The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice


‘Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.” Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment”; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.

Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.’

– Denonn. L.E., Egner. R.E. Ed. 1961. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell London, United Kingdom: George Allen & Unwin (1962) p. 589-590


Bertrand Russell delivered the lecture Why I am not a Christian (of which this is an excerpt) on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall.

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19 thoughts on “The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice

  1. “How can you have order in a state without religion? For, when one man is dying of hunger near another who is ill of overeating, he cannot resign himself to this difference unless there is an authority which declares ‘God wills it thus.’ Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.”
    — Napoleon Bonaparte —

  2. I wonder if Bertrand Russell had the same teachers I did. When I was going through my “course” in Cosmic Understanding about a couple of decades back, my Teacher YLea, taught me this little mantra to use when I would look deep into the starry night and wondered what was really going on out there. She said, remember this: “As below, so above.” She explained that if I wanted to understand the goings-on in the universe, having only earth to judge by, that was all I needed. It’s all the same, with some better, some worse, some more philosophically or technologically advanced, a lot with less than you have here. There are no mysteries, no unexplainable, just degrees of sentience; of awareness and self-understanding. We’re not going to take you all over the universe to show you, you need to do that for yourself, with your mind. Judge it all from your own perspective and let that perspective change moment by moment. You’re on an endless journey – try to enjoy it.”

    Incidentally, not once in two decades of Teaching did any of the Teachers ever mention even the possibility of the existence of any deity. And I never felt the need to ask: the question was answered faster than it could be formulated! Perhaps the concept of deities evolving to one single all-powerful entity is simply a result of a certain evolution of consciousness and perhaps Earthian consciousness is now moving slowly beyond that particular level. I just “hope” that leads to something superior, not lesser in application.

  3. Can’t help but think of all those Protestants that Mary Tudor, for one, had burned at the stake. Rather turns the argument on its head?

  4. Would that be in the early Fall, when the sky is clear and there’s just a slight breeze from the East promising a cold Winter?

  5. Even better, makes you wish you could bottle it and take it home, to have a periodic whiff when the fun slows down.

  6. Is there some latent Catholicism lurking in your system? Some past life rubbing elbows with the Grand Inquisitor, maybe? Or just too much time downwind from the barbecue down there in Californigh-ee-yay? (I think you said you live or lived there?)

  7. I lived in CA for a year and a half, then south to Mexico for five years, in a villa right on the sea. Dolphins used to swim by about ten each morning. Good times.

  8. As for Catholicism, my only exposure was when this really hot girl once asked me to go to midnight Mass with her one Christmas Eve. Never even got a snack cracker or a shot of wine!

  9. Of course not, you weren’t “in”. You have to follow through the routine: confession, first communion, confirmation. I even got to kiss an archbishop’s ring, once. Hm, he probably wished it’d been his ass. But what about after the mass? What happened then? What? What? What? We, your eager fans want the story! Don’t tell me… no don’t tell me, the parents interfered! She didn’t say “No!” did she? Was there an aftermath? (That’s one for Kuba: why do they call it an “aftermath”? For me, an aftermath meant a “fail” mark as a rule!)

  10. Hm, he probably wished it’d been his ass.” – Or —

    After math, is calculus.

  11. Well Arch, the only thing I know about calculus is professor Q and his portable hole. In my days, 2+2 still equalled 4, and when dealing with percentages, nothing was higher than 100%.

  12. In my days, 2+2 still equalled 4” – Only in a base ten system. In base 4, 2+2=10.

  13. Ok, now you’re showing off! :-) But I don’t mind. I think I heard of base four once, some kid didn’t know it was called home plate.

  14. Sha’Tara, I suppose you know you’re about half nuts, but I’ve always liked that in a person – sane is boring.

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