May 13, 2008

"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."

So wrote Albert Einstein.
"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions," he said.

"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."

And he added: "As far as my experience goes, they are 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."

So if you've been using Einstein in your pro-God arguments: Time to revise.

99 comments:

rhhardin said...

The meaning of Jews as chosen people is, chosen for extra responsibilities ; meaning towards others.

It's the position of morality in general, however.

Every person is a Jew.

Religions are poeticizations of morality in general, accounts of what is felt.

George said...

Years earlier, in 1918, Einstein spoke in a speech of the angel of the Lord and the "contours of [art and science] apparently built for eternity."

He added that the scientist (or artist) seeks communion with the infinite, out of an "irresistible longing to escape from his noisy, cramped surroundings into the silence of high mountains, where the eye ranges freely through the still, pure air and fondly traces out the restful contours apparently built for eternity."

jimbino said...

No thinking person can consider religion a "poetization of morality." Religion implies thoughtless, lemming-like behavior and the religion of the Old Testament is a testament to the immorality of mass murder and rape, incest, spousal abuse, perfidy and betrayal, fornication and adultery.

Indeed, the Old Testament is notable for the absence in its text of the Greek concepts of Love, Truth, Justice, Fidelity and morality in general.

Paddy O. said...

"However I cannot seriously believe in it because the theory is incompatible with the principle that physics is to represent reality in space and time, without spookish long-distance effects."
~Albert Einstein, on quantum mechanics.

He had trouble with God's dice and curious and complex views on reality. Spookish, sure. But apparently still the case.

I've personally never felt too comfortable with using Einstein playing the "smart guy who believes in religion" role.

He reminds me a little bit of Mark Twain in this respect, and I'd be curious to see how Einstein's views changed over the years. Twain got very bitter and angry and dismissive of God over time.

The events of WW2, no doubt, had more than a little effect on Einstein's religious views and I wonder if this was a way to deal with that psychological trauma.

Or maybe he just never did think too much of God. It would have very, very much fit with the German culture of the time--using God language a lot while being almost utterly agnostic or atheist.

Paddy O. said...

Religion implies thoughtless, lemming-like behavior

Wow. Amazing that this much ignorance still has the ability to string words together.

David said...

The best thinkers on the subject --including the author(s) of the Bible itself -- contradict themselves repeatedly, in stark and intriguing ways.

God cares; God doesn't care. God is immanent; God is transcendent. God will annihilate us; God will never annihilate us. God is omnipotent; God has left a vacuum in which free will can create anything from Angkor Wat to the Holocaust.

Einstein said lots of different things about God. His seeming contradictions were either the product of mood, experience, creeping senility, or a febrile intelligence which understood that seeming contradictions on this topic may not be contradictions at all.

David said...

The best thinkers on the subject --including the author(s) of the Bible itself -- contradict themselves repeatedly, in stark and intriguing ways.

God cares; God doesn't care. God is immanent; God is transcendent. God will annihilate us; God will never annihilate us. God is omnipotent; God has left a vacuum in which free will can create anything from Angkor Wat to the Holocaust.

Einstein said lots of different things about God. His seeming contradictions were either the product of mood, experience, creeping senility, or a febrile intelligence which understood that seeming contradictions on this topic may not be contradictions at all.

tituseverythingscomingup roses said...

I had a botched morning loaf today.

I felt myself crowning and assumed the position on the toilet.

I felt the tip come out but nothing else would move.

I had to abort the effort after much pushing, panting, moaning and holding onto the towel rod (rod hee hee).

Other than that I am super, thanks for asking. How are you?

vbspurs said...

God is unknowable. That single coup de foudre the ancient Hebrews had is perhaps the most profound intellectual hurdle overcome by man.

I am deeply grateful to them, and don't begrudge Einstein his ideas, because that's all they are. If not, he'd have a famous theorem proving it different.

Cheers,
Victoria

Paddy O. said...

The best thinkers on the subject --including the author(s) of the Bible itself -- contradict themselves repeatedly, in stark and intriguing ways.

Light is a wave. Light is a particle.

