People have long argued about how Einstein interpreted the idea of God and whether he was in any way religious. Well, that famous letter is up for auction again.
As The Independent reports:
A letter in which Albert Einstein explicitly rejected God and religion will be auctioned in December for the second time since the famous physicist wrote it, a year before his death.
Einstein wrote the letter to a Jewish philosopher in 1954, and it caused a sensation when it first went public at an auction sale in 2008 – complete with Einstein’s unambiguous declaration: “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. “
For decades, people had been debating the theorist’s concept of religion, in large part because the kept misunderstanding it.
There has been argument as to whether he was an atheist or effectively an atheist in seeing the universe as one cosmic god-like entity. This has caused unnecessary confusion as theists, wanting to have theism associated with the most famous scientist, have claimed Einstein as religious on account of the sort of language he used:
But he did not become an atheist. As Eugene Mallove wrote for The Washington Post in 1985, Einstein believed in what he called a “cosmic religion” – which was less a religion than “a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection”….
“I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes its creatures, or has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves,” he wrote in an essay in 1931.
Einstein did speak often of “God,” and was sometimes confused with a theist because of it. But he used the word as metaphor. “Einstein’s God was the Universe itself, not an external ‘grand puppeteer,’ “ Mallove wrote.
And for Einstein, the deepest secrets of the universe were as unknowable as the mind of God was to a theologian.
So the physicist read with interest a book published in 1952 by the philosopher Eric Gutkind, which attempted to marry Jewish spirituality and intellectualism, arguing that the pursuit of science could and would lead people to a complete understanding of God.
“As Einstein profoundly remarked,” Gutkind wrote in the book, “it is the most astonishing feature of the universe that the universe can be known. “
Einstein’s review was polite, but pretty savage.
“I read a great deal in the last days of your book, and thank you very much for sending it to me,” he wrote to Gutkind in 1954, before delivering his line about “human weaknesses” and “primitive legends. “
“For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions,” Einstein wrote, according to the Guardian’s translation of his handwritten German, “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. “
Seems pretty settled to me.