Bertrand Russell Essay

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Bertrand Russell: A Passionate Rationalist by Jim Herrick from the book Against the Faith Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was, literally, heir to the nineteenth-century liberal tradition: his grandfather, Lord John Russell, had been Prime Minister and his godfather was John Stuart Mill. He was sufficiently of the Establishment to have once referred, in his early life, to the government as 'We', but the long standing tradition of dissent in his family stretched back to William Russell, who, when sentenced to execution for alleged complicity in the Rye House Plot (1683), ordered his chaplain to write a life of Julian the Apostate to argue that resistance against authority may be justified. His grandmother's grandfather had been 'cut by the County for saying that the world must have been created before 4004 B C. because there is so much lava on the slopes of Etna' (Autobiography). Bertrand Russell's dissent and doubt were to extend much further. He inherited a fearless individualism, and the texts which his grandmother inscribed in the fly-leaf of his Bible affected him profoundly: 'Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil' was precisely observed and 'Be strong, and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord Thy God is with Thee wheresoever thou goest' was followed in what Russell saw as the cause of humanity rather than the Lord. In his long life spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries he became a renowned and controversial philosopher, atheist, publicist and political reformer. He is, perhaps, the most famous and most passionate rationalist of the century, like Voltaire a polymath whose gifts lay in lucid and witty exposition and dramatic publicity for diverse causes -- conscientious objection, education, rational morality, world peace -- as much as any single piece of original work. He wrote at the opening of his
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