The universe does seem to contradict itself. Paradox is rampant.

Doesn't mean it's not true. Or that contradiction is inherently wrong. Just makes it more complex than a quick approach might like.

vbspurs said...

Paddy wrote:

He reminds me a little bit of Mark Twain in this respect, and I'd be curious to see how Einstein's views changed over the years. Twain got very bitter and angry and dismissive of God over time.

Along the same lines, PBS had a great programme some years ago called:

Question of God

It pitted the diverging viewpoints of Sigmund Freud as unbeliever and CS Lewis as believer, in the most intellectual of imaginary discussions. This was followed by a panel discussion with 9 individuals on 9 topics:

Nine Conversations:
A Transcendent Experience
Science or Revelation?
The Exalted Father
Why Believe?
Miracles
Love Thy Neighbor
Human Condition
Moral Law
Suffering and Death


I cannot urge people to watch this, enough.

Cheers,
Victoria

rhhardin said...

No thinking person can consider religion a "poetization of morality."

Here you go.

``Search inside'' for Ark, read p17-18

Sloanasaurus said...

That doesn't fit in with his famous quote "God does not play dice with the Universe."

Einstein was wrong about quantum mechanics. He could be wrong about God too.

Kirby Olson said...

Kurt Godel was Einstein's closest friend, and they walked together at PRinceton almost every day.

Godel was a Lutheran, who even attempted to write a proof of God's existence, based on St. Anselm's proof (which basically says that if all possible things exist, then perfection exists, and since God equals perfection, God must exist).

Godel wrote that, "Religions are, for the most part, bad -- but religion is not."

At any rate, lots of other mathematicians have tried to prove God's existence. Luther basically believed that it can't be proven, and that in fact you have to be a little insane to believe in the existence of God. He thought this insanity was a good thing, because sanity would lead you to believe that the lion will never lie down with the lamb. However, Luther was not a mathematician and so doesn't belong in this thread.

There's a Wikipedia page about mathematicians who tried to prove God's existence (but it barely scratches the surface of the vast numbers of proofs, and in almost every European language):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Mathematics_and_God

Crimso said...

"Light is a wave. Light is a particle.

The universe does seem to contradict itself. Paradox is rampant."

That light is both a wave and a particle (as is matter) is only a contradiction when seen through a pre-quantum theory lens. The fascinating thing about quantum theory is precisely that it does resolve the apparent paradox (by simply accounting for the dual nature of such things as electrons) Don't get me wrong. There are definitely problems with quantum theory (as there are with all theories), and I am not remotely an expert on it. But what I do know of it impresses me ("spooky" effects of it being more of a feature than a bug).

Crimso said...

"At any rate, lots of other mathematicians have tried to prove God's existence."

IIRC, more than a couple of prominent philosophers had as a major motivation a need to prove the existence of God through some form of rational thought.

William said...

Newton lost a pile in the South Sea Bubble despite knowing better. Freud was at one time a propagandist for the curative, life enhancing effects of cocaine abuse. Einstein spent the last decades of his life trying to find a more elegant explanation of reality than quantum mechanics. The brightest men on earth are speckled with stupidity, and we forgive them for it. Can't we show the same forebearance towards the Bible? Human sacrifice was much more common in the pagan world than we acknowledge. At the base of every Roman bridge there is the skeleton of a slave boy, sacrificed to mollify the river spirits. It is to Judaism and the Old Testament that we owe the withering of this fine old custom. There is something in the New Testament that is anti-thetical to slavery. In western Europe slavery was abolished as Christianity spread, finally disappearing about the 6th Century AD. In the 19th Century. it was again square, earnest Christians who took the lead in abolishing slavery. If Einstein could be wrong about quantum physics. he could certainly be wrong about many other things.

bearbee said...

The greatest, most profound human intellect ever to exist is less than a nano-speck of sand in an ocean of billions and billions of galaxies . Thoughts interesting to contemplate but ultimately just as unknowing as the most rudimentary of beings.

Paddy O. said...

That light is both a wave and a particle (as is matter) is only a contradiction when seen through a pre-quantum theory lens. The fascinating thing about quantum theory is precisely that it does resolve the apparent paradox.

