Subject: Albert Einstein's Religious Beliefs What were Albert Einstein's religious beliefs

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From: loren@moonzappa.llnl.gov Newsgroups: talk.religion.misc Subject: Albert Einstein's Religious Beliefs Message-ID: <40732@lll-winken.LLNL.GOV> What were Albert Einstein's religious beliefs? That is an interesting question because he used the word "God" a lot. As Carl Sagan so truly points out (check _Broca's Brain_), whether or not one believes in "God" depends on what one means by the word "God." When that question was put to him, Einstein once responded, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony in what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings." Spinoza was a Dutch philosopher in the 1600's(?) who used the word "God" to denote some mystical cosmic unity, and who talked endlessly about the "intellectual love of God." However, he was excommunicated by the Jewish community in Holland, who placed on him the curses that Elisha placed on the children who teased him about his baldness. We are told that 42 of these children were killed by two bears. However, no bears attacked Spinoza. He was branded an atheist for the next couple centuries to come. However, in the nineteenth century, some of his admirers started calling him the "God-intoxicated man" Back to Einstein. He wrote an article for the _New York Times_ expounding his religious beliefs (reprinted in _Ideas and Opinions_). He spoke of himself as having a "cosmic religious sense," which knows "no dogmas and no God made in man's image," which he said was shared with the great mystics; he compared himself with the likes of Democritus, St. Francis, and Spinoza. He also commented that one must have a poor moral sense if the only way one could act virtuously is if one expect rewards and punishments after death. In another article (reprinted in _Ideas and Opinions_) stated that the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-benevolent being runs afoul of the Problem of Evil. He also stated that the dominant religions of our part of the world could do without this particular concept. He seemed to feel that one could not conclusively _disprove_ the existence of such a being, but felt that there was no positive reason to believe that one exists, so he did not believe in the existence of any such being. All in all, he seemed very tolerant about this sort of thing; he expressed sympathy with someone who considered "religion" a turn-off. His reception from the clergy was mixed. Rabbi Herbert Goldstein, who had popped The Question, seemed satisfied that Einstein was a believer in God. The Rabbi Nathan Krass said that "the religion of Albert Einstein will not be approved by certain sectarians but it must and will be approved by the Jews." However, Cardinal O'Connor of Boston had denounced General Relativity for years, saying that it "cloaked the ghastly apparition of atheism" and that it was "befogged speculation, producing universal doubt about God and His Creation." Dr. Fulton Sheen told members of the Catholic Teachers Association that the _Times_ had "degraded itself" by publishing Einstein's views, saying that they were "the sheerest kind of stupidity and nonsense." He asked if anyone would be willing to lay down their life for the Milky Way, and concluded: "There is only one fault with his cosmical religion: he put an extra letter in the word -- the letter 's'" I think it would have been fun to do unto Dr. Fulton Sheen as he has done unto Albert Einstein (yes, I know it's King James English, but I think you people can get the point) -- and crack raunchy jokes about the Virgin Birth -- for example, God was commenting to his angels that he could never forget that time he had an affair with that nice Jewish girl -- they've been talking about it down there ever since. And what about the Vatican's conference about 10 years ago honoring Albert Einstein? It seems strange that the Pope should honor someone who he would almost certainly consider a severe heretic -- after all, he rejected a benevolent Providence and Heaven and Hell, and seemed to support some kind of pantheism -- or even agnosticism or atheism. ^ Loren Petrich, the Master Blaster \ ^ / loren@moonzappa.llnl.gov \ ^ / One may need to route through any of: \^/ sunlight.llnl.gov <<<<<<<<+>>>>>>>> lll-lcc.llnl.gov /v\ lll-crg.llnl.gov / v \ star.stanford.edu / v \ v "Crucifixes are sexy because there's a naked man on them" -- Madonna ==================================================== From: kukkonen@niksula.hut.fi (Sami Kukkonen) Newsgroups: alt.atheism Subject: Re: (A)theist Einstein Message-ID: Date: 7 Apr 91 14:03:08 GMT Constance Stillinger writes about Einstein: >He was a Jew and a theist. Let's hear what Albert himself has said about his alleged theism: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religous 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." Path: ncsuvm!ncsuvx!lll-winken!uunet!olivea!bbn.com!news From: news@bbn.com (News system owner ID) Newsgroups: alt.atheism Subject: Einstein and God. Keywords: Einstein God Metaphore Message-ID: <62114@bbn.BBN.COM> Date: 16 Jan 91 00:46:07 GMT Organization: Bolt Beranek and Newman, Inc., Cambridge, MA Lines: 81 From: kgreen@bbn.com (Keith Green) Path: bbn.com!kgreen I'm a little new to this group. Perhaps this topic has been beaten to death already, but at least one person (besides me) was not aware of it, because he used Einstein as an example of scientists who believed in god. I don't believe that anyone should base her religious convictions on the opinions of another person - regardless of how well respected this person is. Each person should base her convictions on the guidance of her own conscience and the conclusions of her own intellect. Einstein was a great physicist and by most accounts a great man. That does not mean he was a perfect man or that we should accept anything he says as infallible. He may have been right as regards his religious opinions, and he may have been wrong. That is a matter between him and his god and cannot have any bearing on my own decision of whether to believe. In some ways, perhaps, belief is not a decision that can be made. But what did Einstein believe? Christians and other believers often point to E. as a believer: "God does not play dice!" they often quote him - and correctly they quote. But how did E. believe in God? According to "Einstein: The Life and Times" by Ronald Clark, E. did not believe in a personal god, but in an unconscious sort of god, "in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and actions of men." [Quoted are E's words] ================================================ From: Einstein: The Human Side- A letter from E to a person who was collecting opinions of Nobel Laureates on the subject of the existence of god: "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. "My religiousity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitly superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehed of reality. Morality is of the highest importance - but for us, not for God." And in another letter in which Einstein responded to an atheist who had asked E if an article in a paper was true that made some comments about E's religious beliefs: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religous 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." Anyway, the first book is big and thick and I've never finished it, but it's pretty informative. The second is quick and juicy and you read what E thought about the world in pretty much his own words (most letters are translated from the German, but some originals are in English). So, E believed in 'something' which he called god. And christians believe in 'something' which they call god. But E's own words reveal that the something in which he believed was not the same something in which christians believe. Many atheists and agnostics (most that I have met) share this awe of the universe. Most of them respect nature. But the feeling that they have is not one that they consider religious. I rather think it is a religious experience of sorts - not the kind that would give christians grounds for calling it faith, but the shared emotion of wonder. I think E confused the issue by using the word god continually. He used it, I THINK, because it was a convenient metaphore. But I think he failed to grasp the strength with which the uninformed (or merely innocent) would cling to the connotations attendent with the use of that metaphore. (Geez, I don't usually talk like this, but I'm trying to be grammically correct AND semantically sensible to a group of people who may not be familiar with the way my particular brain waves wave.) Anyway, that's what I think. keith green --------------------- No one else could think this way! And certainly I don't get paid for saying this.

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