Readers of this blog know that Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970) is one of my intellectual heroes. In the video above, filmed when Russell was about ninety years old, he explains why he isn’t religious.
Of course Russell knows that rational arguments will not convince most people—a fact I discovered teaching philosophy for many years. As I said many times people don’t want to know, they want to believe. And the belief in immortality has deep roots—it is based primarily on the fear of death. (For more Russell on religion see Why I Am Not a Christian, which I recommend highly.)
Of course Russell’s views go beyond religion. He is probably the most important logician in the history of philosophy—the inventor/discoverer of symbolic logic without which we couldn’t have modern computing. Moreover, he was one of the world’s greatest mathematicians who is renowned for Russell’s paradox which showed that Cantor’s naive notions about mathematical sets led to contradictions. He also won a Nobel Prize for literature and published nearly a 100 books, many of which are philosophical classics. His voluminous writings in logic, science, politics, and both popular and academic philosophy qualify him as one of the great thinkers in Western philosophy. In fact a good case can be made that Russell was the greatest philosopher in the Western intellectual tradition.