< Return to Religion of History's 100 Most Influential People
< Return to Famous Jews

The Religious Background and Religious Beliefs
of Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was born into a Jewish family and had a lifelong respect for his Jewish heritage. Around the time Einstein was eleven years old he went through an intense religious phase, during which time he followed Jewish religious precepts in detail, including abstaining from eating pork. During this time he composed several songs in honor of God. But during most of his life Einstein was not a practicing Jew.

Einstein was opposed to atheism. Various sources refer to him as a mostly non-practicing Jew, an agnostic, or simply as a person with an idiosyncratic personal worldview.

Einstein's Jewish background and upbringing were significant to him, and his Jewish identity was strong, increasingly so as he grew older. The simple appellation "agnostic" may not be entirely accurate, given his many expressions of belief in a Spinozan concept of Deity. Certainly the adult Einstein was not a kosher-keeping, synagogue-attending traditional adherent of Judaism. But it is accurate enough to call his religious affiliation "Jewish," with the understanding of the variety encompassed by such a label.

Although Einstein had a positive attitude toward religion, he was not active during adulthood in any organized religious group. It seems that as an adult he was only once a dues-paying member of a Jewish congregation. Most sources indicate that he clearly did not believe in a personal God, and that when he talked about God he was speaking in a more Spinozan sense, and was not speaking of a strictly Judeo-Christian Biblical conception of God. He wrote of his belief in a noble "cosmic religious feeling" that enables scientists to advance human knowledge. One of Einstein's most famous quotes on the subject of science and religion is: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

Einstein is said to have held a concept of God similar to that promulgated by Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Einstein studied Spinoza and identified with Spinoza both culturally and philosophically. The Encyclopedia Britannica says of him: "Firmly denying atheism, Einstein expressed a belief in 'Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists.' This actually motivated his interest in science, as he once remarked to a young physicist: 'I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.' Einstein's famous epithet on the 'uncertainty principle' was 'God does not play dice.'"

Some writings by Einstein regarding religion are available on Cliff Walker's page "Albert Einstein on: Religion and Science," on the Positive Atheism website (URL: http://www.positiveatheism.org/hist/einsci.htm) and from St. Cloud State University physics department professor Arnold V. Lesikar's page: "Some of Einstein's Writings on Science and Religion" (URL: http://einsteinandreligion.com/).

It has been reported by some Christian Science sources that Einstein attended Christian Science services in New York and that Einstein said that Mary Baker Eddy was right in her theories about an essentially non-physical universe. We have no expertise on the Einstein-Christian Science connection and it is beyond the scope of this page to analyze the subject in detail, but we mention this for the sake of completeness. It seems that most historians discount such a connection as minor or non-existent. One example of references to this subject online can be found here: "Mary Baker Eddy Letter Number Three, May, 1997" on the Mary Baker Eddy Institute website (URL: http://mbeinstitute.org/LTR3.htm). According to Carole Wilson ( 23 April 2000), Einstein was a regular attendee of 9th Church of Christ, Scientist (a Christian Science church) in New York City. More details about Einstein and possible connections to Christian Science can be found here.

Given Einstein's political views and penchant for peace activism, it is not surprising that he also expressed fondness for and appreciation for the Quakers, a Christian denominational family more formally known as the Religious Society of Friends. In a letter to A. Chapple of Australia (23 February 1954), Einstein said: "I consider the Society of Friends the religious community which has the highest moral standards. As far as I know, they have never made evil compromises and are always guided by their conscience. In international life, especially, their influence seems to me very beneficial and effective."

Dr. Arthur J. Deikman noted that Einstein echoed Isaac Newton's belief in the reality of the mystical (source: "A Functional Approach to Mysticism" in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 7, No. 11-12, November/December 2000; special issue: 'Cognitive Models and Spiritual Maps'; URL: http://www.deikman.com/functional.html).

Einstein said ("Einstein, Albert" in The Enlightened Mind, ed. Stephen Mitchell; New York: Harper Collins, 1991):

The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the source of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms -- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religion.

George F. Will, "The Mind That Changed the World" in The Washington Post, 6 January 2005; Page A19 (URL: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51884-2005Jan5.html):

[Albert] Einstein's theism, such as it was, was his faith that God does not play dice with the universe -- that there are elegant, eventually discoverable laws, not randomness, at work. Saying "I'm not an atheist," he explained:

"We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is."

