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Bertrand Russell in his essay "Why I Am Not a Christian" writes " ...there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature - namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. Then further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ" emphasis mine. I should point out that between the last two sentences quoted lies one sentence and the first sentence is joined in progress. The reader is invited to look up the quote but I'm sure she will find that my lifting of the quote is not out of context.

I'd argue that Russell's first item is central to all spiritual systems, that Russell's second item changes with the spiritual system discussed, and that calling godless Buddhism's "Nirvana" a superspirit is not overreaching.

For Dr. Russell's quote, I am using the 1957 edition of Why I Am Not a Christian, from Touchstone Books, edited by Paul Edwards. The quote is from page 4.

Edward J. Larsen and Larry Witham's survey of scientist's opinions on religion is a continuation of research begun in 1916 by James Leuba. An encapsulation of that research is in the April 3, 1997 issue of Nature, pages 435-36. My point is not served by quoting statistics on religion among scientists, but, rather, by the questions they asked. Do you have a belief in a personal god and do you have a belief in human immortality?

Last modified: 8/1/00