The religious have long claimed Albert Einstein as one of their own. It’s always been a lie, and now there is further proof.
Einstein did have an unfortunate habit of using the word ‘god’. It has always been clear – not least from Einstein’s own writings – that his definition of ‘god’ was more in line with what the rest of us might call ‘nature’ or ‘the mysterious forces of the universe’ than the all-powerful imaginary friend of religion. Nevertheless, the religious have continued to claim that the famous physicist – a man who practically defines the concept of the rational thinker – was actually one of the mindless faithful.
One of the comments they cling to is:
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
That blinkered (and dishonest) view has taken a major blow. A previously unknown letter written by Einstein in 1954 to philosopher Eric Gutkind, and which is now up for auction, includes the passages:
“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
And while Einstein was culturally Jewish (and had both Catholic and Jewish education), he clearly had little time for the idea of the Jews as god’s chosen people:
“For me the Jewish religion like all others 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 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.”
As a boy, Einstein was given a religious upbringing by his largely non-religious parents. Throughout his life, he retained a respect for the cultural traditions provided by religion. But that is not the same as being religious. By the age of 12, he was questioning Biblical stories, and would later write about this awakening:
“The consequence was a positively fanatic [orgy of] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression.”
Einstein was clearly a spiritual person, in a generalised sense. He was moved and inspired by a sense of mystery. But to suggest that he believed in god, as most people understand that term, is now (and actually always has been) completely insupportable.