Last night, Christmas eve, I came home and read my freshly bought copies of Standpoint and The Spectator, both of which had the same ad for a book by one John Marsh titled, The Liberal Delusion: The Roots of our Current Moral Crisis. The title of the ad was: “Did Einstein Believe in God?” And after reading the text of the ad, I’m afraid I will have to get the book. This is from an article by Marsh, that I have chopped through to remove passages where other arguments are interwoven, to leave only what is found in the title, which was the same title as the ad: Did Einstein Believe in God?.
Is there clear unequivocal evidence that Einstein did believe in God? . . . The following quotations from Einstein are all in Jammer’s book:
“Behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force is my religion. To that extent, I am in point of fact, religious.”
“Every scientist becomes convinced that the laws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men.”
“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.”
“The divine reveals itself in the physical world.”
“My God created laws… His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking but by immutable laws.”
“I want to know how God created this world. I want to know his thoughts.”
“What I am really interested in knowing is whether God could have created the world in a different way.”
“This firm belief in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God.”
“My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit, …That superior reasoning power forms my idea of God.”
Further confirmation that Einstein believed in a transcendent God comes from his conversations with his friends. David Ben-Gurion, the former Prime Minister of Israel, records Einstein saying “There must be something behind the energy.” And the distinguished physicist Max Born commented, “He did not think religious belief a sign of stupidity, nor unbelief a sign of intelligence.” Einstein did not believe in a personal God, who answers prayers and interferes in the universe. But he did believe in an intelligent mind or spirit, which created the universe with its immutable laws. What Einstein actually said is:
“I am not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.”
“Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source.”
“There is harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, yet there are people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me to support such views.”
Einstein takes the opposite point of view: “A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Max Jammer was a personal friend of Einstein and Professor of Physics at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. His book is a comprehensive survey of Einstein’s writing, conversations and speeches on God and religion. In his book, Jammer wrote, “Einstein was neither an atheist nor an agnostic” and he added, “Einstein renounced atheism because he never considered his denial of a personal God as a denial of God. This subtle but decisive distinction has long been ignored.” His conclusion is that Einstein believed in God, albeit not a God who answers prayers. Eduard Büsching sent a copy of his book Es gibt keinen Gott (There is no God) to Einstein, who suggested a different title: Es gibt keinen persönlichen Gott (There is no personal God). However in his letter to Büsching, Einstein commented, “A belief in a personal God is preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook.” According to Jammer, “Not only was Einstein not an atheist, but his writings have turned many away from atheism, although he did not set out to convert anyone”. Einstein was very religious; he wrote, “Thus I came – despite the fact that I was the son of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents – to a deep religiosity.”
On Spinoza, Einstein said, “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.” Spinoza wrote, “The view of certain people that I identify God with nature is quite mistaken.” The French philosopher Martial Guéroult suggested the term panentheism, rather than pantheism, to describe Spinoza’s view of the relation between God and the universe. The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘panentheism’ as the theory or belief that God encompasses and interpenetrates the universe, but at the same time is greater than, and independent of it. So panentheism is similar to pantheism, but crucially in addition believes that God exists as a mind or a spirit. The idea that God is both transcendent and immanent is also a major tenet of both Christianity and Judaism.
To sum up: Einstein was – like Newton before him – deeply religious and a firm believer in a transcendent God. However Einstein rejected anthropomorphic and personal understandings of the word ‘God’. His beliefs may be seen as a form of Deism: “the belief in the existence of a Supreme Being as the source of finite existence, with rejection of revelation and the supernatural doctrines of Christianity” (The Oxford English Dictionary).
I am no Spinoza or Einstein, but of all possibilities, the absence of some creator presence in the universe seems the least likely possibility of all.
FURTHER THOUGHTS: Not that it can influence anyone either one way or the other, but this is just something to note: RELIGIOUS PEOPLE MUCH HAPPIER THAN OTHERS, NEW STUDY SHOWS. As it says in the first line:
A strong correlation exists between religiosity and personal happiness, according to a new study by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture.
Who knows the cause and effect, and which way it runs, nor is happiness the reason to feel the existence of a transcendent presence in the universe. Atheism just seems an unnatural act, where the incredible impossibility of our existence must be denied, and one’s face set against all the evidence to the contrary.