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Betrand Russell on a Foundation of Unyielding Despair

"A Free Man's Worship", in Why I Am Not A Christian, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957, orig. Dec. 1903) 107.

That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins — all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.

On this famous passage, Douglas Groothius remarks:

Russell could be a masterful writer. In a celebrated passage in his essay, “A Free Man’s Worship,” he waxes eloquent on the predicament of humanity in the modern age. In an expansive but beautiful sentence, Russell poetically limns the lineaments of his atheistic creed.

Douglas Groothius, Bertrand Russel, in Christian Research Journal.