Another quote from Einstein, dated 18 April 1955 (source: James B. Simpson, Simpson's Contemporary Quotations, Houghton Mifflin, 1988; URL: http://www.bartleby.com/63/11/4111.html; URL: http://bartleby.school.aol.com/63/12/4112.html):
My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds.

That deep emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God...

In a letter to V. T. Aaltonen (7 May 1952), Einstein explained his opinion that belief in a personal God is better than atheism. Einstein said, "Mere unbelief in a personal God is no philosophy at all." [Einstein Archive 59-059]

In a letter to Hans Muehsam (30 March 1954), Einstein said: "I am a deeply religious nonbeliever... This is a somewhat new kind of religion." [Einstein Archive 38-434]

In a letter to a child who asked if scientists pray (24 January 1936), said: "Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe - a spirit vastly superior to that of man... In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive." [Einstein Archive 42-601]

In a letter to M. Berkowitz (25 October 1950), Einstein said: "My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment." [Einstein Archive 59-215]

In a letter to an Iowa student who asked, What is God? (July 1953), Einstein said, "To assume the existence of an unperceivable being... does not facilitate understanding the orderliness we find in the perceivable world." [Einstein Archive 59-085]

From: Rich Deem, "Famous Scientists Who Believed in God", last modified 19 May 2005, on "Evidence for God from Science" website (http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/sciencefaith.html; viewed 5 October 2005):

Einstein is probably the best known and most highly revered scientist of the twentieth century, and is associated with major revolutions in our thinking about time, gravity, and the conversion of matter to energy (E=mc2). Although never coming to belief in a personal God, he recognized the impossibility of a non-created universe. The Encyclopedia Britannica says of him: "Firmly denying atheism, Einstein expressed a belief in "Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists." This actually motivated his interest in science, as he once remarked to a young physicist: "I want to know how God created this world, I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details." Einstein's famous epithet on the "uncertainty principle" was "God does not play dice" - and to him this was a real statement about a God in whom he believed. A famous saying of his was "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

[Sources:] R. Highfield and P. Larter, Private Lives of Albert Einstein (1994), I. Paul, Science and Theology in Einstein's Perspective (1986), J. Goldernstein, Albert Einstein: Physicist and Genius (1995)

The following excerpts are from: Abraham Pais, 'Subtle is the Lord . . .' The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein, Oxford University Press: Oxford/New York (1982). [Abraham Pais is Detlev W. Bronk Professor at the Rockefeller University and winner of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize for 1979. He is also the author of Inward Bound (Oxford, 1988), and Niels Bohr's Times, In Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (Oxford, 1991).]

Pais, page 17:

If he had a God it was the God of Spinoza. Einstein was not a revolutionary, as the overthrow of authority was never his prime motivation. He was not a rebel, since any authority but the one of reason seemed too ridiculous to him to waste effort fighting against (one can hardly call his opposition to Nazism a rebellious attitude)... His deep sense of destiny led him farther than anyone before him.
Pais, pages 26-27:
Einstein, addressing Planck on Planck's 60th birthday, said: "The longing to behold . . . preestablished harmony is the source of the inexhaustible persistence and patience with which we see Planck devoting himself... I have often heard that colleagues would like to attribute this attitude to exceptional will-power and discipline; I believe entirely wrongly so. The emotional state which enables such achievements is similar to that of the religious person or the person in love; the daily pursuit does not originate form a design or program but from a direct need.
Pais, page 30
These three stories characterize Einstein's lifelong attitude to the relativity theories: they were orderly transitions in which, as he experienced it, he played the role of the instrument of the Lord, Who, he deeply believed, was subtle but not malicious.
Pages 35-36 about Einstein's parents birth and early years:
Hermann Einstein... August 8, 1876... Hermann married Pauline Koch in the synagogue in Cannstatt. The young couple settled in Ulm... then, at the turn of 1878-9, on the Bahnofstrasse... Hermann went to register the birth of his son. In translation the birth certificate reads, 'No. 224. Ulm, March 15, 1879. Today the merchant Hermann Einstein, residing in Ulm, Bahnhofstrasse 135, of the Israelitic faith, personally known, appeared before the undersigned registrar, and stated that a child of the male sex, who has received the name Albert, was born in Ulm, on March 14 of the year 1879, at 11:30 a.m. Read, confirmed, and signed: Hermann Einstein. The Registrar, Hartman.'...

