations, owing to lack of data and theoretical sophistication.

If asked to say how much of the Christian Gospels is historical truth, I would say that I don’t know. It might be that they are entirely works of the imagination; or it might be that there was a historical figure who became the focus for what are, in significant part, works of the imagination. I am not impressed by the claim that if we suppose that the Gospels are largely works of the imagination, then we shall need to suppose that the rest of ancient history is so as well. For we have the best of reasons for thinking that much in the Gospels does spring from the imaginationnamely, the fantastic nature of the events that are described thereinbut we have no such reason for thinking that everything else that is recorded in ancient history must also spring from that source. Moreover, while there are ancient histories that bear marks of methodological sophistication, including explicit discussion of the principles that apply when weighing the reliability of sources and the like, the Gospels are plainly not amongst those histories.

There are doubtless many more factual matters on which my beliefs part company with the beliefs of Christians. Of course, not all Christians will part company with me on all of these matters; but I see little room for doubt that all Christians will part company with me on a great many of them. Moreover, I take it that I am not unique among antisupernaturalists in this respect: while many (if not all) antisupernaturalists will disagree with me on some of the matters that I have already raised, there is no doubt that they will all have similarly long lists of factual matters on which their beliefs part company with the beliefs of Christians. But, for the purposes of explaining why I am not a Christian, perhaps the list of views that I have already given will suffice.


At the conclusion of the Postscript to his autobiography, Russell (1975:728) writes:

I may have thought the road to a world of free and happy human beings shorter than it is proving to be, but I was not wrong in thinking that such a world is possible, and that it is worth while to live with a view to bringing it nearer. I have lived in the pursuit of a vision, both personal and social. Personal: to care for what is noble, for what is beautiful, for what is gentle: to allow moments of insight to give wisdom at more mundane times. Social: to see in imagination the society that is to be created, where individuals grow freely, and where hate and greed and envy die because there is nothing to nourish them. These things I believe, and the world, for all its horrors, has left me unshaken.

I think that, in this paragraph, Russell correctly identifies some of the ingredients of a meaningful life. On the one hand, a meaningful life will have a ‘personal vision’: a view of that which is most valuable and most virtuous. While Russell’s list here is a bit thinalongside the noble, the beautiful, and the gentle, one would surely wish to place more emphasis on, among other things, love, friendship, familial relationships, and the likeno one should wish to deny that one ought to care for the things that Russell mentions. And, on the other hand, a meaningful life will have a ‘social vision’: a view about the kinds of enduring projects that it is worth engaging in, and the kinds of things that one might do in order to make the world a better place than it otherwise would have been. Again, one might think that Russell’s list is a bit thin, but one can hardly deny that we should promote individual freedom and oppose hatred, greed, and envy. Moreover, one can surely think that one needn’t subscribe to the achievability of Russell’s vision of a ‘world of free and happy human beings’ if one is to have an acceptable ‘social vision’: after all, even Russell could have done no more than to promote individual freedom and oppose hatred, greed, and envy in the social circles in which he moved. One needn’t suppose that the perfection of the world is achievable in order to find meaning inand in order for there to be meaning inlocal improvements of the world.

There are obvious differences between the kind of vision of the meaningful life that I would endorse, and the typical kind of vision of the meaningful life that is endorsed by Christians. More generally, there are obvious differences between the views that I take on questions of valuesincluding, in particular, ethical and moral valuesand the typical kinds of views on questions of values that are endorsed by Christians. I propose to round out this essay with a brief discussion of some of the salient differences. As in the previous discussion of factual questions, the presentation will be very brief, and susceptible of almost indefinite refinement and elaboration. However, I hope it will at least serve to indicate the directions in which further discussion would proceed.

Many Christians suppose that there can be no valuesand, in particular, that there can be no moral or ethical valuesthat are not ‘grounded’ in Christian belief, and, more particularly, in the properties and actions of the Christian God. In contrast, I take it that, if there are values, then those values could not possibly be ‘grounded’ in the properties or actions of a creator God. In particular, if there are basic truths about values, then those truths are necessary, and hence not capable of having a ‘grounding’ in anything. That there are values, and that there are basic truths about values, are not (presumptive) facts that are susceptible of any kind of explanation, including, in particular, explanation in terms of the properties and actions of a creator God.

