Magi Mike's Blog

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Einstein and His God

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Einstein as seen by Time MagazineEinstein was not religious in the conventional sense, but it will come as a surprise to some, aware of his statements such as that God does not play dice, to learn that Einstein clearly identified himself as an atheist and as an agnostic.

Thus I came—despite the fact I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiosity, which, however, found an abrupt ending at the age of 12. 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 freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived… Suspicion against every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude… which has never left me.

Albert Einstein

Boston’s Cardinal O’Connel attacked Einstein and the General Theory of Relativity and warned the youth that the theory “cloaked the ghastly apparition of atheism” and “befogged speculation, producing universal doubt about God and His creation.” On April 24, 1929, Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of New York cabled Einstein to ask:

Do you believe in God?

Einstein’s return message is the famous statement:

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.

From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist… 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 being.

The Life and Times, by the professional biographer Ronald W Clark (1971), contains one of the best summaries on Einstein’s God:

However, Einstein’s God was not the God of most men. When he wrote of religion, as he often did in middle and later life, he tended to… clothe with different names what to many ordinary mortals—and to most Jews—looked like a variant of simple agnosticism… 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 had the courage, the imagination, and the persistence to go on searching for them.

Written by mikemagee

20 May, 2008 at 5:19 pm

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