Bertrand RussellBertrand Russell, [Bertrand Arthur William Russell] (1872-1970) Philosopher, educator

Bertrand Russell Quote

“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”

Bertrand RussellBertrand Russell
~ Bertrand Russell

The Recrudescence of Puritanism, in Sceptical Essays, 1928

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

I've found this to be true with me in religion, politics, day to day living, my business' focus and direction, etc. Sometimes I've known something but then when questioned or pondered on, wow - its like the light bulb just got turned on real bright. Or, sometimes new information, new circumstances, etc. will enable the question.

jim k, austin

As to a question mark on religous beliefs, this is tough. For those who believe that a fish really did swallow Jonah, Noah was really in a flood with a boat load of animals , and a walking, talking snake convinced a woman to eat some fruit and started all the worlds problems, they can rarely give up these myths. They live in fear that a mistake will be found in the "Good Book" and that puts the whole thing into question.

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RobertSRQ    8/5/08

Especially religion, authority, and the trust of politicians

E Archer, NYC

We are relatively blind to our long held customs and beliefs. Why do people need 'licenses' to marry each other? Why are infants circumcised? Why do people think of themselves as subjects to a King, Pope, or President? Why is it OK to enslave millions of pigs, cows, horses, etc.? How do people supposedly know the inner workings of Heaven and Hell, life after death, etc.? Our prejudices are invisible until someone else who doesn't practice them shows up (he of course is the 'fool', right?). The search for Truth means putting everything up to scrutiny, over and over. Few have the patience or will to do so. Fantasy is so much more fun -- which is fine, but don't push it on everyone else.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

The marriage license is public proof or attestation that the persons are actually available to offer and contract themselves to each other in this way. It seems that it is no different to taking title in and transferrig property. Circumcision is considered to be a good health practice except by the Greeks. Pigs and cows like beans and corn are brought into this world for the purpose of being slaves or servants of mankind. The evil purpose of politics and religion (Kings, Popes and Presidents) is one and the same, the unity principle. As much as it seems we would prefer absoute individual freedom history has shown an equal overwhelming erge for mankind to seek or be forced into unity.

Mike, Norwalk
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Mike, Norwalk Waffler, Smith, Arkansas 12/8/20

A license is: “A right given by some competent authority to do an act, which without such authority would be illegal” (Bouvier’s Law Dictionary)

“A personal privilege to do some particular act or series of acts ⋯ The permission by competent authority to do an act which, without such permission would be illegal, a trespass, a tort, or otherwise not allowable.” (Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition)

“The permission, by competent authority to do an act which without permission, would be illegal, a trespass, or a tort.” (People vs. Henderson, 218 NW.2d 2, 4).

A government license is the privilege to perform criminal acts without immediate threat of prosecution. The religious sacrament exists by inalienable right (including the free exercise of religion). When marriage is made an illegal act by license, it is done so outside of law.

RKA, Wasilla, AK

It so vividly reminded me of my days in midlands, a Buddhist in the heart of bible belt. I have no religion, I always question my philosophy, dare I question others. Oh how acutely, I would be looked upon. One phrase always coming out like a bile, "You cannot question GOD." Indeed, for I am a slave and I am destined to go to hell and burn ever so endowed with the pain of pious god fearing humans. ASK ASK ASK, QUESTION QUESTION QUESTION, then only will you see the light. If you don't ask, you will not see the light, you will be a SLAVE.

Ken, Allyn, WA

The occupation of a scientist is to question everything, always. Every scientific theory or model is only an approximation of reality (think of Plato's Theory of Forms). Some models are closer to reality than others, but the science is never settled; and when data directly contradicts the model, it is the model that is wrong.

