Summary and Quotes: Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects by Bertrand Russell


“Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects” is a collection of essays written by philosopher Bertrand Russell that was published in 1957. The essays deal with a variety of topics related to religion and philosophy. Here’s a brief summary of some of the essays included in the collection:

“Why I Am Not a Christian”: This essay, which was originally a lecture delivered in 1927, argues against the existence of God and the validity of Christianity. Russell presents several arguments against the belief in God, including the argument from causality, the argument from design, the problem of evil, and the problem of immortality.

“Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?”: In this essay, Russell examines the impact of religion on society. He acknowledges that religion has had some positive effects, such as inspiring art and music, but he argues that it has also been responsible for wars, persecution, and ignorance.

“The Essence of Religion”: This essay explores the nature of religion and what it means to be religious. Russell argues that religion is a response to the fear of the unknown and the desire for security, and that it provides a sense of community and moral guidance.

“A Free Man’s Worship”: In this essay, Russell presents a poetic vision of a universe without God. He argues that human beings must create their own meaning and purpose in life, and that they should strive for knowledge and beauty.

“The Fate of Thomas Paine”: This essay examines the life and legacy of Thomas Paine, a political activist and writer who was also a freethinker and critic of religion. Russell argues that Paine’s contributions to the cause of liberty have been unfairly overshadowed by his skepticism of religion.

Overall, the essays in this collection present a critical and skeptical perspective on religion, and offer a vision of human life that is based on reason, knowledge, and freedom.


“As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is ‘Why I am not a Christian’. Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word ‘Christian’. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians—all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on—are not trying to live a good life.”

“I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature—namely, that you must believe in God and immortality.”

“If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ.”

“Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things; first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant Him a very high degree of moral goodness.”

“As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it concluded the belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times.”

“You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas.”

“It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.”

‘My father taught me that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?” ’

“That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause.”

” It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’”

“There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination.”

“People observed the planets going round the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation.”

“Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which way you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were you are then faced with the question, ‘Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?’”

“If there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God Himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary.”

“The next step in this process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different we could not manage to live in it.”

“It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them, but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation.”

“Nobody really worries much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves.”

“The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not?”

“Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be heaven and hell in order that in the long run there may be justice.”

‘After all, I know only this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.’

“Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.”

“Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.”

“He said: ‘Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-Tze and Buddha some five or six hundred years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present Prime Minister,1 for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense”

“Then there is another point which I consider is excellent. You will remember that Christ said: ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’ That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and they none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did.”

Then Christ says: ‘Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.’

“He says: ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor.’ That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.”

“Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about Him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one.”

“When He said, ‘Take no thought for the morrow,’ and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon,”

“In that respect clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.”

“Then you come to moral questions. 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.”

“You find him quite bland and urbane towards the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation.”

“You will find that in the Gospels Christ said: ‘Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?’ That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about hell.”

“There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: ‘Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world nor in the world of come.’”

“I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.”

“‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.’ He continues: ‘And these shall go away into everlasting fire.’ Then He says again: ‘If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.’ He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty.”

“As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds.”

“That is the idea—that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion.”

“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.”

“Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man, in that case the Catholic Church says: ‘This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must stay together for life.’”

“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.”

“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.”

“The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despot[1]isms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men.”

“We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Religion is primarily a social phenomenon.”

“The most important thing about Christianity, from a social and historical point of view, is not Christ but the Church, and if we are to judge of Christianity as a social force we must not go to the Gospels for our material.”

“What is true of Christianity is equally true of Buddhism. The Buddha was amiable and enlightened; on his death-bed he laughed at his disciples for supposing that he was immortal. But the Buddhist priesthood—as it exists, for example, in Tibet—has been obscurantist, tyrannous, and cruel in the highest degree.”

“It is not only intellectually, but also morally, that religion is pernicious.”

“We sometimes hear talk to the effect that Christianity improved the status of women. This is one of the grossest per[1]versions of history that it is possible to make. Women cannot enjoy a tolerable position in society where it is considered of the utmost importance that they should not infringe a very rigid moral code.”

