Einstein Called Religion Expression of Weakness
LONDON (AP) – Albert Einstein: arch rationalist or scientist with a spiritual core?
A letter being auctioned in London this week adds more fuel to the
long-simmering debate about the Nobel prize-winning physicist’s
religious views. In the note, written the year before his death,
Einstein dismissed the idea of God as the product of human weakness and
the Bible as “pretty childish.”
The letter, handwritten in German, is being sold by Bloomsbury
Auctions on Thursday and is expected to fetch from 6,000 to 8,000
pounds (US$12,000 to US$16,000; euro7,500 to euro10,000).
Einstein, who helped unravel the mysteries of the universe with his
theory of relativity, expressed complex and arguably contradictory
views on faith, perceiving a universe suffused with spirituality while
rejecting organized religion.
The letter up for sale, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in
January 1954, suggests his views on religion did not mellow with age.
In it, Einstein said that “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 which are nevertheless pretty
“For me,” he added, “the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”
Addressing the idea that the Jews are God’s chosen people, Einstein
wrote that “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, although they are protected from the worst
cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’
Bloomsbury spokesman Richard Caton said the auction house was “100
percent certain” of the letter’s authenticity. It is being offered at
auction for the first time, by a private vendor.
John Brooke, emeritus professor of science and religion at Oxford
University, said the letter lends weight to the notion that “Einstein
was not a conventional theist” – although he was not an atheist,
“Like many great scientists of the past, he is rather quirky about
religion, and not always consistent from one period to another,”
Born to a Jewish family in Germany in 1879, Einstein said he went
through a devout phase as a child before beginning to question
conventional religion at the age of 12.
In later life, he expressed a sense of wonder at the universe and
its mysteries – what he called a “cosmic religious feeling” – and
famously said: “Science without religion is lame, religion without
science is blind.”
But, he also said: “I do not believe in the God of theology who
rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of
that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable
Brooke said Einstein believed that “there is some kind of
intelligence working its way through nature. But it is certainly not a
conventional Christian or Judaic religious view.”
Einstein’s most famous legacy is the special theory of relativity,
which makes the point that a large amount of energy could be released
from a tiny amount of matter, as expressed in the equation EMC2 (energy
equals mass times the speed of light squared). The theory changed the
face of physics, allowing scientists to make predictions about space
and paving the way for nuclear power and the atomic bomb.
Einstein’s musings on science, war, peace and God helped make him
world famous, and his scientific legacy prompted Time magazine to name
him its Person of the 20th Century.