Albert was the first of Hermann and Pauline's two children. On November 18, 1991, their daughter, Maria, was born... The choice of nonancestral names for both children illustrates the assimilationist disposition of the Einstein family, a trend widespread among German Jews in the nineteenth century... 'A liberal spirit, nondogmatic in regard to religion, prevailed in the family. Both parents had themselves been raised that way. Religious matters and precepts were not discussed. Albert's father was proud of the fact that Jewish rites were not practiced in his home.

Pais, pages 38-39:
Bavarian law required that all children of school age receive religious education. At the Volksschule, only instruction in Catholicism was provided. Einstein was taught the elements of Judaism at home by a distant relative. When he went to the Luitpold Gymnasium, this instruction continued at school. As a result of this inculcation, Einstein went through an intense religious phase when he was about eleven years old. His feelings were of such ardor that he followed religious precepts in detail. For example, he ate no pork. Later, in his Berlin days, he told a close friend that during this period he had composed several songs in honor of God, which he sang enthusiastically to himself on his way to school. This interlude came to an abrupt end a year later as a result of his exposure to science. He did not become bar mitzvah. He never mastered Hebrew. When he was fifty, Einstein wrote to Oberlehrer Heinrich Friedmann, his religion teacher at the Gymnasium, 'I often read the Bible, but its original text has remained inaccessible to me'.

...In his later years, his pacifist convictions would lead him to speak out forcefully against arbitrary leadership. However, in his personal and scientific conduct, he was not a rebel, one who resists authority, nor--except once [his 1905 light-quantum paper]--a revolutionary, one who aims to overthrow authority. Rather, he was so free that any form of authority but the one of reason seemed irresistibly funny to him. On another issue, his brief religious ardor left no trace, just as in his later years he would often wax highly enthusiastic about a scientific idea, then drop it as of no consequence. About his religious phase, Einstein himself later wrote, 'It is clear to me that [this] lost religious paradise of youth was a first attempt to liberate myself from the "only-personal", an urge that stayed with him all his life. In his sixties, he once commented that he had sold himself body and soul to science, being in flight from the 'I' and the 'we' to the 'it'."

Pais, page 41:
Einstein's student days did have their pleasant moments... But, already as a young man, nothing could distract him from his destiny, which with poetic precision he put in focus at the age of eighteen: 'Strenuous labor and the contemplation of God's nature are the angels which, reconciling, fortifying, and yet mercilessly severe, will guide me through the tumult of life'.
Pais, page 192:
...Einstein was eager to go to Prague... on January 6, 1911, His Imperial and Apostolic Majesty Franz Joseph formally approved the appointment, effective April 1. Einstein was notified by letter, dated January 13. Prior to the beginning of his appointment, he had to record his religious affiliation. The answer none was unacceptable. He wrote 'Mosaisch' [Judaism].
Pais, pages 318-319:
Einstein had a lifelong interest in philosophy. As a schoolboy, he had read Kant. With his friends in Bern he had studied Spinoza's ethics, Hume's treatise of human nature, Mill's system of logic, Avenarius's critique of pure experience, and other philosophical works... Even though Einstein's interest in and impact on philosophy were strong, he himself never wrote articles that may be called philosophical in a technical sense. After 1820 he wrote occasional reviews of or introductions for philosophical works, however. His reviews of books on epistemology by Weinberg and Winternitz show his familiarity with Kant. So does the record of his discussions with French philosophers in 1922. When one of these referred to a possible connection between Einstein's ideas and those of Kant, Einstein replied:
In regard to Kant's philosophy, I believe that ever philosopher has his own Kant . . . . Arbitrary concepts are necessary in order to construct science; as to whether these concepts are given a priori or are arbitrary conventions, I can say nothing.
From Einstein's introduction to a new translation of Galileo's Dialogue, we see that he had read Plato. He wrote an introduction to a new German translation of Lucretius's De Rerum Natura. He was familiar with Bertrand Russell's theory of knowledge. His philosophical interests are also manifest in his review of Emile Meyerson's La Deduction Relativest and his introductions to books by Planck and Frank. Among the oriental philosophers, he appreciated Confucius. Once, in Princeton, he fell asleep during a lecture on Zen Buddhism. Perhaps he was tired that evening.

