Bertrand Russell's ~'Teapot~' Argument

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  • 0:01 Bertrand Russell
  • 0:28 Creation
  • 1:04 Teapot Argument
  • 1:45 Historical Evidence
  • 2:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson explores Bertrand Russell's arguments against the existence of God. It highlights his beliefs on the universe, as well as his famous teapot argument.

Bertrand Russell

The argument that God is not real is definitely not new. Critics have postulated it for years. However, very few have taken the gloves off quite like Bertrand Russell. Today we'll take a look at this man and his rather famous teapot argument.

For starters, although he studied math, politics, and science, Bertrand Russell is best known for his role as a 20th-century philosopher who argued against the evidence for the existence of God.


Now, when I say argued, I really mean argued. He didn't mince words. In fact, he went as far as to assert the universe has no purpose or creator. It just is. To those who thought the universe was created with a purpose, he asked questions like, 'What type of god would create things like cancer, pain, and war?' He'd then answer with something akin to, 'That would be an evil monster, not a god.' Like I said, he didn't pull any punches!

One of Bertrand's biggest pet peeves came from those who argued God is real because he can't be disproved. In other words, you can't prove to me that God isn't, therefore he is.

Teapot Argument

To combat this one, he came up with his famous teapot argument found in his essay, 'Is There a God?' To sum it up, and of course I paraphrase, he simply asked, 'Well, what if I told you there was a China teapot orbiting in the solar system but it's so small no telescope can find it?' He then answered, 'Of course you wouldn't believe me. You'd think I was crazy!' However, Russell tells the true-if-not-disproved campers if their logic is sound, then so is his teapot. Using their own rationale against them, if you can't prove me wrong, I must be right.

He then went on to assert that the argument that God exists because he can't be disproved is as flimsy as the idea of an orbiting teapot. The only difference is the God myth seems valid because it's been around for generations.

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