Do atheists defend the idea that Einstein was not religious?


well they, like believers, should read a good biography before discussing the question

Most atheists probably don’t care what Einstein believed, but for those who are interested, let’s see what the man himself had to say:

“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.”

EDIT: There’s also this extract from a 1945 letter in which Einstein was responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had converted him:

“From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.”

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.” Upon being asked if he believed in God by Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of the Institutional Synagogue, New York, April 24, 1921

“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.” (Einstein, as cited in Clark 1973, 33).

It would certainly appear that Einstein did not believe in a personal God, but it would also appear that Einstein was not an atheist. He certainly never said anything that put him directly in that camp. I’ve done a lot of reading of Einstein’s works and books about Einstein. No one has ever made him out to be an atheist, and he never made himself out to be one either.

And then, of course, there’s this gem from a letter written in 1954:

“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.”

Then there’s this rather famous quote, said in conversation which is sometimes abused by theists:

“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.”

What’s important to note about the above quotation is that Einstein denies the existence of a personal god.

He clarifies this view in other places, such as here:

“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere… Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and 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.”

So, in other words, by denying a “personal God,” Einstein was denying “some will or goal outside the human sphere” and the need for religion for human morality.

There’s also this:

“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

Note that Einstein identifies himself as closer to an “agnostic” than anything else. And while he avers that he’s no “crusading atheist” – and notice that he doesn’t say that the crusading atheist is incorrect, only that his “fervor” is born out of the pain of being liberated from “religious indoctrination received in youth.” It’s the spirit he’s reacting to, not the idea that there are no gods, in the traditional understanding of the word “gods.”

Einstein’s position seems clear: he doesn’t believe in a personal god, or – to use his own words – “some will or goal outside the human sphere.” A Jesuit – or any other conventional religious person – would, in fact, consider him an “atheist” because he denies the existence of a personal god. He holds “religious indoctrination in youth” to be a kind of “fetter” or bind; he values “freethinking” – which is how he came to the conclusion that much of the Bible is false – and he thinks that the concept of a personal god is childish. His only “religion” – if you really want to stretch the meaning of “religion” – is admiration for the structure of the world, so far as science can reveal it.

In short, he’s not exactly the poster-boy for religious belief.

Why should it matter anyways (except for Einstein, of course)? Einstein has become more of a popular icon for intelligence than anything else.

Just like:


**In short, he’s not exactly the poster-boy for religious belief. **

He’s not exactly a poster boy for atheism either.

And this:

I didn’t say he was. The thread is supposed to be about whether or not Einstein was religious, and I think the quotes I’ve supplied demonstrate that he was not.

But I do have to echo what Luke said – who cares what he believed?

I love that xkcd comic!

Yes, in reality it doesn’t matter what some authority, whether its Einstein or Hawking believe. Someone’s beliefs do not create reality.

I think the reason atheists defend the idea that Einstein was not religious is that he is sometimes used as an argument from authority to support a theistic God. For example, Ray Comfort, a Christian minister and evangelist, has Einstein predominantly displayed on his blog ( )with a quote by him as a way to “support” Christian beliefs. This type of attempt is ridiculous since it does not at all reflect Einsteins beliefs.

**But I do have to echo what Luke said – who cares what he believed? **

Atheists care very much. You will never see an atheist website without quotes from Einstein.

But this is the one Einstein quote you will never see on an atheist website.

"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. " Albert Einstein

He is certainly not an atheist now.:slight_smile:

Haha good point. Either everyone’s a believer or everyone’s literally nothing after death.

I always thought he was a deist. sort of standard clockmaker God sort of thing, but nothing more.

As I recall he tended to liken his God to Spinoza’s God, sort of a pantheist Spirit of the Universe. :shrug:

Whatever that means.

Well, you could recall…or you could just read my posts above where I give that quote and others.

No need to start unneccesary arguments.

Thanks for the responses.

Now, my next question - why are atheist bothered that Einstein was not a theist, but are quick to claim that Hitler was?

We’re not “bothered” by it, nor are we “excited” by it, or anything else. It’s a matter of record (though, as I’ve been saying, it would be better to say that he was “not religious” than to say that he was “not a theist”).

but are quick to claim that Hitler was?

Because, again, it’s a matter of record.

What exactly is the point of all of your questions?

To understand Einsteins theism, you have to have some kind of understanding
of ‘‘spinozas God’’.
As atheists don’t have any understanding (outside of intellect) about God (that’s why they are atheist), they don’t understand Einstein.

And don’t let them tell you any different.

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