Bertrand Russell 1872-1970
Richard E. Noble
Bertrand Russell was a scientist, mathematician, educator, and philosopher. From the philosophical point of interest he stands out most prominently because of his avowed atheism. Most people, me included, have a great difficulty in understanding atheism. How can anyone not believe in God, asks Oprah Winfrey and a host of others.
Well Bertrand, as with most else, explains himself very simply and reasonably. His defense of his atheism goes something like this.
If God is defined as the Creator of all that is, and all that is, is inclusive of evil, then God must have created evil.
If God created evil, then He must be evil or at least partly evil, and if God is evil and it is illogical and against common sense and reason to believe that God can be both good and evil; and if there is then something that is truly evil and not just apparently evil; then God must, by rational definition, be evil. And so concludes Bertrand, I refuse to believe in a God that is evil.
So, when Bertrand denies the existence of God, in his mind, he is not denying 'goodness', but affirming the existence of 'evil'.
He defines evil not as war and murder, or rape and human cruelty and injustice entirely but as the basics of nature; natural disasters, floods, volcanoes, typhoons, disease, defects of birth, the predatory survivalist nature of creatures (animals eating one another to survive) sickness, pain, and death. So, says Bertrand, since there is objective evil, if there is a God, He too must be evil. This leaves a reasonable man with only two choices, either believe in a God that is evil, or not believe in God at all. For my part, states Bertrand, I choose not to believe in a God that is evil. So I do not choose to believe in God at all.
Because of this point of view Bertrand was not very well appreciated by any of the religions of the world. There is no other way to win the hatred of more human beings of all colors and types at one time than to deny the existence of a Creator to the universe. When Bertrand became deathly sick one time in India or the Orient, his hospital was immediately surrounded by believers who prayed, sang hymns, chanted and spun prayer wheels calling to God for his death. Despite all the prayers, Bertrand did not die. In fact, he lived to be almost one hundred.
It does seem, strangely enough, that possibly God was not as offended by Bertrand Russell and his point of view as the majority of God professed followers. And though Bertrand Russell was a preacher of a 'creed' there has not been, as of yet, a 'religion' established in his name and memory, which does seem surprising.
I can see no more fit ending for this piece than the words of a famous poet from my home town of Lawrence, Mass., Robert Frost.
"God forgive my little jokes on Thee, and I will forgive your great big one on me."
Idaho Penitentiary Hospital
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