Logan, Memphis, TN

No, actually a license, as per Black's Law Dictionary, is a privilege granted from a higher authority, to a lower authority, in an action that has previously been illegal. Um, excuse me, but Marriage is a religious entity wherein government is not supposed to cross, let alone license -- Waffler, can you tell me whether or not I can get married? What about Archer? What about RKA, Ken, Mike, or any other person in this blog? What if all you guys got together, THEN do you have the right? You may FORCE the power of the majority against my inalienable rights (Democracy), but that would simply show just what a sick control freak you must be! Where in the hell do you automatically assume the right when delegating this power to your representative to do this in your stead? Your representative is just that, a person who represents you in all your inalienable rights -- can you tell me, exactly, what inalienable right you have to tell me whether or not I can take the Lord's supper or get baptized or take confession? Where in the hell do you get the right to tell me whether or not I can get married? You really are this ignorant, aren't you? You really have no fathomable clue as to your own history? Wake up man. Get an education, take a local community class in American politics and philosophy -- and quit speaking until you know what you're talking about. Before you comment, learn your history concerning the topic you're addressing -- and try something else other than wikipedia for a change... I can give you a few scholastic places to begin your quest for knowledge, if you really want to know the truth outside your meandoring rhetoric.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Marriage is conducted in all societies and it is not necessarily a religious matter but a public recognition. I personally know of few "license" refusals. It is a common place that in the most rustic societies or tribes marriage has a public face, just like funerals, births and baptisim. Humans are social creatures. Why must your birth be certified when you are born: why must you have a birth certificate? If you seriously have no understanding or sensitivity to these things I truly wonder for your sanity. You like Archer are proving more and more each day what spaced out freaks you really are. You need to get more academic and phiosophical Logan and not so personal and down in the gutter. Your posts drip with so much hatred and vindicativeness not nearly as lofty as a supposed academic. Your attitude and behaviour is what a phony academic would stoop to when his stupidity is uncovered. I think you has lost your marbles.

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, marriage is/was a religious ceremony in all societies. At common law (the God of Nature's laws as apply to each and every, any and all) avails the relationship to all men and women. When government embroils itself in religious ceremony (by license, defining what marriage is, who can get married, etc.), it becomes a theocracy. No State now recognizes a pure common law marriage. The only marriage that is recognized by the state is that by license. The state has now fully become the god and church to the people, making the once private contract illegal without the state recognized privilege. Birth, marriage, death, etc. are individual events that impact society. There are lawful and unlawful ways to deal with all of them. Compelled compliance and license are unlawful ways to deal with them.

E Archer, NYC

Gee, Waffler, thanks for clearing up my questions. I guess you have the answer to everything. I have more questions -- I sure wish you could answer them all for me so I can 'get with the program.' ;-) Marriage licenses are a throw back to feudal times when a subject needed permission from his lord to marry one of the lord's other subjects -- the lord even had first rights to the virgin bride before her husband-to-be. If marriage were simply a contract between two people that spells out the mutual agreement, then ANY 2 (or more) people could do the same thing whether male, female, without respect to their sexual preferences. Secondly, circumcision as praticed by the ancients was not for health but to indicate loyalty to a particular crown (always religious). What, only the Greeks aren't circumcised? I suppose the Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Canadians, Brits, Africans, South Americans are all circumcised, too, eh? LOL, you really do live in a hick town, don't you. And of course their 'willies' are dropping like flies -- I suppose that's why they are the most populous regions in the world! And how do every other mammalian species manage WITH their foreskins, I wonder? A newborn child has not chosen this barbarity -- it is forced upon them by custom alone -- you have to ask to NOT have it done in a hospital. If a man wants to cut off his foreskin as a sign of his loyalty, then let him (I think it shows the seriousness of his conviction), but keep your hands off innocent children. Thirdly, in a town in upstate NY is a pig farm with over 1 million pigs penned up for life only to be slaughtered for food. Ever see a place like that? There are lots of them -- giant corporate farms with millions of animals ensalved in environments far removed from a natural habitat. It wouldn't require many improvements to pen up humans instead -- in fact many of the 'solutions' for people resemble the same practice. We take so many things for granted -- most of which we simply bear because it is easier than thinking or making choices contrary to what traditions have proscribed.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Marriage license and its accompanying ceremony religious or societal is simply a recognition by family, friends and society that this man and this woman belong to each other, so keep yo' hands off. Even cave society recognized that when the brute dragged home his queen all others were to leave them to themselves. This is the beginning of family values. The ceremonies done in all cultures concerning birth, death, marriage, matriculation etcetera is nothing more than a recognition and a closure of certain facts or contracts. If no one objects to the marriage at the wedding "then hold your peace for ever more". Beyond that, custom and laws formed from custom impact things like marital property rights. Mike where you go wrong is differentiating concepts like state and society. All the places I have lived required societal recognition from city hall or the court house or bureaus of vital records of things like we are discussing here. Call it the state if that makes you happy. Archer ya got me on the Greek thing. I had a Greek brother in law who told the nurse after the birth of his son, "Now don't you cut that boy." The Greeks may be anti semites and feel that that overrides the dubious health benefits. The issue Archer is your question, infants are circumcised or not circumcised because it is what their parents want for their children. It is not law. You may be right about having to ask and maybe hospitals should make that clearer. I agree with you that many folks just go along with custom rather than asserting their own preferences, but people have a right to go along with custom also don't you agree? You are a much freer man than you think you are and your supposed fight for freedom is just a Quixotic tilting at non-existent windmills. If it was not for our desire for pork the little piggys would never have a life at all. Never feel sorry for something you may wind up eating Archer.

