[FoRK] Re: Re: Anything to be learned from religion?

Damien Morton fork
Thu Aug 11 14:01:32 PDT 2005


some extracts from "Why I am not a Christian" by Bertrand Russel.

Fear, the Foundation of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly 
the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel 
that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your 
troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of 
the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of 
cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone 
hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In 
this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little 
to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step 
against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the 
opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this 
craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science 
can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look 
around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, 
but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a 
better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches 
in all these centuries have made it.

What We Must Do

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world 
-- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see 
the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by 
intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror 
that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived 
from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy 
of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and 
saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems 
contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. 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. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it 
does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the 
free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It 
needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the 
future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which 
we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can 

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