“The teaching of the Church has been, and still is, that virginity is best, but that for those who find this impossible marriage is permissible.”

“It is not only in regard to sexual behaviour, but also in regard to knowledge on sex subjects, that the attitude of Christians is dangerous to human welfare.”

“I should not put barriers in the way of the acquisition of knowledge by anybody at any age. But in the particular case of sex knowledge there are much weightier arguments in its favour than in the case of most other knowledge. A person is much less likely to act wisely when he is ignorant than when he is instructed, and it is ridiculous to give young people a sense of sin because they have a natural curiosity about an important matter.”

“There is no rational ground of any sort or kind for keeping a child ignorant of anything that he may wish to know, whether on sex or on any other matter. And we shall never get a sane population until this fact is recognised in early education, which is impossible so long as the Churches are able to control educational politics.”

“The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain; He is therefore responsible for all of it. It is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due to sin.”

“If I were going to beget a child knowing that the child was going to be a homicidal maniac, I should be responsible for his crimes. If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all the consequences of those sins when He decided to create man. The usual Christian argument is that the suffering in the world is a purification for sin, and is therefore a good thing. This argument is, of course, only a rationalisation of sadism; but in any case it is a very poor argument. I would invite any Christian to accompany me to the children’s ward of a hospital, to watch the suffering that is there being endured, and then to persist in the assertion that those children are so morally abandoned as to deserve what they are suffering.”

“The objections to religion are of two sorts—intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are, and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.”

“To this day conventional Christians think an adulterer more wicked than a politician who takes bribes, although the latter probably does a thousand times as much harm.”

“I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity has been to make men more egotistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made them; for the impulses that naturally take a man outside the walls of his ego are those of sex, parenthood, and patriotism or herd instinct.”

“The Church treats the Mother of Christ with reverence, but He Himself showed little of this attitude. ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ (John ii. 4) is His way of speaking to her. He says also that He has come to set a man at variance against his father, the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and that he that loveth father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matt. x. 35–7). All this means the break-up of the biological family tie for the sake of creed—an attitude which had a great deal to do with the intolerance that came into the world with the spread of Christianity.”

“The intolerance that spread over the world with the advent of Christianity is one of its most curious features, due, I think, to the Jewish belief in righteousness and in the exclusive reality of the Jewish God.”

“However that may be, the Jews, and more especially the prophets, invented emphasis upon personal righteousness and the idea that it is wicked to tolerate any religion except one.”

“The attitude of the Christians on the subject of natural law has been curiously vacillating and uncertain. There was, on the one hand, the doctrine of free-will, in which the great majority of Christians believed; and this doctrine required that the acts of human beings at least should not be subject to natural law.”

“They seem to have overlooked the fact that, if you abolish the reign of law, you also abolish the possibility of miracles, since miracles are acts of God which contravene the laws governing ordinary phenomena.”

“When a man acts in ways that annoy us we wish to think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behaviour is a result of antecedent causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his birth, and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible by any stretch of imagination.”

“No man treats a motor-car as foolishly as he treats another human being.”

“An analogous way of treating human beings is, however, considered to be contrary to the truths of our holy religion.”

“Undoubtedly the most important source of religion is fear; this can be seen at the present day, since anything that causes alarm is apt to turn people’s thoughts to God.”

“The third psychological impulse which is embodied in religion is that which has led to the conception of righteousness.”

“Hatred and fear, it may be said, are essential human characteristics; mankind has always felt them and always will.”

“Christ tells us to become as little children, but little children cannot understand the differential calculus, or the principles of currency, or the modern methods of combating disease.”

“The injustice, the cruelty, and the misery that exist in the modern world are an inheritance from the past, and their ultimate source is economic, since life-and-death competition for the means of subsistence was in former days inevitable.”

“Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific cooperation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.”

