Q: Why are you not a Christian?
Russell: Because I see no evidence whatever for any of the Christian dogmas. Iâ€™ve examined all the stock arguments in favour of the existence of God, and none of them seem to me to be logically valid.
Q: Do you think thereâ€™s a practical reason for having a religious belief, for many people?
Russell: Well, there canâ€™t be a practical reason for believing what isnâ€™t true. Thatâ€™s quite… at least, I rule it out as impossible. Either the thing is true, or it isnâ€™t. If it is true, you should believe it, and if it isnâ€™t, you shouldnâ€™t. And if you canâ€™t find out whether itâ€™s true or whether it isnâ€™t, you should suspend judgment. But you canâ€™t… it seems to me a fundamental dishonesty and a fundamental treachery to intellectual integrity to hold a belief because you think itâ€™s useful, and not because you think itâ€™s true.
Q: I was thinking of those people who find that some kind of religious code helps them to live their lives. It gives them a very strict set of rules, the rights and the wrongs.
Russell: Yes, but those rules are generally quite mistaken. A great many of them do more harm than good. And they would probably be able to find a rational morality that they could live by if they dropped this irrational traditional taboo morality that comes down from savage ages.
Q: But are we, perhaps the ordinary person perhaps isnâ€™t strong enough to find this own personal ethic. They have to have something imposed upon them from outside.
Russell: Oh, I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s true, and what is imposed on you from outside is of no value whatever. It doesnâ€™t count.
Q: Well, you were brought up, of course, as a Christian. When did you first decide that you did not want to remain a believer in the Christian ethic?
Russell: I never decided that I didnâ€™t want to remain a believer. I decided… between the ages of 15 and 18, I spent almost all my spare time thinking about Christian dogmas, and trying to find out whether there was any reason to believe them. And by the time I was 18, Iâ€™d discarded the last of them.
Q: Do you think that that gave you an extra strength in your life?
Russell: Oh, I donâ€™t… no, I shouldâ€™t have said so, neither extra strength nor the opposite. I mean, I was just engaged in the pursuit of knowledge.
Q: As you approach the end of life, do you have any fear of some kind of afterlife, or do you feel that that is just…
Russell: Oh, no, I think thatâ€™s nonsense.
Q: There is no afterlife?
Russell: None whatever.
Q: Do you have any fear of something that is common amongst atheists and agnostics, who have been atheists or agnostics all their lives, who are converted just before they die, to a form of religion?
Russell: Well, you know, it doesnâ€™t happen nearly as often as religious people think it does. Because religious people, most of them, think that itâ€™s a virtuous act to tell lies about the death beds of agnostics and such. As a matter of fact, it doesnâ€™t happen very often.
Interview with Bertrand Russel, 1959