Albert Einstein: The idea of God is a “product of human weakness”, the bible “pretty childish”

Albert Einstein's letter to Eric Gutkind (Jauary 1954)
Albert Einstein's letter to Eric Gutkind (Jauary 1954)

A recently unearthed letter written by Albert Einstein in January 1954, one year before his death, is yet another strong link in the chain of proves that Einstein was not the religious believer supernaturalists claimed him to be. The handwritten letter, addressed to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, describes the idea of God as “product of human weakness” and the bible as “pretty childish” and may finally put an end to all attempts to colour the illustrious thinker as a defender of religious faith.

The extraordinary piece was auctioned by Bloomsbury in London this month. The winning bid of 404,000 dollar – 25 times the pre-sale estimate – came from an unidentified overseas collector with “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails”. Really sad for Richard Dawkins, who was among the loosing bidders and would have been a deserving owner of the document.

Richard Dawkins Albert Einstein
Richard Dawkins Albert Einstein

Prof. Dawkins, famous British biologist and Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, has been the strongest voice clarifying Einstein’s position on religion. In his book The God Delusion, he explains that Einstein, who called himself “a deeply religious nonbeliever” and would occasionally invoke God, was referring to something entirely different from what is commonly meant with these terms. “Einstein’s religion” clearly excluded any idea of the supernatural, but was on the contrary an expression of pantheistic reverence.

“Pantheists don’t believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or the lawfulness that governs its working. Deists differ from theists in that the deist God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that their deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist’s metaphoric or poetic synonym for the law of the universe. Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered down theism.

“There is every reason to think that famous Einsteinisms like`God is subtile but he is not malicious’ or `He does not play dice’ or `Did have God a choice in creating this Universe?’ are pantheistic, not deistic, and certainly not theistic. …. Einstein was using `God” in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense. So is Stephen Hawking, and so are most of those physicists who occasionally slip into the language of religious metapher.”

Dawkins quotes Einstein himself writing about his religion: “to sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.”

“In this sense”, Dawkins adds, “I am too religious, with the reservation that `cannot grasp’ does not have to mean `forever ungraspable’. But I prefer not to call myself religious because it is misleading. It is destructively misleading because, for the vast majority of people, `religion’ implies `supernaturt’. Carl Sagan put it well: `… if by `God’ one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying … it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity’.”

(All quotations from: Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Great Britain, 2006)