An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish (1943) | Sin

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An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell Man is a rational animal: so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the orld plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilisation, led astray by preacher
  An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell   Man is a rational animal: so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favour of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the orld plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilisation, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until e have almost reached the point here praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogey regrettably surviving from a bygone age. !ll this is depressing, but gloom is a useless emotion. In order to escape from it, I have been driven to study the past ith more attention than I had formerly given to it, and have found, as rasmus found, that folly is perennial and yet the human race has survived. The follies of our on times are easier to bear hen they are seen against the background of past follies. In hat follos I shall mi# the sillinesses of our day ith those of former centuries. $erhaps the result may help in seeing our on times in perspective, and as not much orse than other ages that our ancestors lived through ithout ultimate disaster.!ristotle, so far as I kno, as the first man to proclaim e#plicitly that man is a rational animal. %is reason for this vie as one hich does not no seem very impressive& it as, that some people can do sums. %e thought that there are three kinds of soul: the vegetable soul, possessed by all living things, both plants and animals, and concerned only ith nourishment and groth& the animal soul, concerned ith locomotion, and shared by man ith the loer animals& and finally the rational soul, or intellect, hich is the 'ivine mind, but in hich men participate to a greater or less degree in proportion to their isdom. It is in virtue of the intellect that man is a rational animal. The intellect is shon in various ays, but most emphatically by mastery of arithmetic. The (reek system of numerals as very bad, so that the multiplication table as )uite difficult, and  complicated calculations could only be made by very clever people. *o+a+days, hoever, calculating machines do sums better than even the cleverest people, yet no one contends that these useful instruments are immortal, or ork by divine inspiration. !s arithmetic has gron easier, it has come to be less respected. The conse)uence is that, though many philosophers continue to tell us hat fine fellos e are, it is no longer on account of our arithmetical skill that they praise us.ince the fashion of the age no longer allos us to point to calculating boys as evidence that man is rational and the soul, at least in part, immortal, let us look elsehere. -here shall e look first hall e look among eminent statesmen, ho have so triumphantly guided the orld into its present condition Or shall e choose the men of letters Or the philosophers !ll these have their claims, but / think e should begin ith those hom all right thinking people acknoledge to be the isest as ell as the best of men, namely the clergy. If they fail to be rational, hat hope is there for us lesser mortals !nd alas+though I say it ith all due respect+there have been times hen their isdom has not been very obvious, and, strange to say, these ere especially the times hen the poer of the clergy as greatest.The !ges of 0aith, hich are praised by our neo+scholastics, ere the time hen the clergy had things all their on ay. 'aily life as full of miracles rought by saints and i1ardry perpetrated by devils and necromancers. Many thousands of itches ere burnt at the stake. Men2s sins ere punished by pestilence and famine, by earth)uake, flood, and fire. !nd  yet, strange to say, they ere even more sinful than they are no+a+days. 3ery little as knon scientifically about the orld. ! fe learned men remembered (reek proofs that the earth is round, but most people made fun of the notion that there are antipodes. To suppose that there are human beings at the antipodes as heresy. It as generally held 4though modern 5atholics take a milder vie6 that the immense ma7ority of mankind are damned. 'angers ere held to lurk at every turn. 'evils ould settle on the food that monks ere about to eat, and ould take possession of the bodies of incautious feeders ho omitted to make the sign of the 5ross before each mouthful. Old+fashioned people still say 8bless you8 hen one snee1es, but they have forgotten the reason for the custom. The reason as that people ere thought to snee1e out their souls, and before their souls could get back lurking demons ere apt to enter the unsouled body& but if any one said 8(od bless you,8 the demons ere frightened off.Throughout the last 9 years, during hich the groth of science had gradually shon men ho to ac)uire knoledge of the ays of nature and mastery over natural forces, the clergy have fought a losing battle against science, in astronomy and geology, in anatomy and physiology, in biology and psychology and sociology. Ousted from one position, they have taken up another. !fter being orsted in astronomy, they did their best to prevent the rise of geology& they fought against 'arin in biology, and at the  present time they fight against scientific theories of psychology and education. !t each stage, they try to make the public forget their earlier obscurantism, in order that their present obscurantism may not be recogni1ed for hat it is. ;et us note a fe instances of irrationality among the clergy since the rise of science, and then in)uire hether the rest of mankind are any better.