...[Einstein wrote about] religion: 'A religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation.' Thus, according to Einstein, 'a legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. . . . Science without religion is lame, a religion without science is blind.' By his own definition, Einstein himself was, of course, a deeply religious man.

Pais, pages 12-14:
Among those [Einstein] proposed or endorsed for the Nobel peace prize were Masaryk; Herbert Runham Brown, honorary secretary of War Resisters International; Carl von Ossietzky, at the time in a German concentration camp; and the organization Youth Aliyah. He spoke out about the plight of the Jews and helped. Numerous are the affidavits he signed in order to bring Jews from Europe to the United States.

Pacifism and supranationalism were Einstein's two principle political ideals. In the 1920s he supported universal disarmament and a United Europe. After the Second World War, he especially championed the concept of world government, and the peaceful--and only peaceful--uses of atomic energy...

Einstein's political orientation, which for simplicity must be called leftist, derived from his sense of justice, not from an approval of method or a sharing of philosophy. 'In Lenin I honor a man who devoted all his strength and sacrificed his person to the realization of social justice. I do not consider his method to be proper,' he wrote in 1929.

...Einstein was a lover of wisdom. But was he a philosopher? The answer to that question is no less a matter of taste than of fact. I would say that at his best he was not, but I would not argue strenuously against the opposite view. It is as certain that Einstein's interest in philosophy was genuine as it is that he did not consider himself a philosopher.

He studied philosophical writings throughout his life, beginning in his high school days, when he first read Kant. In 1943, Godel, Bertrand Russell, and Pauli gathered at Einstein's home to discuss philosophy of science about half a dozen times.

...He was capable of deep anger, as his attitude toward Germany during and after the Nazi period attests. When he spoke or wrote of justice and liberty for others, called the Jews his brothers, or grieved for the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto, he did so as a man of feeling at least as much as a man of thought.

Pais, pages 314-315:
...in 1932 [Einstein] signed an appeal to the Socialist and Communist parties in Germany, urging them to join forces in order to stave off Germany's 'terrible danger of becoming Fascist', but as late as May 1933, three months after Hitler came to power, Einstein still held to an unqualified antimilitarist position. Thereafter he changed his mind...

Einstein's active interest in the fate of the Jews also began in the Berlin period. To him this concern was never at variance with his supranational ideals. In October 1919 he wrote to the physicist Paul Epstein, 'One can be internationally minded without lacking concern with the members of the tribe'. In December he wrote to Ehrenfest, 'Anti-Semitism is strong here and political reaction is violent'. He was particularly incensed about the German reaction to Jews who had recently escaped worse fates in Poland and Russia. 'Incitement against these unfortunate fugitives . . . has become an effective political weapon, employed with success by every demagogue'. Einstein knew of their plight especially well, since a number of these refugees literally came knocking at his door for help. To him supranationalism could wait so far as the hunted Jew was concerned. It was another case where the patient would have been dead (and often was) before the cure.

There was another irritant. 'I have always been annoyed by the undignified assimilationist cravings and strivings which I have observed in so many of my [Jewish] friends. . . . These and similar happenings have awakened in me the Jewish national sentiment'. Einstein's strongest source of identity, after science, was to be a Jew, increasingly so as the years went by. That allegiance carried no religious connotation. In 1924 he did become a dues-paying member of a Jewish congregation in Berlin, but only as an act of solidarity. Zionism to him was above all else a form of striving for the dignity of the individual. He never joined the Zionist organization.

There was one person who more than anyone else contributed to Einstein's awakening: Kurt Blumenfield, from 1910 to 1914 secretary general of the Executive of World Zionist Organizations, which then had its seat in Berlin, and from 1924 to 1933 president of the Union of German Zionists. Ben Gurion called him the greatest moral revolutionary in the Zionist movement. He belonged to the seventh generation of emancipated German Jewry. In a beautiful essay, Blumenfeld has written of his discussions with Einstein in 1919, of his efforts 'to try to get out of a man what is hidden in him, and never to try to instill in a man what is not in his nature'. It was Blumenfeld whom Einstein often entrusted in later years with the preparation of statements in his name on Zionist issues. It was also Blumenfeld who was able to convince Einstein that he ought to join Weizmann on a visit to the United States (April 2-May 30, 1921) in order to raise funds for the planned Hebrew University. Blumenfeld understood the man he was dealing with. After having convinced Einstein, he wrote to Weizmann, 'As you know, Einstein is no Zionist, and I beg you not to make any attempt to prevail on him to join our organization. . . . I heard . . . that you expect Einstein to give speeches. Please be quite careful with that. Einstein . . . often says things out of naivete which are unwelcome to us'. As to his relations with Weizmann, Einstein once said to me, 'Meine Beziehungen zu dem Weizmann waren, wie der Freud sagt, ambivalent.',