Crimso, that's the point I was trying to get at.

It resolves the paradoxes and contradictions we might initially see as undermining the system. But, rather than being thoughtless, something like quantum mechanics is immensely advanced.

That's the fascinating thing about good theology. Theology too has its problems, but resolving the problems isn't merely about trying to hide the difficulties. Its about making sense of what we see and feel and understand on a deep, deep level.

Indeed, the contradictions and paradoxes point to a higher and more elegant reality than was ever thought possible, one in which good science and good theology seem to embrace rather than dismiss.

Paddy O. said...

Victoria, thanks for that suggestion. It's going on my netflix queue.

A number of theologians have had very interesting interactions with Freud's work, not least of which is the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann, who was raised in the intellectual climate that Einstein thrived in. Instead of leaving Germany and dismissing God, Moltmann embraced God while in a prisoner of war camp. His biography, A Broad Place, is a fascinating study of postwar German thought, life, and academics.

downtownlad said...

That doesn't fit in with his famous quote "God does not play dice with the Universe."

Actually, it has nothing to do with that quote. The quote that Ann provides is Einstein talking about God. The quote about God not playing dice with the universe is about quantum mechanics, NOT God.

Just like when I say "God you're dense" I'm not talking about God, I'm just talking about how dense you are.

downtownlad said...

Fact: Religious people have a lower IQ than atheists and agnostics.

downtownlad said...

"The greatest, most profound human intellect ever to exist is less than a nano-speck of sand in an ocean of billions and billions of galaxies . Thoughts interesting to contemplate but ultimately just as unknowing as the most rudimentary of beings."

But we do know that God spends all of his infinite energies worrying that Adam might marry Steve.

Pogo said...

It is a curious thing, this drive to believe in God.

Why do you suppose it exists (for surely it does)? What possible evolutionary advantage can it have had (other than the circular argument that 'it must have')?

vbspurs said...

His biography, A Broad Place, is a fascinating study of postwar German thought, life, and academics.

Thank you so much, too!

The inestimable Kirby also mentioned Kurt Gödel in relation to mathematicians and religion. I read this biography on him, which a lot of people have heard of because it received great reviews.

However, in 2007 a Dutch film student came out with a well-received film on him called:

Who Is Gödel?

Might be worth a look-see!

Cheers,
Victoria

vbspurs said...

It is a curious thing, this drive to believe in God.

Why do you suppose it exists (for surely it does)? What possible evolutionary advantage can it have had (other than the circular argument that 'it must have')?


Pogo, that's exactly what it is -- a drive, a need, a desire if you want to put it in its basest terms.

The topic is unending, but like so many others, I feel it has to do with finding a greater truth than ourselves.

It is at once arrogant and humble.

Arrogant because we believe we have found a partial solution to the mystery of "why". Why are we here? Why does the earth exist?

The how/what/where/when of life may be solvable, but the 'why' even our modern religion-substitute, science, has not been able answer.

But humble too, because we who believe in God acknowledge that we are not the end-all, be-all of this universe.

As to your second question, again an impossible topic to cover, but evolution is about death as much as it is about creation.

If we lived forever, there would be no need for a God. But we don't.

We are finite, the whole universe is too. Perhaps it comforts us to know that a Creator continues after we have been turned to dust.

Cheers,
Victoria

amba said...

It is a curious thing, this drive to believe in God.

Why do you suppose it exists (for surely it does)?


Isn't it obvious? Otherwise we're trapped. Even if we can figure out how to rise above our own natures, then you die.

Simon said...

Of course, Einstein also thought that quantum physics had to be wrong because it offended his idea of the elegance of the natural world. He wasn't right about everything.

SteveR said...

DTL: But we do know that God spends all of his infinite energies worrying that Adam might marry Steve.

Don't confuse God with men, he's not at all worried about that.

Paddy O. said...

What possible evolutionary advantage can it have had

I think the typical answer might be something akin to Marx's opiate of the masses. That religion can be used for community bonding and control, allowing for more ordered society and clear leadership.

