Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion clear

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Childish superstition: Einstein's letter makes view of religion clear

A little known letter written by him, however, may help to settle the argument - or at least provoke further controversy about his views.

Due to be auctioned this week in London after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, the document leaves no doubt that the theoretical physicist was no supporter of religious beliefs, which he regarded as "childish superstitions".

Einstein penned the letter on January 3 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind who had sent him a copy of his book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter went on public sale a year later and has remained in private hands ever since.

In the letter, he states: "The word god is for me 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."
 

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  • #2
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And we care about his views on religion because...?
 
  • #3
Kurdt
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Recently there was a rather large thread in GD discussing that very topic mattmns. Its clearly important to a lot of people.
 
  • #4
JasonRox
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People will say "why do we care about what Einstein thinks?" then turn around with friends and start talking about last night's TV show or sport matchup or whatever it may be.

It's just a conversation/discussion.

Anyways, back on topic. I think that's very interesting. Might very well explain why he didn't want to be president of Isreal.
 
  • #5
BobG
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People will say "why do we care about what Einstein thinks?" then turn around with friends and start talking about last night's TV show or sport matchup or whatever it may be.

It's just a conversation/discussion.

Anyways, back on topic. I think that's very interesting. Might very well explain why he didn't want to be president of Isreal.
Actually, the question, "why would expertise in physics make someone a good national leader?" might be a little more relevant than his religious (or non-religious) views when it comes to being President of Israel.

One doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the other. One of history's most important mathematicians and astronomers, Pierre LaPlace, provided such inspirational leadership as France's Minister of the Interior that he only lasted 6 weeks in the job. Napolean dismissed him with the comment, "he carried the spirit of the infinitely small into the management of affairs".

Being able to recognize your own limits of expertise can be a very positive trait in a person.
 
  • #6
JasonRox
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Actually, the question, "why would expertise in physics make someone a good national leader?" might be a little more relevant than his religious (or non-religious) views when it comes to being President of Israel.

One doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with the other. One of history's most important mathematicians and astronomers, Pierre LaPlace, provided such inspirational leadership as France's Minister of the Interior that he only lasted 6 weeks in the job. Napolean dismissed him with the comment, "he carried the spirit of the infinitely small into the management of affairs".

Being able to recognize your own limits of expertise can be a very positive trait in a person.
Definitely, I couldn't agree more.

But, don't you think it would be odd if Einstein ran a country that was created somewhat by "child superstitions"?

I'm not choosing one reason or the other.
 
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f95toli
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Actually, the question, "why would expertise in physics make someone a good national leader?" might be a little more relevant than his religious (or non-religious) views when it comes to being President of Israel.
AFAIK the president has an essentially ceremonial role in Israel, i.e. he/she does not run the country, is not involved in day-to-day politics and is elected directly by the parliament. The prime minister has much more power than the president.
This is the case in most republics (e.g. Germany, Finland), presidents with real political power are actually quite rare.

Anyway, the point is that there is no reason why Einstein couldn't have been a good president; he was after all by far the most famous Jew of his time.
 
  • #8
turbo
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Anyway, the point is that there is no reason why Einstein couldn't have been a good president; he was after all by far the most famous Jew of his time.
He would have had a problem with the nationalism and the "god's chosen people" aspects of the Israeli state, though. He was a citizen of the world, not of a race, religion, or nationalistic identity. Yes he was a famous Jew, but he did not believe being Jewish made anybody special or better than other humans. That quality alone might have made him a better president than many others, though it would have alienated the Zionists.
 
  • #9
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Anyways, back on topic. I think that's very interesting. Might very well explain why he didn't want to be president of Isreal.
Well, he wasn't a zionist and wrote to some length on his stance on zionism..
 
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  • #10
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And this comes as a surprise? From reading Einstein's more well-known writings, it's pretty easy to see his stance on religion. He spoke rather highly of Judaism and Christianity, made positive comments about various Eastern religions, but clearly stated that he didn't believe in a personal or well-defined God. From what I've read by Einstein, it seems that he respected religion as a force for good, but thought that the idea of God was unnecessary. This latest revelation seems to be perfectly consistent with what I already know of him.

Of course there will be many people who will say "Einstein didn't believe in God, neither did you." Hopefully we won't have too many comments like this on this forum, since I think people here are better informed as to the general view of physicists on religion. Those of us physicists who are religious already know we're in the vast minority. One more irreligious physicist doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. To first order it doesn't even count.

But, don't you think it would be odd if Einstein ran a country that was created somewhat by "child superstitions"?
FYI: I've read a fair amount about the establishment of the State of Israel. It actually has a lot less to do with religion than one might think. Many of the founders of this state were in fact secular Jews. I strongly doubt that any of Israel's founders believed that they were obeying a commandment from God to establish a Jewish state.
 
  • #11
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And we care about his views on religion because...?
Because hes motherf-ing Einsteing, thats why!
 

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