The extraordinary complexity of Einstein's life in the 1920s begins to unfold, the changes in midlife are becoming clear. Man of research, scientific administrator, guest professor, active pacifist, spokesman for a moral Zionism, fund-raiser in America. Claimed by the German establishment as one of their most prominent members, though nominally he is Swiss. Suspected by the establishment because of his pacifism. Target for anti-Semitism from the right. Irritant to the German assimilationist Jews because he would not keep quiet about Jewish self-expression. It is not very surprising that under these circumstances Einstein occasionally experienced difficulty in maintaining perspective, as two examples may illustrate. [More]

Pais, pages 475-476:
Two further issues, bearing on Einstein's political views but going much deeper, must be mentioned. He never forgave the Germans. 'After the Germans massacred my Jewish brothers in Europe, I will have nothing further to do with Germans. . . . It is otherwise with those few who remained firm within the range of the possible'. To him those few included Otto Hahn, Max von Laue, Max Planck, and Arnold Sommerfeld.

Einstein was devoted to the cause of Israel, even though on occasion he was publicly critical of its government. He spoke of Israel as 'us' and of the Jews as 'my people.' It appears to me that Einstein's Jewish identity emerged ever more strongly as he grew older. He may never have found a place that truly was home to him. But he did find the tribe to which he belonged.

...1955... Einstein had occasion to remember three old friends. He wrote to Kurt Blumenfeld, 'I thank you belatedly for having made me conscious of my Jewish soul.'

Pais, pages 517-518:
In 1944 Wallenberg, born in 1912 in Stockholm, was appointed third secretary to the Swedish legation in Budapest, with the task of organizing a large-scale action of relief from Nazi terror. He and his staff managed to bring from 20,000 people under the direction protection of the Swedish legation. His name soon became legendary. Several times the Nazis unsuccessfully tried to entrap and kill them. Early in 1945 Wallenberg fell into the hands of the Soviet army, which was occupying Budapest. He vanished. It is certain that at the turn of 1946-7 he was in cell No. 151 of the Lubianka prison in Moscow. It is believed by some that he may still be alive today. In 1947 Einstein wrote to Stalin, 'As an old Jew, I appeal to you to find and send back to his country Raoul Wallenberg . . . [who], risking his own life, worked to rescue thousands of my unhappy Jewish people'. In reply, an underling stated that he had been authorized by Stalin to say that a search for Wallenberg had been unsuccessful.
From: Charlie Chaplin, My Autobiography, Simon and Schuster: New York, NY (1964), page 321:
Dr. Reynolds... asked Einstein if he believed in ghosts. Einstein confessed he had never seen one, and added, "When twelve other persons have witnessed the same phenomenon at the same time, then I might believe."
From: Michael H. Hart, The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Hart Publishing Company, New York City (1978), pages 88-89:
Since Einstein was Jewish, his situation in Germany became precarious when Hitler rose to power. In 1933, he moved to Princeton, New Jersey... and in 1940 he became a United States citizen. Einstein's first marriage ended in divorce; his second was apparently happy...

Einstein was always interested in the human world about him, and frequently expressed his views on political matters. He was a consistent opponent of political tyranny, an ardent pacifist, and a firm supporter of Zionism.

From: Raymond J. Seeger, "Einstein, Cosmotheist" in The Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation, 34 (March 1982): page2 42-44 (http://www.asa3.org:16080/ASA/PSCF/1982/JASA3-82Seeger.html; viewed 26 September 2005):
On one of the portals of the Riverside Memorial Baptist Church in New York City is an effigy of Albert Einstein. The curious passerby ponders "Was he truly religious? If so, in what sense?" An answer to these questions requires a definition of religion -- not an easy task either theoretically or practically. I shall use Paul Tillich's criterion of "ultimate concern" -- not unlike Martin Luther's suggestion that God is He whom we love with all our heart and mind and strength and soul. From this viewpoint we shall consider Einstein's own attitude to the universe...

