Part 1 of 2
(Part 1 of 2) I’m at it again, reading another book by an atheist, I mean a real atheist. I’m convinced that most people who say they are, are not so in their heart of hearts. As one such man inadvertently said, “Thank God I’m an atheist!” Bertrand Russell was no such a man.
Like the most famous atheist of the 19th century Nietzsche, (d. 1900) Russell was the most famous atheist of the 20th century, (d. 1963) and both of them were very intelligent and very good writers.
Bertrand Russell was a British mathematician and philosopher, and was applauded as one of the world’s profound thinkers. In 1959 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature on the basis that he was “a defender of humanity and freedom of thought.” He authored more than 40 books covering such subjects as philosophy, education, sex, and morality.
As a retired clergy man I am interested in a person’s religious philosophy because it tells me what their worldview is and explains to me the way they think and the choices they make. Russell was determined that he was going to have no death-bed conversion, but stick to his atheistic religion right to his last breath, as did avowed atheists Adolph Eichmann and Ingrid Bergman. Russell, made it clear and plain in an 1957 essay, the year that I was converted to Christ, “I do not believe in God.”
I’m well aware of the fact that at times he confessed to be an agnostic; but there are two kinds of agnostics; those who say, we do not know God but he can be known and those who say, we can never know God. Russell pitched his tent in the latter camp. He believed that for all practical purposes agnostics and atheists were joined at the skull.
To throw another log on the fire here; it seems bizarre, but Russell was bizarre, he did not mind being referred to as a Christian; however, in the most nominal, liberal, sense of the word. In one essay, in discussing, “Can an Agnostic be a Christian?”, he wrote: “If you mean by a ‘Christian’ a man who loves his neighbor, who has wide sympathy with suffering, and who ardently desires a world freed from the cruelties and abominations that at present disfigure it, then, certainly, you will be justified in calling me a Christian.” As you will see, there was an impassable gulg between what Russell said and how Russell lived.
Russell did not have an easy row to hoe in his early years; his radical religious views sowed so much controversy that in 1940 he was fired from the College of the City of New York; but yet his views were seeds that hatched some years later, along with those of other agnostics and atheists, so that today an anti-Christian, especially anti-evangelical climate pervades throughout much of academia.
I do not want to give Russell too much credit. He was soundly defeated in a public debate by a Christian of equal mental powers named Copleston, and I am convinced that there are apologists today, using the latest discoveries of science that would leave him looking like a dazed boxer on the ropes.
It’s All In The Family
Russell had an only daughter named Katharine (Tait). She was born in London in 1923 and was educated at her parents’ innovative school, Beacon Hill, which was a school of free-thought, which is just another way of saying, atheistic humanism.
In her book “My Father — Bertrand Russell,” she is very transparent about what it was like living under the roof of a father like Russell. It’s not a pretty picture. She is very candid about his adulterous affairs. She wrote: “Once my father had freed himself of his original Puritanism, he was never again a one-woman man, though each new love might seem to be the ideal, he did not want to be irrevocably committed.” It was a lifestyle of non-committal that Russell practiced throughout his entire life.
What was his intellectual response to his ‘love-em and leave-em lifestyle? “Why? Surely they can find other men.” His barnyard morality did not raise the eyebrows of his followers one inch. Why would it? Their worldview, their window-on-the-world is, If there is no God, than all lifestyles are permissible. Russell himself put it this way, “Outside human desire there is no moral standard.” When I read that statement all I could see before is the lifestyles of Jeffrey Dahmer, Charlie Manson, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy etc…etc.. .Where would the sefishness stop!
It is always astounding to me how such libertine philosophers cannot live by their own codes. They know they don’t work out their in the dust and din of the work-a-day world but in their make-believe-worlds they cling to them like security blankets. When one of Russell’s wives became pregnant by another man, he was “hurt and angered and wounded in his family pride”
Katharine wrote: “Once I asked him if I should sleep with an amiable young man of my acquaintance. ‘Do you love him?’ ‘No, not really.’ ‘Then I shouldn’t. It’s best to save that for someone you love and not treat it lightly’” That’s the epitome of King Lear’s fool. It’s the irony of being an atheist who couldn’t give a tinkers-damn for the daughter of another father, but don’t do that to me and mine.
I recall what a fellow Christian said to me several weeks ago; “Anyone living a happy life is living a disciplined life.” Russell’s free, uncommitted love proved to be very painful very complicated and very expensive for him. His home was not a philosophers paradise, nor could it ever be.
To Be Continued,