Did Einstein Believe in God?

I was invited to a dinner and at the dinner I met an interesting man named Bernard who was a physicist although he was religious.  When he found out that I am a biochemist he asked me several direct questions, and we had an interesting conversation about metabolism, drugs and cancer.  Then he also asked me if I believe in God.  I said that I did not (even though I was also wearing a kippa as a courtesy).  He asked me why and I explained this by saying that I did not have a religious upbringing and that I am a scientist.  Then Bernard made the statement that “Einstein was certainly a scientist and he believed in God.”

At that point I had to correct him, having read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein and other material. I pointed out that Einstein’s famous statement “God doesn’t play dice with the universe,” was not a statement of belief by Einstein, but rather a refutation of quantum theory, that is based on probability, that Einstein spent the latter half of his life trying to disprove (unsuccessfully).  Bernard challenged me to provide another quote that proved Einstein was not a believer in God.  I told him that I could not remember such a quote verbatim, but I would gladly send one to him.

Instead of going to Isaacson’s book, I looked up “Einstein’s religious beliefs” in Google, and indeed there was a long article there.  I chose more or less at random a short paragraph with some quotes from Einstein, and sent them to Bernard, with  a covering note saying that I agreed with him.  Here is the quote :

Einstein expressed his skepticism regarding the existence of an anthropomorphic God, such as the God of Abrahamic religions, often describing this view as “naïve” and “childlike“.   In a 1947 letter he stated, “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously.” In a letter to Beatrice Frohlich on 17 December 1952, Einstein stated, “The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve.”

This proved my point that Einstein rejected the so-called Abrahamic God and any kind of personal God, and although he remained a skeptic, he was in awe of the universe and retained some spiritual sense of a creator.

I received a pleasant response from Bernard, and a quote that he considered showed that Einstein’s was not an atheist:

Einstein stated, “I am not an Atheist.”   According to Prince Hubertus, Einstein said, “In view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.” 

My views are more atheist than Einstein.  I do have spiritual feelings when I see the amazing complexity of the animals in the world, but I know them to have been created by evolution by natural selection.  I am amazed at the complexity of molecular biology, but I see no reason to bring God into consideration to explain the interaction of bio-molecules.  I also cannot accept that the God that Jews have beseeched to protect them actually exists after the Shoah.

Science has refuted many religious views, such as that the earth is flat, that the sun revolves around the earth, that God made man from dust, that God created all the animal species as we find them, that God dictated the Torah (Bible) to Moses (writing on parchment did not appear until at least 300 years after the estimated date of the Exodus) and so on.  It is clear that religion is not equipped to handle the physical world, on the other hand science is not really equipped to handle the spiritual world.  Science deals in measurable quantities, such as length and time.  But religion deals in immeasurable quantities, like love and faith.  It is better that we keep that separation, equivalent to the separation of Church and State.

Note: I have expounded further on my views in an essay “The Tolerant Atheist” that I published in a book entitled “Of Gods and Lemurs,” available on Amazon.

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