Bertrand Russell on God

Happy new year, heathens! Stay safe tonight.

“Religious people, most of them, think that it’s a virtuous act to tell lies about the deathbeds of agnostics and such.”

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Interviewer: “The Ordinary person … has to have something imposed upon them from outside.”

    Russell: “What’s imposed on you from outside is of no value, whatever. …”

    Except that your parents “impose upon you from the outside.” Also the morals themselves may be valid, despite their origins. Yes that means a rational basis for the morals you keep, and discard the ‘immoral morals.’

  2. @jsg: I took it to mean (and I realize I may be reading a bit into Mr. Russell’s words hear a bit) that things that are only imposed form the outside are valueless. For example, religious (and secular) law says that it’s wrong to murder.* In reality, though, the reason the majority of people don’t go around murdering is because they themselves believe that it’s wrong. If someone personally believes that murdering people is A-OK, then a rule that is purely imposed from the outside is unlikely to do much good.

    *Yes, I realize that the relationship between religion and murder is more complicated than this, but for the moment let’s assume that when the Judeo-Christian god said “thous shalt not kill” he meant… “thou shalt not kill.”

  3. Either it is true or it isn’t, and if you don’t know suspend judgment. I agree but that doesn’t fly when practical action is necessary. For instance I suspect that there is no such thing as free will, it is just that causation and determinism is far too complicated and varied to make solid decisions based on that paradigm. One can suspend judgment on the debate and still act as if the proposition is true. Believing does nothing for action. Now this may sound like pleading Pascal’s wager but it isn’t, because his argument assumes too much information to make a good decision and to act as if. The free will vs. determinism debate is far more cut and dry and the decision to act as if free will existed, regardless of belief, has far more of an upside then a down.

    Just a long winded tangent to what Berty said. Good clip and happy new year.

  4. @jsg:
    But what your parents impose on you is only meaningful if you choose to internalise it. Otherwise it loses all of its power once you get out from under your parents’ control.

  5. Well said Mr Russell.

    BTW, is it just me or does Bertrand Russell look like a cross between the first Dr Who and Davros?

  6. @Fahran: Maybe a passing resemblance to the late William Hartnell (who played the first Doctor Who), but mainly in his voice, IMHO.

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