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Bertrand Russell the Passionate Skeptic: A Biography

By Alan Wood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVII
Beacon Hill School

AS said earlier, Russell's views during his second marriage were much more conventionally unconventional than before and after. At this time, for instance, he was most militant in the way he expressed his criticisms of orthodox Christianity.

Although he praised some of the precepts in the Gospels, Russell said that Christ was inferior to Buddha and Socrates as regards wisdom and virtue, and complained that Christ had 'a vindictive fury against people who would not listen to his preaching'. He made a special attack on the doctrine of Hell-- 'I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world'. And Russell thought Christ showed 'a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often'.

Russell's main interest for many years, however, was concentrated on education. The unorthodox school set up by himself and Dora Russell in 1927, with their two children among the pupils, attracted a good deal of newspaper publicity, which magnified the trivial and obscured the important. A false impression of Russell's views has persisted; partly because of confusion with those of Dora Russell, which were more extreme than his own; and partly because of the practical problems in running the school, which failed for reasons which had nothing to do with the rightness or wrongness of his ideas, and which gave his critics a chance to make up amusing legends.

A typical apochryphal story, circulated in America, told how one day the local rector came to the door of the school, and was greeted by a small girl without any clothes on. The rector spluttered: 'Good God.' The girl retorted, closing the door:

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