[Lest one believe I fancy myself equal to sparring with the great Bertrand Russell, let me assure you that I only challenge the man with arguments I learned from far smarter men, borrowing confidence from the fact that he's dead and can't defend himself. Think of me here as the philosophical equivalent of a lion cub playfully pouncing on mortally wounded prey.]
Bertrand Russell said of God and the afterlife, “If it is true you should believe it, and if it isn’t, you shouldn’t. If you can’t find out whether it’s true or it isn’t, you should suspend judgment.” This seems like a
reasonable posture on a purely intellectual level, until one considers a more
say you find yourself in a dark room. You have slightly less reason to
believe there is a man-eating tiger in this room as not. One does not
simply suspend judgment - at this point one acts based upon other
interests. Sure, you might end up seeming a fool if it turns out there
was no tiger, but when the stakes are as high as life and death, useful
caution wins out over Occam’s Razor.
rejects Pascal’s Wager (try Christianity on and see if it works for
you) on the principle that "one ought to believe something because it is
true and not because it is useful." This is absurd. You cannot refrain
from dubiously founded actions in this (not merely theoretical) life.
I’ll bet Bertrand Russell wouldn’t suspend judgment in the above
scenario. “Live to postulate another day,” and all that...