Exact matches only
//  Main  //  Menu

☰︎ Menu | 🔍︎ Search  //  Main  //   🖖︎ Prayers & Praxes   //   🌍︎ Collective Welfare   //   Congregation & Community   //   Be it ours to shed sunshine — a selection from "A Free Man's Religious Worship" by Bertrand Russell (1910)

Be it ours to shed sunshine — a selection from “A Free Man’s Religious Worship” by Bertrand Russell (1910)

The well known philosopher Bertrand Russell had little use for organized religion and in general was quite skeptical in his religious beliefs. I am not a regular reader of Russell but apparently Mordecai Kaplan read him from time to time. In the early 1940s he came across a short essay which Russell wrote many years before entitled “A Free Man’s Religious Worship.” Kaplan mentions the essay a number of times in the diary and I am struck by the fact that Kaplan quotes and focuses on what he considers to be some positive statements in this essay. As a consequence I have been reading Russell and here offer some inspiring statements from this essay.

I have taken the liberty of selecting my own statements from this essay. Russell is referring here to all our fellow human beings and our obligations to all others. It is obvious that in true reconstructionist fashion we could use these statements as a prayer. To pray from Russell would be an inspiration from Kaplan.


Contribute a translationSource (English)
Be it ours to shed sunshine
on the path of our fellow human beings,
to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy,
to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection,
to strengthen failing courage,
to instill faith in hours of despair.
Let us not weigh in grudging scales
their merits and demerits,
but let us think only of their need —
of the sorrows, and difficulties,
and perhaps blindnesses,
that make for the misery of their lives;
let us remember
that they are fellow sufferers in the same darkness,
actors in the same tragedy with ourselves.
And so when their day is over,
when their good
and their evil
have become eternal by the immortality of the past,
be it ours to feel that,
where they suffered,
where they failed,
no deed of ours was the cause;
but wherever a spark of the divine fire
was kindled in their hearts,
we were ready with encouragement,
with sympathy,
with brave words
in which high courage glowed.

Versified selection by Mel Scult of lines from an essay by Bertrand Russell: “A Free Man’s Worship,” in Philosophical Essays (1910), pp. 59-70. (This selection begins on page 69.) The essay was later published in Mysticism and logic, and other essays (1917). This prayer was first published by Dr. Scult in his Mordecai M. Kaplan group on Facebook, 28 April 2023.






Comments, Corrections, and Queries