Einstein: Religion Nothing More than ‘Childish Superstitions’

When most people think of Einstein’s conception of, or belief in, God, they often reference his “God does not play dice with the universe” comment. Based on this letter, soon to be auctioned on eBay, it is safe to say that Einstein’s notion of God bore no relation to traditional monotheism’s: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” he wrote in 1954.

Some people have tried to corral the great scientist into the broad category of “believing” scientists, despite the fact that there was exactly zero evidence that he used the noun as anything more than a metaphor. This letter should bring any lingering doubts, or hopes, to an end.

For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity 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 … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

I can’t say I’m surprised. You simply are not going to find many traditional Christian or Jewish believers among the 20th century’s great scientists, great defined as having made a signal, significant, and enduring contributions in their field. There were exceptions: Lord Kelvin, George Salmon, Lamaître (who gave us the Big Bang, so to speak), Pollard (who believed God acted through “quantum indeterminancy”). Heisenberg and Planck were both raised Lutheran but died deists, apparently. There was also Dobzhansky, who thought “creation science” was bunk and signed the “Eugenics Manifesto,” so his picture’s probably not hanging in a lot of Orthodox homes. And there’s Francis Collins, the geneticist whose work on the Human Genome Project won him a National Science Award and many other honors. But to many, if not most, fundamentalist and confessional Christians, he’s an unperson.

This is not to say that Christians are not well-represented in the canon of great scientific minds—but most made their contributions pre-20th century. (Check out this list of Catholic clergy-scientists. You will have to scroll to China to reach the bottom.)

Back to Einstein: the opening bid is $3 million, so get out your credit card.

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2 thoughts on “Einstein: Religion Nothing More than ‘Childish Superstitions’

  1. How many scientists actually make significant contributions on their own these days? The environment that science exists in today seems different from the days of ‘natural philosophy’. The burden of science is very en masse, now. Companies, corporations, international research groups, etc.

    The only person I can think of is maybe the guy who hypothesized the Higgs particle, and I’m not really sure how mind-blowing that is, since all they found was ‘a’ particle that fit a certain energy bound. I’m not even sure what Stephen Hawkings has contributed, aside being an intellectual wheelchairing icon. I mean I’m sure he’s contributed a lot, just nothing memorable to the layman like the law of gravity or theory of relativity.
    So ‘great scientists’ may be a lot more difficult to come by, since our intellectual resources are quite well distributed.

    Maybe I’m wrong though, maybe there’s lots of world-redefining scientists out there that I’m not giving credit. 😀

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