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Einstein's God

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  • Einstein's God

    Einstein sometimes invoked the name of God, which is very interesting. There are many quotes by Einstein that religious thinkers like to claim as proof that they have such an illustrious thinker as one of their own. One of Einstein's most quoted remarks by religious believers is "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind".

    Most however, fail to recognize that he also said this:

    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.

    Does it seem that Einstein contradicted himself here? No. By 'religion', Einstein meant something entirely different from what is conventionally meant. I think there is a distinction between 'Supernatural Religion' and 'Einsteinian Religion.' For a moment, look at what else he said:

    I am deeply religious nonbeliever, this is somewhat of a new kind of religion.

    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.

    The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive

    After reading the above quotes, I am not sure where modern day relgious apologists are coming from. Regardless, in his own day, religious apologists viewed him in a completely different light. In 1940, a Roman Catholic Bishop of Kansas City said the following:

    It is sad to see a man, who comes from the race of the Old Testament and its teachings, deny the great tradition of that race.

    Other Catholic clergyman were noted as saying:

    There is no other God, but a personal God...Einstein does not know what he is talking about. He is all wrong. Some men think that because they have achieved a high degree of learning in some field, they are qualiified to express opinions in all.

    ...I don't know, but the notion that religion is a proper field, in which one might claim expertise, is one that should be challenged. That clergy man would not have deferred to the expertise of a claimed 'fairyologist' on the exact shape and color of fairy wings. Both of the above quotes show that the good Bishops that made those statements thought that Einstein, being theologically untrained, had misunderstood the nature of God. I contest that Einstein understood to a great degree exactly what he was denying.

    A New York rabbi was quoted as saying "Einstein is unquestionably a great scientist, but his religious views are diametrically opposed to Judaism."

    "But"? "But"? Why not "And"?

    There is every reason to think that famous Einstein quotes like "God is subtle but he is not malicious" or "He does not play dice" or "Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?" are more naturalistic than thiestic. "God does not play dice" is better translated as "Randomness does not lie in the heart of all things", "Did God have a choice in creating the Universe?" means "Could the universe have begun in any other way?" Einstein was using 'God' in a purely metaphorical or poetic sense.

    Perhaps the best summary of Einstein's view towards God and religion can be summed up with this quote by him:


    To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a somthing that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflections, this is religiousness. In this sense, I am religious.

    Regardless, the metaphorical God of Einstein is nowhere near the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of preists, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language. Deliberately confusing the two by religious believers should not go unchallenged.