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Sunday, 30 September 2012

More Einstein On Religion

If there is a scientist who religious apologists love to claim agreed with them it's Albert Einstein. Not only has Einstein become, in the popular imagination, the archetype of what the scientifically illiterate imagine to be a scientist (dishevelled, a little bit scatty, even slightly mad (which he wasn't) and absent-minded (again, not true), but he is acknowledged as one of the all-time greats; a genius by any standard who showed us that reality can be decidedly counter-intuitive. But he has one outstanding quality from a religious apologists point of view: he is dead and so can't refute the claims they make about him and his views on religion.

Fortunately though, he was never shy to state his views when asked and did record them for posterity.

I have previously blogged about this with Albert Einstein On Religion but here is a much more extensive collection of Einstein's recorded religious views. I originally came across this collection in Chapter 22 of Christopher Hitchen's book "The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever", compiled by Miguel Chavez, however the list is almost identical, save for the final two quotes, to one on "The Unofficial Stephen J Gould Archive", to which the bulk of the credit must go.

The list is numbered and tagged for ease of reference. To reference any one of these quotes, simply add a hash (#) followed by the appropriate number (e.g. #22) to the url of this page.

1. "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

Albert Einstein. Letter to J. Dispentiere, March 24, 1954
Source: Wikipedia - Albert Einstein's Religious Views
2. "As the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came - though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents — to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment — an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections. It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the ‘merely personal,’ from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings....

The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to my mind, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal. Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights they had achieved, were the friends who could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it."

Albert Einstein, Autobiographical Notes. Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company (1979), pp. 3-5
Source: Wikipedia - Albert Einstein's Religious Views
3. "My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a lawgiver who works on the basis of reward and punishment."

Albert Einstein. Letter to Morton Berkowitz, October 25, 1950.
Source: Letter Of Note.
4. "The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle.

It was the experience of mystery - even if mixed with fear - that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms - it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature."

Albert Einstein, The World as I See It, Secaucus, New Jersey: The Citadel Press, 1999, p. 5.
5. "The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve."

Albert Einstein, 17 December, 1952.
Letter to Beatrice Frohlich. Einstein Archives 59-797
6. "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems."

Albert Einstein, 1947. Hoffmann, Banesh (1972). Albert Einstein Creator and Rebel.
New York: New American Library, p. 95.
7. I am a deeply religious nonbeliever.… This is a somewhat new kind of religion."

Albert Einstein March 30, 1954.
Letter to Hans Muehsam; Einstein Archive 38-434
8. "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings."

Albert Einstein 24 April 1921.
Telegram to Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of The Institutional Synogogue
Pulished in New York Time, 25 April 1921.
9. "I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it"

Albert Einstein 1953; Letter to a Baptist pastor.
10. "Why do you write to me ‘God should punish the English’? I have no close connection to either one or the other. I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him."

Albert Einstein 2 January 1915
Letter to Edgar Meyer, a Swiss colleague.
11. "It is quite possible that we can do greater things than Jesus, for what is written in the Bible about him is poetically embellished."

Albert Einstein; quoted in W. I. Hermanns, "A Talk with Einstein," October 1943,
Einstein Archive 55-285
12. "I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."

Albert Einstein, quoted in The New York Times obituary, April 19, 1955;
from George Seldes, ed., "The Great Thoughts", New York: Ballantine Books, 1996, p. 134.
13. "The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life. To make this a living force and bring it to clear consciousness is perhaps the foremost task of education. The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action."

Albert Einstein 20 November 1950. Letter to a minister.
14. "A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death. It is therefore easy to see why the churches have always fought science and persecuted its devotees."

Albert Einstein 9 November 1930,
"Religion and Science", in the New York Times Magazine, pp. 3-4
15. "The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image-a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being. For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere."

Albert Einstein, letter to a Rabbi in Chicago
16. "I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism."

Albert Einstein, replying to a letter in 1954 or 1955
17. "I do not believe that a man should be restrained in his daily actions by being afraid of punishment after death or that he should do things only because in this way he will be rewarded after he dies. This does not make sense. The proper guidance during the life of a man should be the weight that he puts upon ethics and the amount of consideration that he has for others."