Einstein was born at Ulm, Swabia, boasting of the highest cathedral tower in Europe-Luther country. His Jewish parents, Hermann a merchant and Pauline Koch a pianist, were irreligious...

At six Einstein attended an elementary Roman Catholic school (he was the only Jewish child)... he received the school's customary religious instruction. What appealed to him most was the ethical teaching of the Old Testament. This paradise, however, soon became lost in his fascination for some popular science books, which were generally irreligious...

It was not until 23 that he found permanent employment, viz., in the Patent Office at Berne-hardly an encouraging environment for a young physicist. A year later he married a former classmate--Mileva Maric, a Greek Orthodox Serbian--an event never approved by his family. (Upon one visit to Serbia she and their two sons joined the Roman Catholic Church.)

...At 32 Einstein received appointment as Ordinary Professor of Theoretical Physics at the German University of Prague. He had to indicate his religious affiliation in accordance with an edict of Emperor Franz Joseph I; he used a customary notation, "Mosaic."

...His basic belief was that "the foundation of all human values is morality." He mused, "I came to love charity and the love of one's fellow beings above everything else." His two major concerns were Zionism and pacifism.

Einstein supported the Zionist movement, particularly the new University of Jerusalem. He himself, however, was not a Zionist. He did not subscribe to their zeal for nationalism and for orthodoxy.

As for pacifism, he insisted, "Life is sacred, that is to say, it is the supreme value to which all values are subordinate." He was vehemently opposed to "every kind of cruelty and hatred." War, to him, was mechanized cruelty -- he abhorred the military system. Nevertheless, he would not endorse the conscientious objectors, whom he regarded as helping the other side, which was equally bad...

Before discussing Einstein's religion we must look at his relevant philosophy of physics, beginning with the role of phenomena as he envisaged it.

...Einstein... was not strictly a logical empiricist inasmuch as he allowed for some metaphysical concepts not derivable from sensory raw data.

Einstein had a passion to understand nature, which he believed to be real and rational, but a riddle. He confessed that "the most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible." Over the fireplace in the Fine Hall Common Room at Princeton University is inscribed a saying of Einstein: "Raffiniert ist der Herr Gott, aber boshaft ist Er nicht" ("The Lord God is subtle, but He is not mischievous"). He believed that the road to understanding nature is illuminated by mathematical simplicity inherent in nature's unity. (The concept of simplicity is not itself simple.) The apparent beauty, however, was always to be subservient to the latent truth, i.e., mathematical elegance is secondary to physical content. The method is not fancy free like that of a novelist, but rather like that of a person seeking a unique word for a crossword puzzle. Einstein was dedicated to discovering the truth lurking in nature. About his work there was an aura of religion.

Einstein's speculation about religion had its roots in the pantheism of the Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, who regarded the universe as a mixture of mind and matter-but not a Cartesian dualism. He identified the order of the universe with the will of its inherent God (so-called). Einstein admitted, "My conception of God is an emotional conviction of a superior intelligence manifest in the material world." In the spirit of Psalm 139 he regarded God as immanent-but not transcendent. He did not "believe in a God who cares for the well-being and the moral doings of human beings. "

In his Herbert Spencer Lecture at Oxford (1933) Einstein spoke of "something ineffable about the real, something occasionally described as myterious and awe-inspiring." The fact that the method of investigation turns out to be true in the empirical sense he regarded as "a property of our world, an empirical fact, a hard fact." This mystical attitude toward the harmony of universal law is what I call cosmotheism... Einstein himself called it cosmic religion. He insisted, "In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the ranks of devoutly religious men."

...Alongside the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., is the centennial memorial of Einstein's birth. Regardless of the artistic merit of the "mud-packing" style of the sculptor Robert Berks, his portayal of Einstein is wanting in spiritual appreciation. The lolling, gorilla-like, Gargantuan figure gazing down at a miniature star-studded sky is not the Einstein I knew [personally]. He would have been looking up humbly, in rapturous amazement at the harmony of law revealing everywhere a superior intelligence. He was a cosmotheist.

Search Adherents.com

Custom Search
comments powered by Disqus

Webpage created 2 May 2005, using material we previously posted at http://www.adherents.com/adh_influ.html in addition to new material.
Last modified 20 April 2007.

We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: webmaster@adherents.com.