Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Einstein an Athiest?

Maybe, maybe not, but he did call the bible 'pretty childish' at one point.

The letter up for sale, written to philosopher Eric Gutkind in January 1954, suggests his views on religion did not mellow with age.

In it, Einstein said that "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."

"For me," he added, "the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions."

Addressing the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people, Einstein wrote that "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."

Bloomsbury spokesman Richard Caton said the auction house was "100 percent certain" of the letter's authenticity. It is being offered at auction for the first time, by a private vendor.
That said, it's quite possible he's not an atheist. There are a few indicators that he's more of a Deist- someone who believes that God may have build the machinery of the universe, but doesn't tinker with it. That's the God that a lot of enlightenment figures (and American Founding Fathers) believed in, and certainly not the personal Savior of, say, modern evangelicalism.

It probably won't change the battle between hardline theism and the increasingly strident "bright" atheist movement much, but it does provide a bit of context, and a reaction to the "chosen people" concept in Judaism that you don't see aired much in the western world. Interesting stuff.

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