Albert Einstein; from Peter A. Bucky, "The Private Albert Einstein", Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel, 1992, p. 86.
18. "Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a supernatural Being."

Albert Einstein, 1936, in response to a child who had written him asking if scientists pray.
19. "I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.] My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God."

Albert Einstein;
from "Albert Einstein the Human Side", Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 66.
20. "The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling … that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself amoung[sic] profoundly religious men."

Note: I have not been able to find an original sources found for this quote, which is widely attributed to Einstein. If you know of one please let me know with a comment below.
21. "The idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am unable to take seriously."

Albert Einstein, 1946. Letter to Hoffman and Dukas.
22. "The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge."

Albert Einstein, Science, Philosophy, and Religion, a 1934 Symposium published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941;
from Einstein's "Out of My Later Years", Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1970, pp. 29-30.
23. "I cannot believe that God plays dice with the cosmos."

Albert Einstein on quantum mechanics, published in the London Observer, April 5, 1964.
Also quoted as "God does not play dice with the world." in Einstein: The Life and Times,
Ronald W. Clark, New York: World Publishing Co., 1971, p. 19.
24. "I cannot accept any concept of God based on the fear of life or the fear of death or blind faith. I cannot prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him I would be a liar."

Albert Einstein; from Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, New York: World Publishing Company, 1971, p. 622.
25. "During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.

"Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

"The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general validity is required—not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of those laws. He need only consider that planetary courses within the solar system may be calculated in advance with great exactitude on the basis of a limited number of simple laws. In a similar way, though not with the same precision, it is possible to calculate in advance the mode of operation of an electric motor, a transmission system, or of a wireless apparatus, even when dealing with a novel development.

"To be sure, when the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us. Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.

"We have penetrated far less deeply into the regularities obtaining within the realm of living things, but deeply enough nevertheless to sense at least the rule of fixed necessity. One need only think of the systematic order in heredity, and in the effect of poisons, as for instance alcohol, on the behavior of organic beings. What is still lacking here is a grasp of connections of profound generality, but not a knowledge of order in itself.

"The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

"But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task."

Albert Einstein, Science, Philosophy, and Religion, a 1934 Symposium published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941.
From Einstein's "Out of My Later Years", Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1970, pp. 26-29.
26. "I cannot then believe in this concept of an anthropomorphic God who has the powers of interfering with these natural laws. As I said before, the most beautiful and most profound religious emotion that we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. And this mysticality is the power of all true science."

Albert Einstein; from Peter A. Bucky, "The Private Albert Einstein", Kansas City: Andrews & McMeel, 1992, p. 86.
27. "The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning."

Albert Einstein, in a letter February 5, 1921.
28. "Mere unbelief in a personal God is no philosophy at all."

Albert Einstein, May 7, 1952. Letter to V. T Aaltonen, Einstein Archive 59-059.
29. "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

Albert Einstein 28 September 1949, to Guy H. Raner Jr.
30. "For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts."

Albert Einstein, "Out of My Later Years", Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1970, p. 25.
31. "In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views."

Albert Einstein, according to the testimony of Prince Hubertus of Lowenstein; as quoted by Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, New York: World Publishing Company, 1971, p. 425.
32. "I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. Your counter-arguments seem to me very correct and could hardly be better formulated. It is always misleading to use anthropomorphical concepts in dealing with things outside the human sphere—childish analogies. We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of this world as far—as we can grasp it. And that is all."

Albert Einstein, to Guy H. Raner Jr., July 2, 1945, responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert from atheism; from Michael R. Gilmore.
33. "I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet."

Albert Einstein in a letter, 1954; from Paul Blanshard, "American Freedom and Catholic Power", Greenwood Pub., 1984, p. 10.
34. "It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which [I] lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the ‘merely personal,’ from an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings."

Albert Einstein; from Gerald Holton, Einstein: History, and Other Passions, Woodbury, NY: Perseus Press, 1996, p. 172.
35. "His [Einstein] was not a life of prayer and worship. Yet he lived by a deep faith — a faith not capable of rational foundation — that there are laws of Nature to be discovered. His lifelong pursuit was to discover them. His realism and his optimism are illuminated by his remark: ‘Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not’ (‘Raffiniert ist der Herrgott aber boshaft ist er nicht.’). When asked by a colleague what he meant by that, he replied: ‘Nature hides her secret because of her essential loftiness, but not by means of ruse’ (‘Die Natur verbirgt ihr Geheimnis durch die Erhabenheit ihres Wesens, aber nicht durch List.’)”