However, I think this has to assume that religion has a deeper purpose, one that can be taken advantage of.

Because animals don't seem to have a clear organized religion, then it seems, contra DTL, that religious views are part of our higher brain functions and reflect our consciousness. Which leads me to think that religion is important because of the hope that it offers. Consciousness asks, 'is this all there is.' Religion says no. There's a lot more. A whole lot more. And it seeks to answer the questions that arise in awareness of reality.

The 'primitive' religions address more environmental concerns. The more advanced religions tend to address existential questions. Who am I? What does this mean?

Having answers to these questions, whether environmental or existential, provides escape from despair. Those humans with hope were able to thrive and press on.

Even in the face of death, death that might be for the greater good of the community.

And, I might add, that's a fine way for God to have wired us.

Original Mike said...

DTL: But we do know that God spends all of his infinite energies worrying that Adam might marry Steve.

Actually, SteveR, I think DTL is confusing God with himself.

Palladian said...

If there is a God, and He is a benevolent God, how can He have created downtownlad?

Pogo said...

Free will.

Or free willy. Your pick.

vbspurs said...

I think the typical answer might be something akin to Marx's opiate of the masses. That religion can be used for community bonding and control, allowing for more ordered society and clear leadership.

Never confuse God with religion.

(I'm not talking to "you", Paddy, but about all of us, myself included)

Human beings seem to desperately need structure to make sense of a brutal world. One can see that need in the different expressions of belief, which include animism.

But God came first.

Cheers,
Victoria

Sheepman said...

Einstein, disguised as Robin Hood
With his memories in a trunk
Passed this way an hour ago
With his friend, a jealous monk
He looked so immaculately frightful
As he bummed a cigarette
Then he went off sniffing drainpipes
And reciting the alphabet
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For playing the electric violin
On Desolation Row

Blue Moon said...

Victoria said: "But God came
first."

Not to get all mega-churchy Rick Warren on you, but I really needed to read that today. When I get caught up in worldly matters, it is nice to return to a simple truth. Thank you.

Chris Wren said...

Whatever. If I'm a believer in anything, it's the idea that appeals to authority are worthless, and that brilliant scientists ( and even pundits with British accents) are no more qualified to comment on the existence or non-existence of god than anyone else.

vbspurs said...

When I get caught up in worldly matters, it is nice to return to a simple truth. Thank you.

Thank you back, Blue Moon. :)

Here's another universal but simple truth, perhaps the only one after the human need to believe in SOMETHING:

There no is no dog which doesn't like to poke his head out of a moving car window.

Dog is God backwards. The truth is out there.

Cheers,
Victoria

Original Mike said...

I don't know about your universal truths, Victoria. I don't feel a need to believe in "something", and the dog I had when I was a kid hated the car. He cowered down on the floor, shaking, when it was in motion (in fact, he would try and curl up at your feet, which was a huge problem when you were trying to drive!).

Sheepman said...

"... the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so
De things dat yo' liable to read in de Bible
It ain't necessarily so ...

Dey tell all you chillun de debble's a villain
But 'taint necessarily so

Yachira said...

Jimbino remarked: "No thinking person can consider religion a "poetization of morality." Religion implies thoughtless, lemming-like behavior and the religion of the Old Testament is a testament to the immorality of mass murder and rape, incest, spousal abuse, perfidy and betrayal, fornication and adultery.

Indeed, the Old Testament is notable for the absence in its text of the Greek concepts of Love, Truth, Justice, Fidelity and morality in general.
"

OMG! That's hilarious!!!

vbspurs said...

I don't know about your universal truths, Victoria.

See? Serves me right to be British by injecting a bit of self-mocking into the discussion, since anything too earnest embarrasses the hell out of us.

Still, sucks about about your coward dog, dude.

Cheers,
Victoria

Original Mike said...

Still, sucks about about your coward dog, dude.

Ahh, but he's in a far better place, now.

EnigmatiCore said...

I think that this bit, which was from Einstein later, in 1941, both expands on what he was saying in the quotations from the letters, but also adds quite a bit of nuance.

