The past few years have seen an increasing interest on the debate concerning the existence of a personal deity and the rise of atheism across the United States. Prominent writers such as Christopher Hitchens have published bestsellers on the topic, analyzing religion and condemning it almost as a mortal sin. Though such extremist claims may seem revolutionary and sacrilegeous, the truth is that they have appeared in America before. Bertrand Russell, a celebrated philosopher and thinker of the Twentieth Century, expressed during his own time similar opinions concerning religion, but to equate Hitchens with Russell would be like comparing the drawings of an infant to a Picasso. Russell's own era and his victory in the search for truth set him apart from the contemporary writer who shall be as transient as the sunset.
Russell's views on religion appear in various essays, but most predominantly in his book Why I Am not a Christian. Russell's goal in writing never became a reason to indoctrinate humanity with his own believes, but to stimulate the public mind and advance the steps of free thought in a world where taboos included atheism and religion. A capitalist America, however, holds responsibility for Hitchens's success as he appears on television shows debating issues that have become dull and uninteresting after a plethora of repetitive discussions that always conclude with the same shouting across screens and yearning to keep a clean public image.
Bertrand Russell, on the other hand, gave atheism and the critique of religion its place by acting out of a desire to learn, following the Socratic command to "know thyself." Russell presented himself as a humble man, as the Socrates of his age, the Jesus of atheism who would have sacrificed himself upon a sculpture of Plato for truth. Bertrand Russell remains a far grander thinker than Hitchens who is only the result of a commercial America yearning for those who shall shout at it what it wants to hear.
Besides critiquing religion, Bertrand Russell also wrote an encompassing guide to the study of philosophy, which many colleges across the nation and the world use today. Russell studied the great Greeks along with the classics of our age, including thinkers such as Hume and Kant. Russell sought truth for truth itself, where as Hitchens seeks truth in order to glorify atheism and deplore religion. Atheism and religion have become the only two goals of Hitchens's career, and he has lost the true essence of a man who seeks truth: the ability to acknowledge the faults of his beliefs and value truth as an ends, not a means.
If God existed, Hitchens would quickly fall into denial as a defense mechanism. If God existed, Russell would have an interesting conversation with him and question him about his existence. This minute difference makes all the difference among these two thinkers who tread the same path with different shoes. Hitchens bought the most expensive shoes with a forty percent discount at dolce&gabbana, while Russell did not bother with his feet and simply enjoyed the walk.