Third Earl Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, was one of the founding fathers of the analytic philosophical tradition. His work with AN Whitehead at the beginning of the twentieth century, Principia Mathematica, which defended the theory that mathematics can be reduced to logic, is widely recognised as the single most important modern work on logic. His influence extended from mathematics and logic to metaphysics and epistemology, and far beyond.
Russell was not merely an academic, though, but also an important public figure. He was a civil rights campaigner, and following World War II was a prominent advocate of nuclear disarmament. In 1950, he was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature, “in recognition of his varied and significant writings in which he champions humanitarian ideals and freedom of thought.”
Although the philosophy of religion was not Russell’s major concern, he is remembered as an outspoken critic of religion. This is in part thanks to his lecture to the National Secular Society in 1927, Why I Am Not a Christian. There Russell, strictly speaking an agnostic, explains first his rejection of belief in God, describing and criticising in turn each of the traditional theistic proofs, and second his criticisms both of the teachings of Christ and of the Church’s impact on society.