In other words, I don't think Einstein would approve of the way his words are commonly used in pro-God arguments, and I also think he would not approve of the way his words are used in anti-God arguments. In sum, it looks to me like he believed in God, just not what he described as the 'personal God' that most religions describe.

But why go with 'in other words', when we can look at his:

"It would not be difficult to come to an agreement as to what we understand by science. Science is the century-old endeavor to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thoroughgoing an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at the posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualization. But when asking myself what religion is I cannot think of the answer so easily. And even after finding an answer which may satisfy me at this particular moment, I still remain convinced that I can never under any circumstances bring together, even to a slight extent, the thoughts of all those who have given this question serious consideration.

At first, then, instead of asking what religion is I should prefer to ask what characterizes the aspirations of a person who gives me the impression of being religious: a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonalvalue. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this superpersonal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness, regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly, a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance and loftiness of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation. They exist with the same necessity and matter-of-factness as he himself. In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary. Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts. According to this interpretation the well-known conflicts between religion and science in the past must all be ascribed to a misapprehension of the situation which has been described.

For example, a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs. On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors.

Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Though I have asserted above that in truth a legitimate conflict between religion and science cannot exist, I must nevertheless qualify this assertion once again on an essential point, with reference to the actual content of historical religions. This qualification has to do with the concept of God. During the youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance, by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the fulfillment of their wishes.

Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him?

The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general validity is required--not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of those laws. He need only consider that planetary courses within the solar system may be calculated in advance with great exactitude on the basis of a limited number of simple laws. In a similar way, though not with the same precision, it is possible to calculate in advance the mode of operation of an electric motor, a transmission system, or of a wireless apparatus, even when dealing with a novel development.

To be sure, when the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us. One need only think of the weather, in which case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us. Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.

We have penetrated far less deeply into the regularities obtaining within the realm of living things, but deeply enough nevertheless to sense at least the rule of fixed necessity. One need only think of the systematic order in heredity, and in the effect of poisons, as for instance alcohol, on the behavior of organic beings. What is still lacking here is a grasp of connections of profound generality, but not a knowledge of order in itself.

The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

But I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task. (This thought is convincingly presented in Herbert Samuel's book, Belief and Action.) After religious teachers accomplish the refining process indicated they will surely recognize with joy that true religion has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge.

If it is one of the goals of religion to liberate mankind as far as possible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientific reasoning can aid religion in yet another sense. Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements. It is in this striving after the rational unification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes, even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a prey to illusions. But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain is moved by profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far-reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious, in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. In this sense I believe that the priest must become a teacher if he wishes to do justice to his lofty educational mission. "

Freeman Hunt said...

So if you've been using Einstein in your pro-God arguments..

Haven't been.

But if anyone has been looking to Einstein as a model of good living, they should probably revise.

Brilliant people are not, by virtue of their brilliance, role models.

William said...

Our wish to believe in God is in fact a proof of the existence of God. We get thirsty and there is such a thing as water. We get hungry and there is such a thing as food. We yearn to fly and, in the fullness of time, there are such things as discount flights to the Bahamas. I don't know if God exists as we imagine him, but the fact that we imagine him is a form of existence. Hegel said that God is mankind seeking conciousness. Whatever. I'll be dead before Hannah Montana has her first wrinkle. I kind of hope that some Buddha entity exists and a get two or three more chances to get it right.

Paddy O. said...

"But God came first."

Absolutely.

And last.

Alpha and Omega.

Pogo said...

There is a sad preachiness, a protesting too muchness in the recent atheism fad. No longer content to coexist, it has become full of destructive envy, evangelizing its world view by denigrating those who dare disagree.

It bothered me quite a bit, but only briefly.

They have been unable to answer the first question I posed, and equally unable to answer a second query.
Without God, why be good?
Without God, how to explain the innate belief in justice and fairness?


"It's not fair" is one of our very first phrases. Why? What is more fair than dog eat dog, the law of club and fang, than survival of the fittest? Lions are very fair to wildebeest. They kill the weakest ones. How is man any different?

Original Mike said...

Without God, why be good?
Without God, how to explain the innate belief in justice and fairness?