“The mental continuity of a person is a continuity of habit and memory: there was yesterday one person whose feelings I can remember, and that person I regard as myself of yesterday; but in fact, myself of yesterday was only certain mental occurrences which are now remembered, and are regarded as part of the person who now recollects them.”

“If, therefore, we are to believe that a person survives death, we must believe that the memories and habits which constitute the person will continue to be exhibited in a new set of occurrences.”

“We all know that memory may be obliterated by an injury to the brain, that a virtuous person may be rendered vicious by encephalitis lethargica, and that a clever child can be turned into an idiot by lack of iodine. In view of such familiar facts, it seems scarcely probable that the mind survives the total destruction of brain structure which occurs at death.”

“It is not rational arguments, but emotions, that cause belief in a future life.”

“The most important of these emotions is fear of death, which is instinctive and biologically useful.”

“Nor is there in this anything surprising. Dr Barnes tells us that Man ‘knows right and wrong’. But in fact, as anthropology shows, men’s views of right and wrong have varied to such an extent that no single item has been permanent.”

“This is only one of the distinctive differences between Protest[1]ant and Catholic morality. To the Protestant the exceptionally good man is one who opposes the authorities and the received doctrines, like Luther at the Diet of Worms. The Protestant conception of goodness is of something individual and isolated. I was myself educated as a Protestant, and one of the texts most impressed upon my youthful mind was ‘Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.’ I am conscious that to this day this text influences me in my most serious actions. The Catholic has quite a different conception of virtue: to him there is in all virtue an element of submission, not only to the voice of God as revealed in conscience, but also to the authority of the Church as the repository of Revelation.”

‘To deny that there exists evil could be said jokingly by a Lucullus who is in fine health and who is eating a good dinner with his friends and his mistress in the parlour of Apollo; but let him look out of the window and he would see some miserable human beings; let him suffer from fever and he would be miserable himself.’

“Hence the social character of Catholicism and the individual character of Protestatism. Jeremy Bentham, a typical Protestant Freethinker, considered that the greatest of all pleasures is the pleasure of self-approbation.”

“Every child wishes at times to be naughty, and if he has been taught rationally, he can only gratify the impulse to naughtiness by some really harmful action, whereas if he has been taught that it is wicked to play cards on Sunday, or, alternatively, to eat meat on Friday, he can gratify the impulse to sin without injuring anyone.”

‘There is no body of men more jealous of their privileges than the Commons: Because they sell them.’

“Governments, he says, ‘may all be comprehended under three heads. First, Superstition. Secondly, Power. Thirdly, the common interest of society and the common rights of man.”

“If, as he maintained and as many now believe, true religion consists in ‘doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavouring to make our fellow-creatures happy’, there was not one among his opponents who had as good a claim to be considered a religious man.”

“The Age of Reason ventured to doubt whether God really commanded that all males and married women among the Midianites should be slaughtered, while the maidens should be preserved.”

“Maiden aunts are invariably nice, especially, of course, when they are rich; ministers of religion are nice, except those rare cases in which they elope to South Africa with a member of the choir after pretending to commit suicide.”

“People can be placed in a hierarchy of niceness by the power of their tongues.”

“The chief characteristic of nice people is the laudable practice of improvement upon reality.”

“Divines have held that if our first parents had not eaten the apple the human race would have been replenished by some innocent mode of vegetation, as Gibbon calls it.”

“If you attempt to persuade any nice person that a politican of his own party is an ordinary mortal no better than the mass of mankind he will indignantly repudiate the suggestion. Consequently it is necessary to politicians to appear immaculate.”

“Nice people very properly suspect pleasure whenever they see it. They know that he that increaseth wisdom increaseth sorrow, and they infer that he that increaseth sorrow increaseth wisdom.”

“The day of nice people, I fear, is nearly over; two things are killing it. The first is the belief that there is no harm in being happy, provided no one else is the worse for it; the second is the dislike of humbug, a dislike which is quite as much aesthetic as moral.”

“The essence of nice people is that they hate life as manifested in tendencies to co-operation, in the boisterousness of children, and above all in sex, with the thought of which they are obsessed.”

