Russell’s essay begins with Mephistopheles’ story of the creation – God is bored (and also feeling a little vindictive?) so decides to create the World! Note the ‘evolutionary’ conception of the creation of humans: ‘from the monsters … Man was born’ with the ‘power of thought’ (whence ‘good’ and ‘evil’?)
‘All is passing in this mad, monstrous world’, humans must snatch their brief moment of bliss while it lasts! There must be some purpose in this world – but nothing in REALITY seems worthy → whence God???
Humans discern ‘purpose’ by trying to sift out the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’ ; that is, prising order out of the jaws of chaos. In the beginning, Humans inherited ‘sin’ from their fellow creatures (animals) – the brute beasts of prey. Bad events were interpreted as God’s punishment for our sins. Only by appeasing God could we alleviate these punishments (= repentance) – we embraced self-sacrifice, practised asceticism, renounced pleasure (!) Contrition was ‘rewarded’ by annihilation.
Science paints a similar picture, highlighting the randomness of events preceding Man’s ‘creation’ (an ‘accidental collocation of atoms’) Whatever our endowments from Nature, we are doomed to extinction as the Universe dies (Doomsday Scenario). These are the proposed ‘facts’ which underlie our existence, the background against which our lives unfold.
How can we survive in such a world? Because, despite its ‘blind’ machinations, Nature has somehow or other managed to create human beings – creatures with reason & insight. With such ‘gifts’ we are ‘free’ to critique & create – unlike ‘lesser’ animals. So, we might be impotent in the face of Nature’s forces but we are superior in terms of our ability to oppose and thereby liberate ourselves from them. We can still assert our free spirit in defiance of the relentless processes of Nature. The ‘savage’ on the other hand has no independence of thought (while subject to the same...