Not this again? [sigh]

Sheepman said...

Without God, why be good?
For purely selfish reasons. It improves the quality of my life to do so.

Without God, how to explain the innate belief in justice and fairness?
No one knows anything for sure. It could be a benevolent God or it could be that a belief in justice is a product of evolution. From my perspective things are what they are and you do what you have to do.

Roger J. said...

What Original Mike said--Einstein adds little other than name recognition to what is probably the greatest philosophical question in human history. I am more interested at this point in who is going to be the next American Idol--the God thing has been done to death--at which time, BTW, we will all find out who was right and who was wrong.

Original Mike said...

at which time, BTW, we will all find out who was right and who was wrong.

Actually, I don't expect to find out, which is kind of a bummer. But on the bright side, I'll never know it!

Pogo said...

it could be that a belief in justice is a product of evolution
I disagree. The evidence in evolution is instead for amorality. In evolution, sociopaths are the most fit human beings.

So why do we call it a pathology?


Re Not this again? [sigh]
Ah, well, when the atheists stop their electioneering, I'll stop the pushback.

the God thing has been done to death
Then tell Hitchens et al to cease the production line.

SteveR said...

Roger, its been said that if you're going to be wrong, eternity is a long time to reflect upon it.

Sheepman said...

I disagree. The evidence in evolution is instead for amorality. In evolution, sociopaths are the most fit human beings.
Some would disagree and argue that altruism is a product of evolution. Of course if you are clever enough you can show that anything is is a product of evolution, or of God for that matter.

Either way, we are here and should try to make the most of it.

Original Mike said...

The evidence in evolution is instead for amorality.

I wouldn't be so sure. This isn't my field, but I've read of more than one behavioral study which claims evidence that empathy has survival advantages.

Roger J. said...

I guess this topic is of interest to me because the question of the existence of God has produced probably more literature (other than, perhaps, the guilt of Alger Hiss) than any other philosophical topic. If a person has reached his own conclusion by now, and a letter from Albert Eistein is the deciding factor, then I feel rather sorry for that individual.

tituseverythingscomingup roses said...

My second pinching a loaf today was a huge success.

It started with two thunderous farts, followed by a flowing of multiple snakelike turds, and then more thunderous farts, and finally some smaller little pebble like turds followed up by a strong white piss.

Thank you.

SteveR said...

Roger, I thought it was Cheney-Halliburton-Iraq but Alger Hiss may be right.

jimbino said...

Pogo,

It is not true that atheism is a "fad." Every child is born an atheist and it will always be so. It is the end to brainwashing of young minds that the "new atheists" may well bring about.

What we need are more children who educate themselves to the point that they can declare to their parents, at age 15, as Einstein did, "I don't want to be a German, don't want to be a Jew, don't want to get 'educated' in your German school system."

Paddy O. said...

It is not true that atheism is a "fad." Every child is born an atheist and it will always be so. It is the end to brainwashing of young minds that the "new atheists" may well bring about.

ha! Never worked around children, have you?

Problem, of course, is that with the new atheism, these kinds of specious arguments are driving people who study and research into religion, not away from it. Except, the kind of thoughtless lemmings that like to go the direction of the latest fads.

Revenant said...

In other words, I don't think Einstein would approve of the way his words are commonly used in pro-God arguments, and I also think he would not approve of the way his words are used in anti-God arguments. In sum, it looks to me like he believed in God, just not what he described as the 'personal God' that most religions describe.

Einstein felt there was a greater meaning to the universe. That's the thing he occasionally called "God". But he didn't believe in a God that had any interaction with the universe, any moral beliefs, any plans, any of that. He didn't even rise to the Deist level of belief in an uninvolved creator deity, since the Deists believed that there WERE moral rules passed down by God. Functionally speaking, his beliefs were basically the same as that of atheism, in that there wasn't a religion on Earth whose gods he believed in. That's what this quote gets at. It is worth remembering that the idea of God is used metaphorically even by people who don't believe in the divine. That's the sense in which Einstein used it.

