Fear is the basis of religious dogma, as of so much else in human life. Fear of human beings, individually or collectively, dominates much of our social life, but it is fear of nature that gives rise to religion. The antithesis of mind and matter is ... more or less illusory; but there is another antithesis which is more important – that, namely, between things that can be affected by our desires and things that cannot be so affected. The line between the two is neither sharp nor immutable – as science advances, more and more things are brought under human control. Nevertheless there remain things definitely on the other side. Among these are all the large facts of our world, the sort of facts that are dealt with by astronomy. It is only facts on or near the surface of the earth that we can, to some extent, mould to suit our desires. And even on the surface of the earth our powers are very limited. Above all, we cannot prevent death, although we can often delay it.

Bertrand Russell (May 18, 1872–February 2, 1970)


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