Friday, March 31, 2023

Bertrand Russell on Faith vs. Reason (1954)

Facebook page: Bertrand Russell is in Penrhyndeudreath, United Kingdom.

"The important thing is not what you believe, but how you believe it. If you think that your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument, rather than by persecution, and will abandon it if the argument goes against you. But if your belief is based on faith, you will realize that argument is useless, and will therefore resort to force either in the form of persecution or by stunting and distorting the minds of the young in what is called “education". This last is peculiarly dastardly, since it takes advantage of the defenselessness of immature minds. Unfortunately it is practised in a greater or less degree in the schools of every civilized country."

— Bertrand Russell, Human Society In Ethics And Politics (1954), Part. II: The Conflict of Passions, Ch. VII, Will Religious Faith Cure Our Troubles?, p. 220

━━ First published in 1954, Human Society in Ethics and Politics is Bertrand Russell’s last full account of his ethical and political positions relating to both politics and religion. Ethics, he argues, are necessary to humankind on account of the conflict between our intelligence and impulse – if one were without the other, there would be no place for ethics. Our impulses and desires are equally social and solitary. Politics and ethics are the means by which we as a society and as individuals become socially purposeful and moral codes inculcate our rules of action.

Image: Bertrand Russell in his study at Penrhyndeudreath, Gwynedd, United Kingdom (1957). Russell had a fondness for Wales and would live there for most of his later years, from 1955 until 1970. Plas Penrhyn was near Portmeirion Village & Castell Deudraeth where Russell had stayed many times as a boy and was near the sea (Penrhyndeudraeth means peninsula with two beaches in Welsh). His ashes were scattered over the Welsh hills in unknown locations. In accordance with his will, there was no religious ceremony but one minute's silence, with only five people present (the number five being Russell's favorite number).