That being said, theists' attempts to use Einstein's supposed belief in God to "prove" God's existence have always been fallacious; that's a classic argument from authority fallacy. That goes both ways, of course -- the fact that Einstein believed the Christian God didn't exist doesn't prove anything, either.

Revenant said...

Problem, of course, is that with the new atheism, these kinds of specious arguments are driving people who study and research into religion, not away from it.

Membership in organized religion has been declining in the west -- even in America -- for decades. If atheism is driving people TO religion, one has to wonder how fast the churches would be dying if atheists weren't around. :)

Revenant said...

There is a sad preachiness, a protesting too muchness in the recent atheism fad. No longer content to coexist

Um, Pogo... Christianity has been using governments and the law to suppress atheism for approximately 1650 of the last 1700 years. Up until a generation or two ago, atheists focused not so much on coexistence as on not being fired, jailed, or otherwise vilified for their beliefs. On survival, basically.

It is also hypocritical to condemn atheists for not settling for "coexistence" when ending atheism remains a goal of all the major religions in the United States. Why should be be passive when you aren't? That's a recipe for failure.

Paddy O. said...

If atheism is driving people TO religion, one has to wonder how fast the churches would be dying if atheists weren't around.

Extremely fast! Look at Europe with all its state churches.

And China. All that official atheism is making for all kinds of religious growth.

Of course, not too many folks of any kind research and study. So it's not really a big difference. The problem with religion isn't atheism. That's taking too much credit. It's the folks who are lulled into not caring at all about religion.

jimbino said...

Paddy-O,

I have indeed worked around a lot of children.

I have hypnotized hundreds of adults and can hypnotize most any sentient child, German or chicken.

I think that's the point: Children are born atheist and become religions only through brainwashing and "education."

Revenant said...

Extremely fast! Look at Europe with all its state churches.

Huh? Atheism is MUCH more common in Europe than it is here. If atheism makes churches stronger, why are the state churches in such rotten shape?

And China. All that official atheism is making for all kinds of religious growth.

Obviously when you're starting from a position of "no religion", religious sentiment has nowhere to go but up. :)

Of course, not too many folks of any kind research and study.

Not too many people research and study religion, you mean. Plenty of people research and study real stuff.

Paddy O. said...

Children are born atheist and become religions only through brainwashing and "education."

Oh, the evidence is you're a hypnotist. Well then...

I know a significant amount of adults who grew up with no religious "brainwashing" and yet felt a stirring to go towards God.

C.S. Lewis, mentioned above, talks about that as part of his own experience.

Brainwashing, unfortunately, goes both ways. Kids like to be rebellious.

But if it makes you feel all superior and free like to call thoughtful religious belief brainwashing then that's fine with me. Creationists like to use those kinds of dismissive arguments too. It's the approach fundamentalists have to take in order to secure their own faith, or lack of faith I guess.

If atheism makes churches stronger, why are the state churches in such rotten shape?

Because the state churches came first. Nothing drives a person to hate or dismiss God more than people using God for their own power.

Revenant said...

I know a significant amount of adults who grew up with no religious "brainwashing" and yet felt a stirring to go towards God.

"Brainwashing" is an overly dramatic way of putting it. It isn't brainwashing so much as social pressure. The society we live in overwhelmingly promotes the idea that there is a God. Say "there is no God" in a public place and you're guaranteed to start an argument. Say it as an elected official and you're almost guaranteed to lose the next election. Americans, for the most part, don't just believe in God -- they are, for the most part, entirely hostile to the notion that there isn't one. So even if you grow up non-religious, you're still surrounded by people for whom the existence of God is presumptively true and not really open for friendly debate.

Well, humans everywhere have a very strong tendency to try to fit in with their social group. If you are an atheist simply because you weren't taught any particular belief, odds are you're going to find yourself drifting into the orbit of whatever the prevailing religion is. That's why the "stirring towards God" is virtually always, in America, a stirring towards Christianity. In Turkey, it would be Islam; in a kibbutz, Judaism.

Pogo said...

Why should be be passive when you aren't? That's a recipe for failure.

