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.
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.
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.
He attacks the idea that history equals legitimacy by arguing that someone, somewhere has always disagreed. For instance, Catholicism has been around for years, but Jews and Protestants don't buy into its ideology. In the same manner, Christianity has years behind it, but Muslims don't adhere to its tenets. Moving away from religion, I think French fries are the best food on the planet, but you might think they're gross. In other words, no matter the evidence behind them, beliefs are rational if you believe in them and irrational if you don't. It's just that simple.
So, to sum it all up, Russell believes his idea of a flying teapot is just as valid as the belief in God. As he said (and I directly quote this time), 'My conclusion is that there is no reason to believe any of the dogmas of traditional theology and, further, that there is no reason to wish that they were true.' To say the least, many would call those fighting words.
Bertrand Russell is a famous 20th-century philosopher who argued against evidence for the existence of God. Bertrand employed his famous teapot argument, found in his essay, 'Is There a God?', to combat those who believe in God. He specifically targeted those who argued God exists simply because his existence can't be disproved. Using analogy, he asserted that this logic would force one to believe a tiny teapot orbited Earth simply because he said it did. Using the rationale that lack of evidence against means evidence for, Russell asserted his teapot would have to be deemed just as real as God.
He also challenged the notion that the supernatural holds more validity than his teapot simply because people have believed in God for years. To him, this argument also comes up wanting because belief is subjective at best. What one believes, another person holds as lunacy.
This lesson prepared you to:
- Restate and discuss Bertrand Russell's teapot argument
- Explain how Russell countered the historical argument for God's existence