Quote from Bertrand Russell,
"We may define a Puritan as a man who holds that certain kinds of acts, even if they have no visible bad effects upon others than the agent, are inherently sinful, and, being sinful, ought to be prevented by whatever means is most effectual - the criminal law if possible, and, if not that, then public opinion backed by economic pressure."
"The laws in question can, therefore, only be justified by the theory of vindictive punishment, which holds that certain sins, though they may not injure anyone except the sinner, are so heinous as to make it our duty to inflict pain upon the delinquent. This point of view, under the influence of Benthamism, lost its hold during the nineteenth century. But in recent years, with the general decay of Liberalism, it has regained lost ground, and has begun to threaten a new tyranny as oppressive as any in the Middle Ages."
"In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then
to hang a question mark on the things
you have long taken for granted."
"The practical objection to Puritanism, as to every form of fanaticism, is that it singles out certain evils as so much worse than others that they must suppressed at all costs. The fanatic fails to recognise that the suppression of a real evil, if carried out too drastically , produces other evils which are even greater."
"Next to enjoying ourselves, the next greatest pleasure consists in preventing others from enjoying themselves, or, more generally, in the acquisition of power. Consequently those who live under the dominion of Puritanism become exceedingly desirous of power. Now love of power does far more harm than love of drink or any of the other vices against which Puritans protest. Of course, in virtuous people love of power camouflages itself as love of doing good, but this makes very little difference to its social effects. It merely means that we punish our victims for being wicked, instead of for being our enemies. In either case, tyranny and war result. Moral indignation is one of the most harmful forces in the modem world, the more so as it can always be diverted to sinister uses by those who control propaganda."
"The earth becomes more crowded, and our dependence upon our neighbours becomes more intimate. In these circumstances life cannot remain tolerable unless we learn to let each other alone in all matters that are not of immediate and obvious concern to the community. We must learn to respect each other's privacy, and not to impose our moral standards upon each other. The Puritan imagines that his moral standard is the moral standard; he does not realize that other ages and other countries, and even other groups in his own country, have moral standards different from his, to which they have as good a right as he has to his. Unfortunately, the love of power which is the natural outcome of Puritan self-denial makes the Puritan more executive than other people, and makes it difficult for others to resist him. Let us hope that a broader education and a wider knowledge of mankind may gradually weaken the ardour of our too virtuous masters."
Bertrand Russell (more quotes by Bertrand Russell or books by/about Bertrand Russell)
[Bertrand Arthur William Russell] (1872-1970) Philosopher, educator
The Recrudescence of Puritanism, in Sceptical Essays, 1928
Conscience, Free Thought, Learning, Reason, Religion, Skepticism, Truth, Agnostic