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Think Einstein believed in God? You probably haven’t read this letter he wrote in 1954

Back in 2012, Albert Einstein’s much-debated “God Letter” was sold on eBay for just over $3 million. But the famous physicist’s thoughts on the Almighty are still aggressively bid upon by believers and non-believers alike.

Back in 2012, Albert Einstein’s much-debated “God Letter” was sold on eBay for just over $3 million. But the famous physicist’s thoughts on the Almighty are still aggressively bid upon by believers and non-believers alike.

The handwritten letter was sent to Jewish philosopher Erik Gutkind in 1954 just before Einstein’s death, and it addressed many philosophical themes, including religion. The letter is also clear evidence that Einstein towards the end of his life rejected the idea of a personal god.

god letter

Why is this relevant? Because people of faith are still aggressively trying to claim him as their own.

Some religious figureheads such as Ray Comfort claim that Einstein believed in some form of God and acknowledged a higher power’s presence.

“Although he clearly didn’t believe in a personal God [like the one in Christianity],” Ray Comfort says in his book Einstein, God, and the Bible.

“Einstein wrote that he wanted to know ‘His’ thoughts, referred to God as ‘He,’ and acknowledged that He revealed ‘Himself.’”

But in contrast, vocal atheists such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens claimed Einstein was in their camp.

Einstein

A quote that the faithful like to point to is from an interview Einstein gave in the book Glimpses of the Great:

“I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.

[…]

The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.”

But Einstein’s letter to Gutkind one year before his death seems to put the debate to an eternal rest. Here’s a partial translation.

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 childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can [for me] change this. These subtilized interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions 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 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 the privilege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one. And the animistic interpretations of the religions of nature are in principle not annulled by monopolization. With such walls we can only attain a certain self-deception, but our moral efforts are not furthered by them. On the contrary.

The full text of Einstein’s “God Letter” can be found here.

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27 Comments

27 Comments

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  2. luciusmichael

    February 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I believe that Einstein remained essentially in awe of the Universe and probably had some inkling of an intelligent force that was made manifest in it. In this letter,

    Einstein notes with some pride the work of Spinoza although he doesn’t go so far as to call himself a pantheist. To wit: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.” Telegram of 24 April 1929

  3. Chuck Hultquist

    February 20, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    Let that be an end to the discussion of Einstein’s religious beliefs…please!

  4. Odd Jørgensen

    February 22, 2015 at 6:26 am

    When did such puny things as facts ever stop the religious from asserting the most inane things?

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  6. Clint Hanson

    February 23, 2015 at 1:24 am

    So lame. This does nothing other then state that he did not believe in the Jewish religion, or any other formal religion, not that he did not believe in some form of God. He also obviously saw that much of how the world God is used is for human weakness, which is pretty clearly displayed when watching fox news for more then 5 mins. In his writings throughout his life, he clearly uses the word God as some from of universal intelligence, or force. You cannot undo his life writings with one single ambiguous letter written when his body was in a state of decay and one can legitimately claim his thinking was not a clear as it once was. What this tells me is atheist can be as stupid as any other group. I am no believer in any of the religions in the world, but am not stupid enough to think that this is all that there is. Nor am I stupid, as so many fundamentalists and arrogant atheists claim, that they know the answers. The search is the thing, and anyone who tries to shut down that search is the real enemy of all humanity. Be they the religious right, or the equally lost arrogant new atheists.

  7. Clint Hanson

    February 23, 2015 at 11:01 am

    Please read this to rethink this lame interpretation of his actual beliefs.

  8. Clint Hanson

    February 23, 2015 at 11:11 am

    Even more specifically, if you really want to understand, which few will in their limited ideas of what is possible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Albert_Einstein

  9. Clint Hanson

    February 23, 2015 at 11:12 am

    Lastly…. 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.”[19]

  10. Clint Hanson

    February 24, 2015 at 6:33 am

    It is amazing to me to see such cowardice. Not you Sky, this act of silencing is. By not allowing people to respond, or even worse only those who agree with you, you join a very not so great group of people. Decide.

  11. Clint Hanson

    February 25, 2015 at 3:21 am

    Thanks. I thought after 3 days it would not show up. Thank-you.

  12. Warren Gross

    August 31, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Well put! Amen

  13. Charmaine

    November 4, 2015 at 12:29 am

    Thank you for insightful and sane reply.

  14. Dom

    January 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    Its funny that all of the most intellegent beings on this planet find religion to be a joke..

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