What did Einstein say about God, science and religion?
Posted on April 22nd, 2016

Chandre Dharmawardana Ottawa, Canada

April 20, 2016, 8:46 pm (A shortened version of this article was published in The Island)

In a midweek review article in The Island (April 20) Dr. V. J. M. de Silva attributes the quote “Science without religion is blind; religion without science is lame” to Einstein. Einstein quotes like “God does not play Dice with the Universe”, or “The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of 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” are well known.

Hence it is not surprising that many people have hastened to conclude that Einstein “believed in religion”. VJM de S has also used the quote to suggest that Einstein was a believer in God. However, Einstein cannot be pinned down to such a simplistic formula. In regard to Judaism, he wrote: “For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. 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. As far as my experience goes, they are 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”.

Another Einstein quote is: “The word god for me is 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. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this”. So the “God” that Einstein talks of, when he says that “God does not play dice with the Universe” cannot be the “god”of the religious books. In fact Einstein explains that “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”.

He clarifies further: “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this, but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it”.

Einstein discusses the nature of a future “cosmic religion”

“The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion which is based on experience, which refuses the dogmatic. If there’s any religion that would cope the scientific needs it will be Buddhism….
If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.
Immortality? There are two kinds. The first lives in the imagination of the people, and is thus an illusion. There is a relative immortality which may conserve the memory of an individual for some generations. But there is only one true immortality, on a cosmic scale, and that is the immortality of the cosmos itself. There is no other”.

Dr.V.J. M. de Silva quotes C. S Lewis who says: “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a law giver”. The”founding fathers” of the various branches of science (17-19th centuries), were believers in God – Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin, Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Cuvier,Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal, Leibnitz and several others”. But this “lawgiver” could not have been the Creator God of Hinduism or Judeo-Christian religion, because that God is a capricious law unto himself, sending plagues and earthquakes on sinners, and listening to prayers of individuals, and even creating Hitler,Stalin, Pol Pot and others. The tradition of looking for “law and order” in nature was borrowed into Judeo-Christian theology from Plato and Aristotle. Some historians have even suggested that the Greek epoch of free inquiry (during the time of Pericles) may have been stimulated by the preceding epoch of free inquiry that existed in North India during the time of the Buddha.

The Greeks believed in a world of Platonic forms based on geometric harmony, based on  ideal spheres and cyclic processes. A modern reader of Isaac Newton’s works will find that the laws of mechanics and physics are presented as geometric proofs. An orderly universe following such geometric harmony was an alien concept to a God-fearing medieval world where miracles, casting out devils, curing lepers by divine intervention, burning witches etc., were part of the world order.

Thus the scientific method of inquiry, which initially assumed a world is governed by harmonically acting platonic forms is a legacy of the Hellenic tradition, and NOT a part of the Judeo-Christian tradition.The “law giver” in theistic traditions was a dictator as temperamental as a Roman emperor.  So, when C. S. Lewis says that ” Newton, Faraday, Maxwell, Kelvin,Boyle, Dalton, Linnaeus, Mendel, Pasteur, Cuvier, Copernicus, Kepler, Pascal, Leibnitz and several others” believed in “God”, he is equivocating on what “God” may have signified to them. Tycho Brahe observed a supernova star and concluded that the heavens are not immutable – a heresy. Cuvier who discovered the extinction of “God created” species feared that his views were heretical. Newton spent a lot of time applying mathematics to theology. However, unsatisfied with the outcomes, Newton kept his theology to himself. Newton was a revolutionary in science, but he was a pillar of social orthodoxy in a society intolerant of heretics. I have discussed some of these issues in my book “A Physicist’s view of Matter and Mind published by World-Scientific (2013)”.

All the names that Dr. VJM de Silva has quoted (via C. S. Lewis) were nonconformists born to a Christian world. They had to fight against Judeo-Christian  belief system to make progress. Even today, many of our scientist friends “go to church” for “social reasons’, or to listen to “organ and choral music”. An informal poll conducted at an annual meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) is said to have revealed more than 96% of the physicists as atheists or agnostics. The 4% believers, is higher than in an earlier poll, and partly due to the increased Muslim membership in the APS. Non-believers with a Muslim background rarely express their lack of belief. Such restraint existed in Christian societies of an earlier age.