“A desert is a place to which water must be brought, a malarial swamp is a place from which water must be taken away. Neither is allowed to maintain its natural hostility to man, so that in our struggles with physical nature we no longer have need of God to help us against Satan.”

“It is no longer Satan who makes sin, but bad glands and unwise conditioning.”

“Perhaps at this point the reader will expect a definition of sin. This, however, offers no difficulty; sin is what is disliked by those who control education.”

“The smallness of the modern family has given parents a new sense of the value of the child. Parents who have only two children do not wish either to die, whereas out of the old-fashioned family of ten or fifteen, half could be sacrificed to carelessness with no great qualms. Modern scientific care of children is intimately bound up with the smallness of the modern family.”

“Having fifteen children most of whom died was no doubt an unpleasant life work, but at any rate it left little leisure for self-realisation.”

“Children ought to be in the country, where they can have freedom without excitement.”

“Busy grown-up people cannot be expected to endure a continual racket all round them, but to tell a child not to make a noise is a form of cruelty producing in him exasperation leading to grave moral faults.”

“What limited individual[1]ism in the past was fear and the need of mutual co-operation. A colony of settlers surrounded by Indians had of necessity a strong communal sense, for if not they would be wiped out. At present safety is provided by the State, not the voluntary cooperation, so that a man can afford to be individualistic in that part of his life which he individually controls.”

“A little experience of practical politics, and still more of the administration of the law wherever so-called moral issues are involved, would be highly beneficial to all who have rational opinions whether on child-nuture or on any other topic.”

“Children are taught a superstitious attitude about certain parts of the body, about certain words and thoughts, and about certain kinds of play to which nature prompts them. The result is that when they become adult they are stiff and awkward in all matters of love.”

“Sex, more than any other element in human life, is still viewed by many, perhaps by most, in an irrational way.”

“The difficulty of arriving at a workable sexual ethic arises from the conflict between the impulse to jealousy and the impulse to polygamy.”

“In societies in which a man is considered a fit object for ridicule if his wife is unfaithful, he will be jealous where she is concerned, even if he no longer has any affection for her. Thus jealousy is intimately connected with the sense of property, and is much less where this sense is absent.”

“If women are to have sexual freedom, fathers must fade out, and wives must no longer expect to be supported by their husbands. This may come about in time, but it will be a profound social change, and its effects, for good or ill, are incalculable”

“Two very primitive impulses have contributed, though in very different degrees, to the rise of the currently accepted code of sexual behaviour. One of these is modesty, and the other, as mentioned above, is jealousy.”

“The wish to free the spirit from bondage to the flesh has inspired many of the great religions of the world, and is still powerful even among modern intellectuals.”

“But jealousy, I believe, has been the most potent single factor in the genesis of sexual morality. Jealousy instinctively rouses anger; and anger, rationalised, becomes moral disapproval.”

“It was, accordingly, wicked to have relations with another man’s wife, but not even mildly reprehensible to have relations with an unmarried woman. There were excellent practical reasons for condemning the adulterer, since he caused confusion and very likely bloodshed.”

“The child who is told what he wants to know, and allowed to see his parents naked, will have no pruriency and no obsession of a sexual kind. Boys who are brought up in official ignorance think and talk much more about sex than boys who have always heard this topic treated on a level with any other.”

“Official ignorance and actual knowledge teach them to be deceitful and hypocritical with their elders.”

“All ignorance is regrettable, but ignorance on so important a matter as sex is a serious danger”

“When I say that children should be told about sex, I do not mean that they should be told only the bare physiological facts; they should be told whatever they wish to know. There should be no attempt to represent adults as more virtuous than they are, or sex as occurring only in marriage.”

“Virtue which is based upon a false view of the facts is not real virtue.”

“In the meantime, it would be well if men and women could remember, in sexual relations, in marriage, and in divorce, to practise the ordinary virtues of tolerance, kindness, truthfulness, and justice. Those who, by conventional standards, are sexually virtuous, too often consider themselves thereby absolved from behaving like decent human beings. Most moralists have been so obsessed by sex that they have laid much too little emphasis on other more socially useful kinds of ethically commendable conduct.”