-hen Ben7amin 0ranklin invented the lightning rod, the clergy, both in ngland and !merica, ith the enthusiastic support of (eorge III, condemned it as an impious attempt to defeat the ill of (od. 0or, as all right+thinking people ere aare, lightning is sent by (od to punish impiety or some other grave sin+the virtuous are never struck by lightning. Therefore if (od ants to strike any one, Ben7amin 0ranklin ought not to defeat %is design& indeed, to do so is helping criminals to escape. But (od as e)ual to the occasion, if e are to believe the eminent 'r. $rice, one of the leading divines of Boston. ;ightning having been rendered ineffectual by the 8iron points invented by the sagacious 'r. 0ranklin,8 Massachusetts as shaken by earth)uakes, hich 'r. $rice perceived to be due to (od2s rath at the 8iron points.8 In a sermon on the sub7ect he said, 8In Boston are more erected than elsehere in *e ngland, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh< there is no getting out of the mighty hand of (od.8 !pparently, hoever, $rovidence gave up all hope of curing Boston of its ickedness, for, though lightning rods became more and more common, earth)uakes in Massachusetts have remained rare. *evertheless, 'r. $rice2s point of vie, or something very like it, is still held by one of the most influential of living men. -hen, at one time, there ere several bad earth)uakes in India, Mahatma (andhi solemnly arned his compatriots that these disasters had been sent as a punishment for their sins. ven in my on native island this point of vie still e#ists. 'uring the last ar, the British (overnment did much to stimulate the production of food at home. In /=/>, hen things ere not going ell, a cottish clergyman rote to the nespapers to say that military failure as due to the fact that, ith government sanction, potatoes had been planted on the abbath. %oever, disaster as averted, oing to the fact that the (ermans disobeyed all the Ten 5ommandments, and not only one of them.ometimes, if pious men are to be believed, (od2s mercies are curiously selective. Toplady, the author of 8Rock of !ges,8 moved from one vicarage to another& a eek after the move, the vicarage he had formerly occupied burnt don, ith great loss to the ne vicar. Thereupon Toplady thanked (od& but hat the ne vicar did is not knon. Borro, in his 8Bible in pain,8 records ho ithout mishap he crossed a mountain pass infested by bandits. The ne#t party to cross, hoever, ere set upon, robbed, and some of them murdered& hen Borro heard of this, he, like Toplady, thanked (od.!lthough e are taught the 5opernican astronomy in our te#tbooks, it has not yet penetrated to our religion or our morals, and has not even  succeeded in destroying belief in astrology. $eople still think that the 'ivine $lan has special reference to human beings, and that a special $rovidence not only looks after the good, but also punishes the icked. I am sometimes shocked by the blasphemies of those ho think themselves pious+for instance, the nuns ho never take a bath ithout earing a bathrobe all the time. -hen asked hy, since no man can see them, they reply: 8Oh, but you forget the good (od.8 !pparently they conceive of the 'eity as a $eeping Tom, hose omnipotence enables %im to see through bathroom alls, but ho is foiled by bathrobes. This vie strikes me as curious.The hole conception of 8in8 is one hich I find very pu11ling, doubtless oing to my sinful nature. If 8in8 consisted in causing needless suffering, I could understand& but on the contrary, sin often consists in avoiding needless suffering. ome years ago, in the nglish %ouse of ;ords, a bill as introduced to legali1e euthanasia in cases of painful and incurable disease. The patient2s consent as to be necessary, as ell as several medical certificates. To me, in my simplicity, it ould seem natural to re)uire the patient2s consent, but the late !rchbishop of 5anterbury, the nglish official e#pert on in, e#plained the erroneousness of such a vie. The patient2s consent turns euthanasia into suicide, and suicide is sin. Their ;ordships listened to the voice of authority, and re7ected the bill. 5onse)uently, to please the !rchbishop+and his (od, if he reports truly+victims of cancer still have to endure months of holly useless agony, unless their doctors or nurses are sufficiently humane to risk a charge of murder. I find difficulty in the conception of a (od ho gets pleasure from contemplating such tortures& and if there ere a (od capable of such anton cruelty, I should certainly not think %im orthy of orship. But that only proves ho sunk I am in moral depravity.I am e)ually pu11led by the things that are sin and by the things that are not. -hen the ociety for the $revention of 5ruelty to !nimals asked the pope for his support, he refused it, on the ground that human beings oe no duty to the loer animals, and that ill+treating animals is not sinful. This is because animals have no souls. On the other hand, it is icked to marry your deceased ife2s sister+so at least the 5hurch teaches+hoever much you and she may ish to marry. This is not because of any unhappiness that might result, but because of certain te#ts in the Bible.The resurrection of the body, hich is an article of the !postles2 5reed, is a dogma hich has various curious conse)uences. There as an author not very many years ago, ho had an ingenious method of calculating the date of the end of the orld. %e argued that there must be enough of the necessary ingredients of a human body to provide everybody ith the re)uisites at the ;ast 'ay. By carefully calculating the available ra material, he decided that it ould all have been used up by a certain date. -hen that date comes, the orld must end, since otherise the resurrection of the body ould become impossible. ?nfortunately I have forgotten hat the date as,
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