start typing and results will show

or press esc

Man, in so far as he is not subject to natural forces, is free to work out his own destiny. The responsibility is his, and so is the opportunity.

Bertrand Russell, ‘Is there a God?’ (1952)

Philosopher, activist, and humanist Bertrand Russell posited his teapot analogy in a 1952 essay ‘Is there a God?’, rejecting the idea that the burden should be on unbelievers to disprove the existence of a god. The concept rests on the idea of a distant teapot, orbiting the sun but too small to be visible to even the most powerful telescopes. As ever more reasoning can be provided for why it is undiscoverable, it is futile to ask others to prove its unreality, but nonetheless quite right that they should be able to doubt its existence. 

Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time. It is customary to suppose that, if a belief is widespread, there must be something reasonable about it. I do not think this view can be held by anyone who has studied history.

Without compelling evidence for a god, the responsibility – and the opportunity – rests with human beings: an idea at the heart of Russell’s positive humanist philosophy.

Made by Heritage Creative