“The essence of academic freedom is that teachers should be chosen for their expertness in the subject they are to teach, and that the judges of this expertness should be other experts. Whether a man is a good mathematician, or physicist, or chemist, can only be judged by other mathematicians, or physicists, or chemists.”

“Toleration of minorities is an essential part of wise democracy, but a part which is not always sufficiently remembered.”

“Academic freedom in this country is threatened from two sources: the plutocracy, and the churches, which endeavour between them to establish an economic and a theological censorship.”

“The fundamental difference between the liberal and the illiberal outlook is that the former regards all questions as open to discussion and all opinions as open to a greater or less measure of doubt, while the latter holds in advance that certain opinions are absolutely unquestionable, and that no argument against them must be allowed to be heard.”

“There are two possible views as to the proper functioning of democracy. According to one view, the opinions of the majority should prevail absolutely in all fields. According to the other view, wherever a common decision is not necessary, different opinions should be represented, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their numerical frequency.”

“All those who oppose free discussion and who seek to impose a censorship upon the opinions to which the young are to be exposed are doing their share in increasing this bigotry and in plunging the world further into the abyss of strife and intolerance from which Locke and his coadjutors gradually rescued it.”

“There are two questions which are not sufficiently distinguished: the one as to the best form of government; the other as to the functions of government.”

“There are certain matters on which common action is necessary; as to these, the common action should be decided by the majority.”

“The man who has the art of arousing the witch-hunting instincts of the mob has a quite peculiar power for evil in a democracy where the habit of the exercise of power by the majority has produced that intoxication and impulse to tyranny which the exercise of authority almost invariably produces sooner or later. Against this danger the chief protection is a sound education, designed to combat the tendency to irrational eruptions of collective hate.”

“Mankind is in mortal peril, and fear now, as in the past, is inclining men to seek refuge in God.”

“I even think that some very important virtues are more likely to be found among those who reject religious dogmas than among those who accept them.”

“Let us consider for a moment how moral rules have come to be accepted. Moral rules are broadly of two kinds: there are those which have no basis except in a religious creed; and there are those which have an obvious basis in social utility.”

“Even highly religious people in the present day hardly expect to go to Hell for stealing. They reflect that they can repent in time, and that in any case Hell is neither so certain nor so hot as it used to be.”

“When two men of science disagree, they do not invoke the secular arm; they wait for further evidence to decide the issue, because, as men of science, they know that neither is infallible.”

“I think the contention, stripped of inessentials, is as follows: it would be a good thing if people loved their neighbours, but they do not show much inclination to do so; Christ said they ought to, and if they believe that Christ was God, they are more likely to pay attention to His teachings on this point than if they do not; therefore, men who wish people to love their neighbours will try to persuade them that Christ was God.”

“The Empire of the Caliphs was much kinder to Jews and Christians than Christian States were to Jews and Mohammedans. It left Jews and Christians unmolested, provided they paid tribute.”

“The followers of a teacher always depart in some respects from the doctrine of the master.”

“The First World War was wholly Christian in origin. The three Emperors were devout, and so were the more warlike of the British Cabinet.”

“What the world needs is reasonableness, tolerance, and a realisation of the interdependence of the parts of the human family.”

“Many people tell us that without belief in God a man can be neither happy nor virtuous. As to virtue, I can speak only from observation, not from personal experience. As to happiness, neither experience nor observation has led me to think that believers are either happier or unhappier, on the average, than unbelievers.”

“Returning to the offensive a few days later, the bishop said: ‘There are those who are so confused morally and mentally that they see nothing wrong in the appointment . . . of one who in his published writings said “outside of human desires there is no moral standard”.’

‘Great spirits,’ Einstein remarked, ‘have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.’

 “There is only one way to avoid indecency, and that is to avoid mystery.”

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