Sigh. I’ve seen this picture floating around Facebook and Tumblr and hoped no high traffic blogger would touch it…
…but sure enough it was picked up by Daniel Florien at Unreasonable Faith as a flashpoint for discussion. Unsurprisingly and with the typical uncritical awareness, no one thought to question why such an obviously stupid sentiment was attributed (and without proper sourcing) to one of the greatest philosophers in the 20th century. A hallmark of village atheism if there ever was one.
Just to put this myth to rest, here is Bertrand’s recollection about his shifting views on pacifism from World War I to World War II:
After settling again at Telegraph House, without the school, I went for a holiday to the Canary Islands. On returning, I found myself, though sane, quite devoid of creative impulse, and at a loss to know what work to do. For about two months, purely to afford myself distraction, I worked on the problem of the twenty-seven straight lines on a cubic surface. But this would never do, as it was totally useless and I was living on capital saved during the successful years that ended in 1932. I decided to write a book on the daily increasing menace of war. I called this book Which Way to Peace? And maintained in it the pacifist position that I had taken during the First World War. I did, it is true, make an exception: I held that, if ever a world government were established, it would be desirable to support it by force against rebels. But as regards the war to be feared in the immediate future, I urged conscientious objection.
This attitude, however, had become unconsciously insincere. I had been able to view with reluctant acquiescence the possibility if the supremacy of the Kaiser’s Germany; I thought that, although this would be an evil, it would not be so great an evil as a world war and its aftermath. But Hitler’s Germany was a different matter. I found the Nazis utterly revolting -- cruel, bigoted, and stupid. Morally and intellectually they were alike odious to me. Although I clung to my pacifist convictions, I did so with increasing difficulty. When, in 1940, England was threatened with invasion, I realized that, throughout the First War, I had never seriously envisaged the possibility of utter defeat. I found this possibility unbearable, and at last consciously and definitely decided that I must support what was necessary for victory in the Second War, however difficult victory might be to achieve, and however painful in its consequences .
You don’t go to war with Nazis unless you commit to the idea that you could die in opposition to them. Stay on the cutting edge of atheistic thought Patheos.
 The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell: 1914-1944, by Bertrand Russell and published by Little, Brown and Company, 1968, Pages 298-299