Abraham Pais, "Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein", Oxford University Press, New York, 1982.
36. "However, Einstein's God was not the God of most other men. When he wrote of religion, as he often did in middle and later life, he tended to adopt the belief of Alice's Red Queen that "words mean what you want them to mean," and to clothe with different names what to more ordinary mortals — and to most Jews — looked like a variant of simple agnosticism. Replying in 1929 to a cabled inquiry from Rabbi Goldstein of New York, he said that he believed "in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exist, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of men." And it is claimed that years later, asked by Ben-Gurion whether he believed in God, "even he, with his great formula about energy and mass, agreed that there must be something behind the energy." No doubt. But much of Einstein's writing gives the impression of belief in a God even more intangible and impersonal than a celestial machine minder, running the universe with indisputable authority and expert touch. Instead, Einstein's God appears as the physical world itself, with its infinitely marvellous structure operating at atomic level with the beauty of a craftsman's wristwatch, and at stellar level with the majesty of a massive cyclotron. This was belief enough. It grew early and rooted deep. Only later was it dignified by the title of cosmic religion, a phrase which gave plausible respectability to the views of a man who did not believe in a life after death and who felt that if virtue paid off in the earthly one, then this was the result of cause and effect rather than celestial reward. Einstein's God thus stood for an orderly system obeying rules which could be discovered by those who at the courage, imagination, and persistence to go on searching for them. It was to this past which he began to turn his mind soon after the age of twelve. The rest of his life everything else was to seem almost trivial by comparison.”

Ronald W. Clark, Einstein: The Life and Times, New York: World Publishing, 1971, pp. 19-20.
37. "That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed."

Albert Einstein, from Hitchens, Christopher (2007-12-10).
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (p. 165).
Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.
38. "A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the measure as I have received and am still receiving."

Albert Einstein, from Hitchens, Christopher (2007-12-10).
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (p. 165).
Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you Rosa for showing everyone how bitter you got after you were defeated by me. No one has ever brought you down to this level like I have. :)

    I really dissected you before all. Now you feel the need to stalk me, misidentify me and call for massive reporting efforts against me. How immature is that? You are only harming yourself, not me. I can always come back and my blog is promoted via other means. Others are reporting you and your tweets on an hourly basis. It is self evident that your pride was hurt in August and you are retaliating... poor thing. You need anger management. It is not healthy keeping a grudge.

    Reporting me and calling for others to do the same is not going to restore your dignity. If you debate me instead of running away, then this will show that you are confident in your agnostic beliefs and might restore the deference you lost after I challenged you and you bowed out like a coward.

    The choice is yours: Debate me like I asked and restore some dignity or take on this new role as a bitter vengeful person who only exists on twitter to cyber bully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Manuel de Dios Agosto.

      I'll leave that to stand as evidence of your delusional mental state, Manuel. Thank you for reinforcing what I have already said.

      Any more of your deluded blather will be removed in an attempt to keep this blog a reasonably sane and civilised place.

      Can I once again suggest you try to find something interesting to write on your blog and make it readable to people with an IQ above the level of a short, very thick plank, rather than continually spamming the blogs of those who can do so, and begging attention from their readers.

      I appreciate that might be difficult for you, but that's your problem.

      Thank you again for helping me expose the way Christianity had degenerated to being merely excuse for psychopathic behaviour and a device for extracting what little wealth they have from those at the bottom of the social ladder and from those most vulnerable through ignorance or hopelessness. That's what makes it such a repugnant and reviled creed against which people are now turning their backs in droves, especially in disgust at the behaviour of it's fundamentalist and it's priesthood.

      Delete
  2. All I have to ask is:

    "Stupidy"? Is that the best Einstein caption you could find?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry you couldn't think of anything else to ask.

      Delete

Obscene, threatening or obnoxious messages, preaching, abuse and spam will be removed, as will anything by known Internet trolls and stalkers.

A claim made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Remember: your opinion is not an established fact unless corroborated.

Sorry but the spammers are back so I've had to restrict who can post again.

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