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Why I Am Not A Christian
by Bertrand Russell

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 do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according
to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite
belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does
not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of
St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that
he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection
of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable
of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.



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What Is a Christian?
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our
meaning of Christianity. 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. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality,
and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have
at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least
the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about
Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian.
Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker's Almanack
and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be
divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and
so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count
us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we
can ignore.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.
But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could
not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before,
in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included
he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of
Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know,
it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council,
and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop
of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of
Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their
Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I
shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.



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The Existence of God
To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious
question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner
I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have
to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. 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. They had to introduce it
because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there
were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence
of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist.
The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic
Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the
existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set
up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course,
a number of them, but I shall take only a few.



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The First-cause Argument
Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First
Cause. (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.)
That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because,
in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers
and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything
like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that
the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any
validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these
questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument
of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John
Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "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.
If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world
as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. 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." The argument
is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not
have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there
any reason why it should not have always existed. 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. Therefore,
perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First
Cause.



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The Natural-law Argument
Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite
argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence
of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going
around 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. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in
a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose
to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein,
because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have
the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for
some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion.
We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really
human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar
space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable
fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things
that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other
hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do,
you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and
that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the
sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that
if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six
times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice
is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every
time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that
sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such
as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business
of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from
that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow,
the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion
between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to
behave a certain way, in which 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 you say that he did
it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then
find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train
of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians
do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those
laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best
universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there were
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.
You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God
does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In
short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like
the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review
of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God
change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual
arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern
times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected
by a kind of moralizing vagueness.



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The Argument from Design
The next step in the 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. That is the argument
from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it
is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I
do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument
to parody. You all know Voltaire's remark, that obviously the nose was
designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned
out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the
eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much
better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. 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. There is no
evidence of design about it.
When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a
most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all
the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that
omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years.
I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence
and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you
could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover,
if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human
life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it
is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay
you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable
to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole
solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth
is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless.
I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will
sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to
go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries
about 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. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may
merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy
by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions
and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy
view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say
so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with
their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to
render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other
things.



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The Moral Arguments for Deity
Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent
that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what
are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know,
of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments
for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant
in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of
those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that
quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he
was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims
that he had imbibed at his mother's knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts
so much emphasize -- the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very
early associations have than those of later times.
Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence
of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth
century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no
right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with
whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there
is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that,
if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then
you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it
not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference
between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to
say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that
God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which
is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not bad
independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say
that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right
and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically
anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was
a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could
take up the line that some of the gnostics took up -- a line which I often
thought was a very plausible one -- that as a matter of fact this world
that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking.
There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute
it.



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The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice
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. That is a very curious argument. If you looked
at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, "After all,
I only know 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." Supposing you got a crate of oranges
that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would
not argue, "The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance."
You would say, "Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment"; and that
is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would
say, "Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far
as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule
in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument
against deity and not in favor of one." Of course I know that the sort
of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not
what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is
not any intellectual argument at all. 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.



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The Character of Christ
I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite
sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether
Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted
that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that
there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal
more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with
Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing
Christians can. You will remember that 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-tse and Buddha
some 500 or 600 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 [Stanley Baldwin], 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 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 none of them felt that they were acting contrary
to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, "Give to him
that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou
away." That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that
we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the
last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was
to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume
that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people
who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did
very emphatically turn away on that occasion.
Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great
deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our
Christian friends. He says, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that
which 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.



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Defects in Christ's Teaching
Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points
in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom
or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here
I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. 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. I am concerned with
Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it
stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very
wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would
occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living
at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for
instance, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son
of Man be come." Then he says, "There are some standing here which shall
not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom"; and there
are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second
coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the
belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of
His moral teaching. 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, and that all ordinary mundane affairs
did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did
believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened
his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very
imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was
planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it,
and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens,
because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was
imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people
have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.



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The Moral Problem
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. Christ certainly as depicted in the
Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly
a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching
-- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat
detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that
attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward 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 probably
all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying,
and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not
agree with him.
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 to come." That text has caused an
unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have
imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought
that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world
to 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.
Then Christ says, "The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels,
and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them
which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall
be wailing and gnashing of teeth"; and He goes on about the wailing and
gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite
manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating
wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then
you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the
second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is
going to say to the goats, "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. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world
and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the
Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly
have to be considered partly responsible for that.
There are other things of less importance. There is the instance
of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs
to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea.
You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils
simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is
the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You
remember what happened about the fig tree. "He was hungry; and seeing a
fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything
thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time
of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: 'No man eat fruit
of thee hereafter for ever' . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: 'Master,
behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.'" This is a very
curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and
you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in
the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as
high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha
and Socrates above Him in those respects.



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The Emotional Factor
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. 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. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel
Butler's book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon
there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending
some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years
later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he
is worshiped under the name of the "Sun Child," and it is said that he
ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about
to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other
that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will;
but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very
indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, "I am going to expose
all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the
man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon." He was told, "You must not do that,
because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if
they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become
wicked"; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.
That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not
hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have
held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. 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. In the so-called
ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all
its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there
were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every
kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of
progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every
step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of
the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress
that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the
organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian
religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal
enemy of moral progress in the world.



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How the Churches Have Retarded Progress
You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so.
I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention
it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts
that are not pleasant. 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 endure
celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth
control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children." Nobody whose natural
sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not
absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right
and proper that that state of things should continue.
That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which,
at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses
to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary
suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent
still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering
in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow
set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness;
and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make
for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter
at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals
is not to make people happy."



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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.



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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 create.