Bertrand Russell, “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not rational, he becomes furious when they are disputed.”
Bertrand Russell, a renowned British philosopher and Nobel laureate, was known for his outspoken views on religion, ethics, and other philosophical topics. In this quote, he expresses his critique of those who rely on myths or unverified beliefs, which could include religious doctrines or other societal norms, to navigate the challenges and uncertainties of life. He uses the words “feeble” and “a little contemptible” to describe people who depend heavily on these comforting, yet possibly false, beliefs rather than confronting life’s complexities and difficulties more directly or realistically.
Russell also suggests that deep down, these individuals may be at least somewhat aware that these are myths. However, the comfort and reassurance they derive from these beliefs make them avoid or resist this realization. They “dare not face this thought” because to accept it would mean losing the comfort and security these beliefs provide. Lastly, he mentions the tendency for individuals to react angrily when these myths or beliefs are challenged. This may stem from a subconscious awareness that their beliefs aren’t entirely rational, making them defensive when someone questions them. This anger could be seen as a mechanism for defending their comforting myths, which they perceive as integral to coping with life’s perils.
Overall, in this quote, Russell critiques what he sees as an irrational and avoidant reliance on comforting myths in the face of life’s challenges and uncertainties, and the defensive attitudes that can result when these myths are questioned.