In his lecture, “Why I Am Not A Christian”, the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell has this to say:
“Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.”
There’s so much wrong in his lecture as a whole, but on this point, he’s not only wrong, he’s a million light years wrong. This is especially sad considering that in this lecture Russell sits on the judgement seat over God’s word and yet misses the point of God’s word all together. God’s religion – the one that calls sinners back into relationship with Himself on the basis of the sacrifice of His own Son – find’s it’s foundation in love.
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8, ESV)
… and its aim in love
““Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”” (Matthew 22:36–40, ESV)
… and its practice of religion in love
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27, ESV)
On that last point alone: For all the “science” we have and all the lessons “our own hearts” have taught us, it is still those with deep committed religious faith (and often times Christian faith), that makes sacrifices to care for the most vulnerable in this world – orphans and widows. Humanitarian aristocrats like Russell are rarely in the dumps of this world loving the forgotten.
Fear is not the base. Love is.