In his article, Russell's basic tenet is that the modern setting has seen the "misfortunes of human beings" as caused by human action. Russell believes that "For six years the civilized nations of the world devoted all their best energies to killing each other, and they find it difficult suddenly to switch over to keeping each other alive."
The "passion" that Russell sees as a part of harming mankind and causing human misfortune have been driven by ideas: "But ideas and principles that do harm are, as a rule, though not always, cloaks for evil passions." Russell makes the basic argument that evil is located within the thoughts and consciousness of human beings. Using Satan's words from Milton's Paradise Lost represents this idea:
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n hell, a hell of heav'n.
Russell points that the damage done by Christian dogma, Nazism, and Communism are all examples of how ideas can cause harm and inflict great pain. These ideas have done so with complete human understanding and acknowledgement, an example of "the mind is its own place."
Russell's analysis is not merely political. As he examines the harmful effects of personal emotions like envy, pride, and jealousy, one sees how emotional ideas can also cause harmful effects upon human beings. Russell concludes his essay with the idea that while the mind can be the source of immense human harm, it can also the home from which good will and charity develop:
There will have to be a realization at once intellectual and moral that we are all one family, and that the happiness of no one branch of this family can be built securely upon the ruin of another.
It is in this idea where ideas that have harmed humanity can be supplanted iwth ideas that help to bring them together.