Photographed with mobile phone through orange sunglasses.
â€œI should like to say two things. One intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this: when you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think could have been efficient socially if it were to be believed; but look only and solely at what are the facts. This is the intellectual thing I should wish to say. The moral thing I should like to say is very simple. I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we donâ€™t like. We can only live together in that way. If we are to live and not die together we must learn the kind of charity and kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.â€
Bertrand Russel, Message to the future generations
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
“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”
Attributed to Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor 161-180.
is trivial compared to the cost of ignorance.
According to Thomas Jefferson