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Dustin LindenSmith

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patriotism

Einstein on God, religion, and the Bible

Via this post by wickenden (who in turn found it here), you must read this excellent letter penned by Albert Einstein that describes his relationship with the concepts of God, religion, and the Bible. It's fantastic. One of the most resonant quotes for me is: "...the Bible [is] a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish." How much more incisive could he be on that one?

The letter's translation follows:
Princeton, 3. 1. 1954

Dear Mr Gutkind,

Inspired by Brouwer’s repeated suggestion, I read a great deal in your book, and thank you very much for lending it to me ... With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common. Your personal ideal with its striving for freedom from ego-oriented desires, for making life beautiful and noble, with an emphasis on the purely human element ... unites us as having an “American Attitude.”

Still, without Brouwer’s suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... 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” about them.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision...

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior ... I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,

Yours,

A. Einstein
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vyus October 13th, 2009
Even Dawkins (Mr. THERE IS NO GOD) acknowledges a deep wonder and awe when he contemplates... and Einstein referenced this a lot. And yet god folks seemed to think this meant Einstein believed in God.

Gods folks can have themselves some strange inclinations.

vyus October 13th, 2009
very cool find.

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