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People will tell us that without the consolations of religion they would be intolerably unhappy. So far as this is true, it is a coward's argument. Nobody but a coward would consciously choose to live in a fool's paradise. When a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is not thought the better of for shutting his eyes to the evidence. And I cannot see why ignoring evidence should be contemptible in one case and admirable in the other.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Is There a God?", The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell

The best life is the one in which the creative impulses play the largest part and the possessive impulses the smallest.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Political Ideals

[One] must look into hell before one has any right to speak of heaven.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, letter to Colette O'Niel, Oct. 23, 1916

To understand the actual world as it is, not as we should wish it to be, is the beginning of wisdom.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mortals and Others

Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "A Liberal Decalogue," New York Times Magazine, Dec. 16, 1951

The life of man is a long march through the night, surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, towards a goal that few can hope to reach, and where none may tarry long.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, A Free Man's Worship

Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "A Liberal Decalogue," New York Times Magazine, Dec. 16, 1951

Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Impact of Science on Society

Reason is a harmonising, controlling force rather than a creative one. Even in the most purely logical realms, it is insight that first arrives at what is new.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Our Knowledge of the External World

The fact that a belief has a good moral effect upon a man is no evidence whatsoever in favor of its truth.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Russell vs. Copleston," BBC radio debate on the existence of God, 1948

The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible, horrible, horrible.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, attributed, Bertrand Russell: The Passionate Sceptic (Wood)

One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "The Emotional Factor," Why I Am Not a Christian

If you think that your belief is based upon reason, you will support it by argument, rather then 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 particularly dastardly, since it takes advantage of the defencelessness of immature minds. Unfortunately it is practiced in greater or less degree in the schools of every civilised country.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

We may define "faith" as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of "faith". We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence. The substitution of emotion for evidence is apt to lead to strife, since different groups substitute different emotions.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Human Society in Ethics and Politics

Consider the long history of the activities inspired by moral fervour: human sacrifices, persecutions of heretics, witch-hunts, pogroms leading up to wholesale extermination by poison gases ... Are these abominations, and the ethical doctrines by which they are prompted, really evidence of an intelligent Creator? And can we really wish that the men who practised them should live for ever? The world in which we live can be understood as a result of muddle and accident; but if it is the outcome of a deliberate purpose, the purpose must have been that of a fiend. For my part, I find accident a less painful and more plausible hypothesis.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Do We Survive Death?

The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction. Opinions in politics and religion are almost always held passionately.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, introduction, Sceptical Essays

Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "A Liberal Decalogue," New York Times Magazine, Dec. 16, 1951

It is preoccupation with possession, more than anything else, that prevents men from living freely and nobly.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Principles of Social Reconstruction

I believe that love of truth is the basis of all real virtue, and that virtues based upon lies can only do harm.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Prospects of Industrial Civilization

A truer image of the world, I think, is obtained by picturing things as entering into the stream of time from an eternal world outside, than from a view which regards time as the devouring tyrant of all that is.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mysticism and Logic and Other Essays

Too little liberty brings stagnation, and too much brings chaos.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Authority and the Individual

The place of the father in the modern suburban family is a very small one – particularly if he plays golf, which he usually does.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, introduction, The New Generation

Ironclads and Maxim guns must be the ultimate arbiters of metaphysical truth.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Edinburgh Review, 1909

There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "The Moral Problem," Why I Am Not a Christian

To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, A History of Western Philosophy

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. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell

Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war? People will not face this alternative because it is so difficult to abolish war. The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term "mankind" feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, The Russell-Einstein Manifesto

A life without adventure is likely to be unsatisfying, but a life in which adventure is allowed to take whatever form it will is sure to be short.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Social Cohesion and Human Nature", Authority and the Individual

No one gossips about other people's secret virtues.


In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, attributed, Reader's Digest, Volume 37, 1940

Parental feeling, as I have experienced it, is very complex. There is, first and foremost, sheer animal affection, and delight in watching what is charming in the ways of the young. Next, there is the sense of inescapable responsibility, providing a purpose for daily activities which skepticism does not easily question. Then there is an egoistic element, which is very dangerous: the hope that one's children may succeed where one has failed, that they may carry on one's work when death or senility puts an end to one's own efforts, and, in any case, that they will supply a biological escape from death, making one's own life part of the whole stream, and not a mere stagnant puddle without any overflow into the future. All this I experienced, and for some years it filled my life with happiness and peace.


The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Power: A New Social Analysis

Manners consist in pretending that we think as well of others as of ourselves.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Mortals and Others

Whether true or false, idealism is not to be dismissed as obviously absurd.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, "Idealism", The Problems of Philosophy

A religious creed differs from a scientific theory in claiming to embody eternal and absolutely certain truth, whereas science is always tentative, expecting that modification in its present theories will sooner or later be found necessary, and aware that its method is one which is logically incapable of arriving at a complete and final demonstration.

BERTRAND RUSSELL, Religion and Science


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