VJM de Silva mentions Dr. Polkinghorne, the Cambridge physicist who became an Anglican priest. I was a Ph. D student working on a topic in quantum mechanics, and  remember attending some of his lectures on dispersion relations and elementary particles by Polkinghorne. Here was a man very rational in one sphere, who became a complete mystic and ordained as a priest in 1979. This may have alleviated some deep emotional anguish that he had. It also rocketed him up in the social order. Anglican Christianity, faced with rapidly diminishing adherents regarded Dr. Polkinghorn as a veritable “god-send”. The very Reverend Dr. Polkinghorn was knighted in 1997 and won the Templeton prize which stood at 1.5 million dollars. It is awarded to those who write to “reconcile Science with God”. Most religious systems have Heaven and Hell as part and parcel of their ethical formula, and Polkinghorne’s total acceptance of Anglican theology, complete with original sin, hell and heaven is certainly not a rational act. We can say with Einstein that “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death”.

Dr. VJM de Silva refers refers to the “big bang” and seems to imply that it gives some meaning to the act of creation. The Vatican theologians were opposed to relativity because it demoted “time” to be  something dependent on a persons state of motion. When the big bang picture came, they  jumped on board claiming that finally cosmology has “justified”  the idea of creation.  Before the bigbang, there was a period of “inflation” that may have involved “dark matter” whose nature is unknown. There are many such “big bangs” (or “white holes that blow out”) going on all the time in various places in the multiverse, just as there are many black holes which suck up matter (energy).  Such inconvenient facts are ignored by the creationists.  Furthermore, modern cosmology has other pictures in terms of collisions of  “branes” ( a type of hyper-surface) within alternative cosmological models, and these are rarely discussed by those who are emotionally attached to a single act of creation. These alternative pictures arise within string theory in attempts to account for “dark matter”, and “dark energy”,  whose nature is not understood at all. Furthermore, normal matter that we understand is only a small fraction of the totality that is yet to be fathomed. We have a very long way to go.

Chandre Dharmawardana
Ottawa, Canada.

(A shortened version of this article was published in The Island)

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=143910

9 Responses to “What did Einstein say about God, science and religion?”

  1. Charles Says:

    Read the Bible no one saw the God not even Moses. Even the 72 prophets in the Bible never sas the God . God came to them in dreams and visions to speak to them not to show himself to them. So whether Prophets really heard him is questionable and when you believe you believe everything even the Immaculate Conception and bringing back to life the dead. God of the Bible belonged to the Israelites. The God in the new Testament had a son which the Muslims and the Jews(Israelites) do not believe. Einstein said some thing to the effect that if he is to believe in a religion it would be Buddhism

  2. Charles Says:

    Following are some quotes of Einstein on Buddhism copied it from inernet.

    Albert Einstein’s quotes on Buddhism

    1) “Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and spiritual; and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

    2) “If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.

    3) “A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us.

    4) Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

    5) The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. (Albert Einstein)

    6) ” Among the founders of all religions in this world, I respect only one man — the Buddha. The main reason was that the Buddha did not make statements regarding the origin of the world. The Buddha was the only teacher who realised the true nature of the world.” (Bertrand Russell)

    7) “A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

  3. Nimal Says:

    We are better off without any religion.

  4. AnuD Says:

    Nieztche is a philosopher whose both the father and the grand father were pastors.

    but, He appreciated buddhism.

  5. AnuD Says:

    Religion is defined in the dictionary as one in which people pray for the higher spirit.

    In that Buddhism is not a religion and Buddha is never the savior of Anyone. Buddha is only the teacher and shows the path.

  6. Charles Says:

    Nimal, we need a belief system-not a fancy religion with a creator God- and miracles. But a meaningful spiritual philosophy which would make us better men and women enhancing our own goodness within ourselves, to make life meaningful. I liked for instance listening to this . It awakens what is within us.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yf9Tll1JD2g

    (Bhavana-Meditation by Venerable Kiribathgoda Gnananada thero)

  7. Charles Says:

    “In that Buddhism is not a religion and Buddha is never the savior of Anyone. Buddha is only the teacher and shows the path.”

    AnuD you put it so well. Thank you.

  8. Dham Says:

    Why do we need certificates from Einstein for Buddhism ?

    How many time we Buddhists have recited

    “ Itipi So Bhagava Araham Samma-Sambuddho
    Vijja-Carana-Sampanno Sugato Lokavidu
    Annutarro Purisa Damma-Sarathi Sattha Deva-
    Manussanam Buddho Bhagavathi. ” ?

    Has Einstein got just 1 of these qualities ?

    Nimal

  9. Dham Says:

    Nimal,
    Some human beings do not need a religion. But some will do harm to others without them.

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