Thursday, 5 January 2012

Albert Einstein On Religion.

Nauseated by repeated attempts by religious apologists to claim Albert Einstein as one of theirs and so deceive their gullible followers, I reproduce a letter Einstein wrote in German to Erik Gutkind in January 1954, a year before he died. In it, he refutes any suggestion that he believes in anything resembling the Judeo-Christian god.

An English translation:

Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

Dear Mr Gutkind,

Inspired by Brouwer’s repeated suggestion, I read a great deal in your book, and thank you very much for lending it to me ... With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common. Your personal ideal with its striving for freedom from ego-oriented desires, for making life beautiful and noble, with an emphasis on the purely human element ... unites us as having an “American Attitude.”

Still, without Brouwer’s suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision...

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior ... I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,


A. Einstein

Einstein reinforced this in a letter to J. Dispentiere on 22 March 1954, in which he said:

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.

Despite this denial, religious apologists continue to claim Einstein was religious. Obviously, it's much safer to claim a dead scientist as one of your own when fewer and fewer living ones are.

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  1. Great minds are not easily brainwashed.

  2. thank you for this awesome post!

  3. thank you for this awesome post!

  4. You missed my favorite Einstein quote:

    "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."

  5. That's great. Direct quotes in Eintein's own words. He doesn't even really claim to be a deist. In fact I can now say without hesitation and quote Einstein directly "From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist." What other viewpoint would make any difference? The pope, a bishop, an ordinary church goer? Still would be an atheist compared to them too it would seem, don't you think.

    1. Absolutely.

      I could well say that I love nature, but if some desperate creationists twisted that to imply that I believed in a god they would be lying. My 'nature' is probably indistinguishable from Einstein's and Spinoza's god.

  6. "My religon consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to preceive with our frail and feeble mind."---Albert Einstein

    Gee, that sounds like he was NOT in the atheist camp that YOU also try to paint him into. He was human. No one knows anything written in stone.
    If God exists, there will be a lot of surprised people. If he does not exist, everyone will be dead and not care about your intellectual greatness.
    So be smug death, no one will give a flying fig.

    1. I literally LOLed at the smugness of your comment in view of your final sentence.

      have you considered talking to a psychiatrist about the morbid theophobia you seem to have picked up? It's normally cause by psychological abuse in childhood.

  7. I would say that my quote of Einstein himself is collaboration enough in his own words. I conceed that it was in poor taste for me to say the rest. His own words should be printed though, or you are editing the man to suit your own agenda if you do not allow people to read other statements that he made.

    1. The letters to Erik Gutkind and J. Dispentier quoted above were Einstein's own words, written in German at least in the first letter, and translated into English. If you click on the image it will enlarge so you can read the original German in Einstein's own hand, if you wish. I don't understand how you could doubt that these were his own word or think that my article was incomplete in any way when you have the full text on display. Maybe you just wished the words had been different.

      For more of Einstein's words on religion see, More Einstein On Religion where I also give the sources.

      Sorry but I don't understand how I am not allowing people to read other statements that Einstein made. Perhaps you could explain how you think I could be doing this, please.


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