My conclusion is that there is no reason to believe any of the dogmas of traditional theology and, further, that there is no reason to wish that they were true. Man, in so far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny. The responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity. -- "Is There a God?" commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G Slater and Peter Köllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S T Joshi, Atheism: A Reader
I mean by intellectual integrity the habit of deciding vexed questions in accordance with the evidence, or of leaving them undecided where the evidence is inconclusive. This virtue, though it is underestimated by almost all adherents of any system of dogma, is to my mind of the very greatest social importance and far more likely to benefit the world than Christianity or any other system of organized beliefs. -- "Can Religion Cure Our Troubles?" (1954)
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones. -- Unpopular Essays, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish" (1950), p. 149, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief
So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence; and in this respect ministers of religion follow gospel authority more closely than in some others. -- quoted, in part, from Jonathon Green, The Cassell Dictionary of Cynical Quotations
The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology. -- Unpopular Essays, "Philosophy and Politics" (1950), p. 149, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief
The fundamental cause of trouble in the world today is that the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt. -- "Christian Ethics" from Marriage and Morals (1950), quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief
Most of the greatest evils that man has inflicted upon man have come through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.-- Unpopular Essays, "Ideas That Have Harmed Mankind" (1950), p. 149, quoted from James A Haught, ed, 2000 Years of Disbelief
Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines. -- source unknown
William James used to preach "the will to believe". For my part, I should wish to preach "the will to doubt". What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- source unknown
Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time. -- "Is There a God?" commissioned by, but never published in, Illustrated Magazine (1952: repr. The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Volume 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-68, ed. John G Slater and Peter Köllner (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 543-48, quoted from S T Joshi, Atheism: A Reader
That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called Ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion. -- "Why I Am Not A Christian," Little Blue Book No. 1372 edited by E Haldeman-Julius.
The whole conception of a God is a conception derived from the ancient oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men.... We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. -- "Why I Am Not A Christian," Little Blue Book No. 1372 edited by E Haldeman-Julius.
My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others.-- "Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?"
Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver after the cosy indoor warmth of traditional humanizing myths, in the end the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor all their own. -- What I Believe
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.... This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me. -- "What I Have Lived For," the prologue to his Autobiography, vol. I p. 4
My whole religion is this: do every duty, and expect no reward for it, either here or hereafter. -- childhood diary, quoted from Against the Faith by Jim Herrick
What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite. -- Skeptical Essays (1928)
Are you never afraid of God's judgment in denying him? "Most certainly not. I also deny Zeus and Jupiter and Odin and Brahma, but this causes me no qualms. I observe that a very large portion of the human race does not believe in God and suffers no visible punishment in consequence. And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence."-- "What Is an Agnostic?"
If fifty million people say a foolish thing, it's still a foolish thing.-- source unknown
A stupid man's report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.-- The History of Western Philosophy, quoted from Lee Eisler, ed, The Quotable Bertrand Russell
04 September 2009
By Bertrand Arthur William Russell [Third Earl Russell] (1872-1970) British philosopher, mathematician, social critic, writer