E Archer, NYC

In most modern-day states, a marriage is not recognized without a license from the state, whether there was a religious ceremony or not. At least at every wedding I have attended in my life there was a signing of the marriage license after the ceremony -- without it, the marriage was not recognized, the same license one could get at City Hall with a civil service. The point I make is that we simply do what we are told whether it be church or state when in fact, we neither need their acceptance or permission -- explain to me why a man cannot have 10 wives if he can afford them or a woman 10 husbands if she can stand them? ;-) Could a parent insist that his daughter be made infertile for the dubious benefit of population reduction, too? Most people I know who have baby boys didn't even give it a second thought -- they were circumcised, so they do it to their children with no more thought than that. The point I was making with corporate pig farms is that raising farm animals distributed throughout the land on private family farms is much closer to the ideals of self-sufficiency than centralized concentration camps for raising pork, beef, poultry, etc., filled with hormones and chemicals, harboring the diseases that accompany so many animals in close confinement. We rationalize it all away as a necessity, while we pay farmers NOT to grow or compete with the corporate farms that have displaced them. Man is a natural hunter-gatherer -- the more we try to condition ourselves away from this deeply rooted fact, the more we attempt to squeeze man into a false world which in fact has been designed to funnel wealth and control (i.e. power) into the hands of the ruling class which thinks of the rest of us as nothing more than swine raised for their bacon.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

There is a license and their is a certificate. The license I believe creates the legal record like does a birth certificate. The certificate is attestation of a public notice being given in a chruch or court house before your friends, family and society. No license no marital property no divorce. Again your questions are so philosophical and go beyond our governments, local, state, Federal. All societies have marriage laws, registrations of marriages, births, etcetera. You love history you should research how all this came about in every society of the world. I was a vegetarian for ten years. Your distaste of modern farming and animal husbandry is held by many. We live in a brutal world and we are on top of the food chain. Their is a famous SciFi novel that I read. The plot concerns an invasion by an intelligent and beneficent space ship. They establish a century of peace and prosperity upon earth but at the end of the story it is revealed that the aliens purpose is to harvest homo sapiens for their dietary needs. A return to hunting-gathering would be good for the environment because it would probably lead initially to massive canabalism and a massive reduction in human population until sufficient land and resources were returned to quality hunting gathering enterprize. I believe that there is a limit or optimal size of human population on this planet. If we cannot deal with that in an intelligent way because people like yourself Archer would consider it socialistic government control then your suggestion of hunting-gathering-cannabalism may be the only other recourse. Good discussion by the way.

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, where you go wrong is differentiating concepts like state and society. The difference is: If the State is made up of We The People's representatives, the State is a mere organized ethos of application for the individual(s) and their united (society) benefit. If the State is made up of parties that represent the State (even if those representatives are changed hourly); society and the State are at odds, one with another. Some of their interests and operations may overlap but, they are both aloof separate entities. You may not be able to comprehend any difference, since you believe you've given up your sovereignty. I have not given up my sovereignty and the difference is as different as day and night, white and black, hot and cold, etc. A license is not as you believe. I know you've read my legal references on the subject so, you can believe the truth and fact or, as you wish. And, you are right, it is a good discussion.

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anonymous    1/6/14

Question marks, to Waffler, are an alien scribble.

cal, Lewisville, tx

Our greatest president, Thomas Jefferson, questioned everything about our federal government for fear of it's interference of our individual rights.

watchman 13, USA

They have rights who dare maintain them, Russell Lowell once said.

jim k, Austin, Tx

Nice comment, cal.

Jim, Chicago

I am hanging a question mark on this quote! Where does it come from? I have never seen it sourced to any of Russell's writings.

Ronw13, Idaho

Considering the comments above, Closer to nature had we begun, than we are today. To bring order to chaos, the natural, carnal act of Union is mirrored in the spiritual realm. Subjection one to another before the Creator gives recognition to the blessing of the Creator, from hence the blessing comes. Hidden in plane sight. Sacred before all who deme themselves more than just beast of the field. 

E Archer, NYC

Hanging question marks on things long taken for granted is what I do!  ;-)  (Why?)


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