Religion is something left over from the infancy of our intelligence, it will fade away as we adopt reason and science as our guidelines. —Bertrand Russell

Many books and websites attribute this quote to Bertrand Russell, but none I saw has given any source. One exception is this link book from Google Books. It mentions, "Russell, Letter (1958) To Mr Major," 41-42. I did a Google search with that term but nothing useful came out.

Did Russell say or write this?

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    The book Dear Bertrand Russell, a collection of his letters, has on page 5 a letter to a Mr. Major, dated 18 March 1958. It does not contain this sentence, but it could be that the letter had more text that was not included in the book. Or maybe he and Mr. Major exchanged more letters that year. Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 17:10
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    There's a more extensive collection, The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell, which might be worth searching. Unfortunately Internet Archive seems to only have a scan of the first volume, which goes up to 1914. Commented Aug 27, 2023 at 17:18
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    I did get hold of a searchable copy of Selected Letters, Volume 2. It doesn't contain the 18 March 1958 letter, nor did I get any matches when searching for "infancy". Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 5:00
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    McMasters University has an archive of all known letters to and from Russell: BRACERS, though only metadata is available online. I did a search for Recipient/Sender: Major, which turned up a letter from Harry R. Major dated 9 March 1958, and two entries dated 18 March (probably duplicates in the database) for Russell's reply. It doesn't appear there was any further correspondence between them. Commented Aug 31, 2023 at 5:04

1 Answer 1


I have not been able to find that exact phrasing. However, in a lecture on March 24, 1922, entitled "Free Thought and Official Propaganda", Russell did say the following:

I do not believe that, on the balance, religious belief has been a force for good. Although I am prepared to admit that in certain times and places it has had some good effects, I regard it as belonging to the infancy of human reason, and to a stage of development which we are now outgrowing.

A letter to a Mr. Major, dated 18 March 1958, is reprinted in the book Dear Bertrand Russell, though in that edition it is on pages 5-6 rather than 41-42. It is on the subject of religion and atheism, but does not contain anything about "infancy".

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