British philosopher, mathematician, and social activist Bertrand Russell delivered his famous 1927 lecture “Why I am not a Christian” to the South London branch of the National Secular Society. Russell articulated his assertion that religion is based on fear, and that fear propagates cruelty with distinguishing precision:

Religion is based primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing—fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things.

Read: Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects (1967)

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