Many Christians suppose that one can only respond positively to life in our universe if one takes on Christian beliefs. In particular, many Christians suppose that life would be meaningless without the promise of personal immortality extended by the Christian God (though perhaps only to the suitably deserving); and, more generally, many Christians suppose that life would be meaningless in the absence of a grand narrative that gives central cosmic importance to the actions and attitudes of human beings. However, I take it that one can respond positively to life in our universe, and live a satisfying and meaningful life, without believing either in personal immortality or in the central cosmic importance of the actions and attitudes of human beings. I’m inclined to add that belief in either personal immortality or the central importance of actions and attitudes of human beings is characteristically a negative response to life in our universe: the underlying impulse is towards acceptance of the thought that if we get nothing more than our ‘three score and ten’ years, then a negative verdict on life in our universe would be warranted or mandated!

Many Christians suppose that there can be no virtuous behavior in the absence of Christian belief. Furthermore, many Christians suppose that there is a strong correlation between happiness and belief in the Christian God, and that there is a strong correlation between virtuous behavior and belief in the Christian God. But it seems to me that there is no uncontroversial evidence for these alleged correlations; and there may even be some evidence which suggests that there is a correlation between unhappiness and belief in the Christian God, and between vicious behavior and belief in the Christian God. I take it that virtue and happiness can falland do fallupon believers and unbelievers alike; if you don’t share this belief, then you really just need to get out more. However, if we look for evidence that one group is happier or more virtuous than the other, then I take it that the proper place to look is in studies such as Paul (2005). And these studies do seem to point to the conclusion that there is a significant correlation between poor social health outcomes across a wide range of indicatorsdivorce, teenage pregnancy, domestic violence, etc.and Christian belief. Interestingly, there are other studies that show that Christian believers typically self-report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction that do nonbelievers. Perhaps, then, we should also conclude that, on average, Christian believers have some stronger tendency to overestimate how happy they really are.

In his 1927 lecture, Russell has little to say about the values that he endorses, and about what he supposes constitutes a meaningful life. While there is a sense in which these considerations can play no role in deliberations about the truth of central Christian doctrine, it seems to me that, in a full discussion of the reasons that one has for not being a Christian, one needs to say something about one’s own values, and one’s conception of what makes for a meaningful life. If it were true that unbelievers could neither live meaningful lives nor endorse respectable values, then rejection of the factual claims of the world’s religionsincluding, in particular, Christianitywould leave one in a parlous position. Consequently, if I were in Russell’s shoes, I would have rounded about my lecture with some indication of why I see no difficulties in the suggestion that nonbelievers can lead meaningful lives and endorse respectable values. I see no reason to suppose that he would have disagreed very strongly with what I have had to say in this final part of my paper.


Atran, Scott. (2002). In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.

Everitt, Nicholas. (2004). The Non-Existence of God. London: Routledge.

Lawson, E. Thomas, and McCauley, Robert N. (1990). Rethinking Religion: Connecting Cognition and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mackie, J. L. (1982). The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon.

Martin, Michael. (1990). Atheism: A Philosophical Justification. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Oppy, Graham. (1995). Ontological Arguments and Belief in God. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Oppy, Graham. (2006). Arguing about Gods. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Paul, Gregory S. (2005). “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in Prosperous Democracies.” Journal of Religion and Society 7, 1-17.

Russell, Bertrand. (1957). Why I Am Not a Christian (edited by P. Edwards). London: Allen & Unwin.

Russell, Bertrand. (1975). The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. London: Allen & Unwin.

Sobel, Jordan Howard. (2004). Logic and Theism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Copyright ©2006 by Graham Oppy. This electronic version is copyright ©2006 by Internet Infidels, Inc. with the written permission of Graham Oppy. All rights reserved.

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