Bertrand Russell is just three years short of the hundred-year-old mark. During his long and fruitful life he has contributed to mathematics and philosophy, and has taken a stand on matters of human welfare. He has been an abrasive critic of United States involvement in Viet Nam and has marched with the protesters and written books on the subject. In the conduct of his personal life he has been the object of criticism by those whose view of sex and marriage lies within the Christian tradition.
In his recently completed autobiography Russell displays no allegiance to religion. He looks back over a life that has held little meaning for him and looks ahead to the specter of ultimate obliteration. After mentioning the wish “to see the people one is fond of,” he asks:
What else is there to make life tolerable? We stand on the shore of an ocean, crying to the night and the emptiness; sometimes a voice answers out of the darkness. But it is the voice of one drowning; and in a moment the silence returns. The world seems to me quite dreadful; the unhappiness of many people is very great, and I often wonder how they all endure it. To know people well is to know their tragedy: it is usually the central thing about which their lives are built. And I suppose if they did not live most of the time in the things of the moment, they would not be able to go on.
This is the counsel of despair, the heart-rending cry of a life without God. Dare we hope that even at this late hour Bertrand Russell will listen to the music of the Gospel as it proclaims the significance of this life and offers forgiveness and the richness of everlasting life with God to all who “stand on the shore of an ocean, crying to the night and the emptiness.” ...1
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