“I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue.”
Lord Bertrand Russell’s famous (or infamous if you prefer) 1927 essay “Why I Am Not A Christian” is one of the “classics” of “atheist literature” and one that is still likely to be read to this very day by budding unbelievers trying to inch themselves out of the church pew (It was just such a rite of passage for me, a religious skeptic by the age of twelve).
Russell felt that religion itself was “principal enemy of moral progress.” Saying something like that took a lot of guts back them!
In part, due to his reputation as a “freethinker” and for his controversial positions on matters of sexual morality, Lord Russell, who is today regarded as one of the 20th century’s greatest minds and humanitarian activists, was judicially declared “unfit” to teach philosophy at the College of the City of New York in 1940. The great philosopher was defended by a host of intellectuals, including John Dewey and Albert Einstein (Einstein’s famous line that “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds ... ” came from his open letter in support of Lord Russell).
In the clip below, taken from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s archives, Bertrand Russell gives a short but sweet answer to the question he posed himself over 80 years ago, in what is probably today his best-known popular work.