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Reconcilable Worldviews of Mahatma Gandhi and Bertrand Russell

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In the search for personal truth and validation in the confusing world that we live in, humanists alike have paved the way for social movements and forward thinking. Amongst such individuals are Mahatma Gandhi and Bertrand Russell. Although raised with different religious beliefs and living in different socio-economical contexts, the two share a same common vision: a world of nonviolence and unity. By contrasting and comparing their views on peace, education and war, the following makes it apparent that despite their different upbringing, their worldviews are reconcilable.

To begin, Gandhi grew up poor in village in India and his mother was a deeply devoted Hindu. Through his travels and life struggles, Mahatma Gandhi did his best to live a life of peace. Consequently, Gandhi was devoted to the principles of Satyagraha, which showed him the Truth and connected him to God. In addition, he encouraged his people to live their lives free of brutality and be peaceful. He believed that ahimsa (nonviolence) was necessary for a society to operate and was an essential virtue. As a result of Satyagraha and ahimsa, Gandhi wanted to spread love, which he saw as part of the laws of nature (Gandhi). Also, as the law of nature would have it, Gandhi believed that hatred can be triumphed by love. Therefore, in order to better understand Gandhi’s worldview, it is important to emphasize peace as one of his core values because it is how he chose to live and what he encouraged others to do so as well.

In continuation, Mahatma Gandhi advocated for proper education for his people. In South Africa and India, Gandhi taught nonviolence and love, which he defines as his purpose on earth (Merton 28). Furthermore, Gandhi not only taught nonviolence but also emphasized character building to train the body, mind and spirit. Ultimately, his goal was to teach ahimsa and Satyagraha so that India could be the first nonviolent state and this he attempted to do until his assassination in 1948. Conclusively, his teachings not only affected India but also inspired the entire world that witness the struggle of their nation and were saddened by his death.

As previously mentioned, Gandhi did not approve of violence; ergo he approved even less of warfare. He advocated that dying by means of nonviolence took much more bravery than dying for a violent causeor example, Gandhi helped free his people in South Africa, then in India through the use of Passive Resistance, which involved breaking the law to have it changed (Ackerman and Duvall 64). Gandhi lived through World War I and II; he thus saw the advancement in nuclear weapons. Ultimately, Gandhi is against the atomic bomb and believes it would be the end of mankind. Irrevocably, the bomb is against his principles of peace, education and means of nonviolence.

Next, noble and public intellectual Bertrand Russell questions the role of God and his relation to peace. Russell does not believe that God has any involvement in the right or wrong of this world (Russell 31). Consequently, Russell believes that peace can be achieved if religion is abolished and people were free of righteousness. For example, Russell defines rational thought as something that can be calmly waited out. When actions are committed rapidly and with passion, it is usually irrational and lacks conviction. Thus, he emphases logic to define our actions and revokes the involvement of higher power that influences the good and wrong doing of individuals.

Continuing, Bertrand Russell was a very educated man. He taught at one of the most elite schools in the world and published many works. Ergo, he advocated for people’s access to information and the transmission of knowledge. He argued that by eliminating the church, it would allow people to have proper education. Additionally, Russell believed that if we teach children at a young age to be peaceful, good and to use logic, it will therefore create more nonviolent adults (Russell 36). On the other hand, Russell also argues that a society that only uses science and logic limits individuals to only follow the rules laid out for them and therefore they will never know free will. Assuredly, proper education and the opportunity to choose are amongst one of Russell’s most important concepts in understanding his worldview.

Moreover, Bertrand Russell condemns war. Although he accepts that part of being human is fear, conceit and hatred, he asserts that it is how we express these characteristics that define who we are (Russell 34). As previously mentioned, Russell believes that righteousness controls the essence of individuals; therefore, religion impairs their judgement and divides people which can lead to conflict. Thus, Russell blames Christianity for the intolerance in the world. Concluding, Russell maintains that the atomic bomb would be the end of the human race (Einstein and Russell) which he publically discloses with the publication of the Einstein and Russell Manifesto in 1955. Naturally, his opposition to war and the use of atomic bomb is also what ties this secular humanist to our religious humanist.

Certainly, the views of Gandhi and Russell are similar because both focus on the crucial importance of nonviolence. However, one of the ways their principles differ is in Gandhi’s dedication to Satyagraha, which is the way of God; whereas Russell strictly believes that religion is a source of conflict that will not allow peace. Also, Gandhi believes in educating the mind in the way of ahimsa because it is his purpose on earth given by God and he must help others follow the way to the path of Truth. In comparison, Russell proposes the elimination of religion within the educational system because it clouds the judgement of individuals. However, both agree that education should be kind, warm, peaceful and logical. Finally, because both humanists are pacifist, both are opposed to war. To free his people, Gandhi practiced Passive Resistance and frowned upon cowardice. He believed that dying for a cause in the way of ahimsa was the noblest way to die and the way to reach Heaven. Russell on the other hand, acknowledges that fear and hatred is part of human characteristics, however war is not the proper channel to let out such violent intentions. In addition, Russell believes that much of the conflict created has been caused by Christianity and its intolerance. The last similarity to recognize is the fear of the atomic bomb. Both Gandhi and Russell believed that this weapon would cause violence to innocent people and could also lead the destruction of mankind.

In conclusion, despite having been raised in different socio-economical contexts and having different religious beliefs, the worldviews of Mahatma Gandhi and Bertrand Russell are reconcilable. Both believed peace, spreading their knowledge and opposed violence and war. This is proof that whether religious or secular, different people can come together to fight for the good in this world and use nonviolent means to achieve peace, which therefore makes their views reconcilable.

Works Cited

  • Ackerman, Peter, and Jack Duvall. A Force More Powerful. NY: Palgrave McMillan, 2001.
  • Allen, Douglas. ‘Mahatma Gandhi on Violence and Peace Education.’ Philosophy East and West, vol. 57, no. 3, 2007, pp. 290-310. ProQuest, =44391. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  • Beitzel, Terry. ‘Virtue in the Nonviolence of William James and Gandhi’ International Journal on World Peace, vol. 30, no. 3, 2013, pp. C1-C27. ProQuest, 1477465724?accountid= 44391. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  • Einstein, Albert, and Bertrand Russell. “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto.” Student Pugwash Michigan, Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  • Gandhi, Mahatma. “Law of Love.”, 12 Nov. 2019 ed=150. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019
  • Russell, Bertrand. The Impact of Science on Society. AMS Press, 1951, ScienceOnSocietyB.Russell/TheImpactOfScienceOnSociety-B.Russell_djvu.txt. Accessed 12 Nov. 2019.
  • Russell, Bertrand. The Will to Doubt, Philosophical Library/Open Road, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,
  • Russell, Bertrand. Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects. New York: Touchstone, 1967.
  • Thomas, Merton. Gandhi on Non-Violence: A Selection from the Writings of Mahatma Gandhi. New York: New Directions, 1965.

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