I agree, but reject the atheist's current argument that veers away from their traditional stance (simply: there is no god), and has instead adopted a militant activist stance (theists are stoopid, evil, brain dead, etc.)

If your argument is that the same thing has happened to atheists, then why favor one over the other? Then it's all just about ox-goring.

Revenant said...

and has instead adopted a militant activist stance (theists are stoopid, evil, brain dead, etc

But Pogo, most Christians in America think atheists are stupid, evil, and/or ignorant -- and are generally not too shy about expressing that opinion. According to the last poll I saw, most Americans think you can't even be a moral person without believing in God. That's the big reason why some atheists, especially younger ones, are so vocally anti-Christian -- for their entire lives, Christians have been anti-them. Even the ones who aren't overtly hostile to atheists still view atheists as in need of conversion. It is incredibly irritating, and it is no surprise that some atheists tend to view Christians as "the enemy".

Atheists are, for the most part, people who don't give a rat's ass about religion at all, and would be happier if the subject never came up. It is sort of like not being a baseball fan... and being constantly harassed to watch and enjoy the game. After a while, you switch from not caring about baseball to actively hating the game. Not because of baseball, but because of its annoying fans.

Pogo said...

It is sort of like not being a baseball fan...
Agreed, and well-put.
The problem comes when discussing morality in the public sphere, such as the death penalty. Hard to hide the God/No God issue then.

But I am no evangelist. No street corner soap boxes for me. Live and let live is OK by me.

jimbino said...

Revenant,

I like your atheist as baseball-non-fan analogy, but I have to point out that being a non-fan can get you killed in Muslim countries and seriously abused in supposedly free countries like Amerika.

It would be more apt to compare the atheist to a person like George Washington Carver or Sandra Day O'Connor. You are the odd-man out in the persecuting crowd, and they make you pledge allegiance to God-patriotism, endure religious "moments of silence" and drink from separate drinking fountains.

Revenant said...

I have to point out that being a non-fan can get you killed in Muslim countries and seriously abused in supposedly free countries like Amerika.

I'm marking you down one letter grade for the use of "Amerika" in a complete sentence.

As for the fact that Muslims murder atheists -- yeah, I know. But that wasn't relevant to the points I was making, which dealt with the behavior of atheists in civilized nations.

Finally, the better parallel for atheists isn't to blacks or women, but to homosexuals. Unlike race or gender, a lack of religious belief is easily concealed.

Michael_H said...

Einstein now knows whether God exists.

The rest of us can debate and reason until our end, at which time we will have the answer.

I'd rather bet on the existence of something that might not be than bet against the existence of something that might be.

Belief in a just, merciful, compassionate and redemptive God brings me comfort and peace.

Freeman Hunt said...

You are the odd-man out in the persecuting crowd, and they make you pledge allegiance to God-patriotism, endure religious "moments of silence" and drink from separate drinking fountains.

Oh please. I was an atheist for a great part of my life in an extremely evangelical environment. Being an atheist does not make one an outcast, and in certain circles it will enhance your reputation. Even theists will often regard you as somehow especially intelligent or deep-thinking just for being an atheist.

I'm not saying that there aren't people who will disagree and want to argue about it, but you won't have people sneering down their noses at you any more than you would as a theist.

jimbino said...

Very wrong, Revenant,

Homosexuals can maintain, while hiding, their lifestyles by kissing and marrying girls (or, in the case of lesbians, guys); the atheist can't fake belief without compromising his very visceral (non-)beliefs. Witness all the early Christians who were fed to lions and worse for that very reason.

But we atheists are not wimps or defenseless Christians; we make up the overwhelming majority of nuclear physicists and we sure won't roll over and play dead for the theists!

jimbino said...

Freeman Hunt,

You are the exception: most atheists, as Dawkins points out, are more than atheists. In addition to the God-bullshit, they don't put up with bullshit of any kind. That's why he invented the term "bright" to describe us.

Einstein was a perfect example of that: he railed against German (and any other) patriotism. Would he have stood for a God-pledge of allegiance as atheist kids are daily forced to do in Amerika? He told his parents at age 15 that he was fed up with the German educational system on account of its less serious authoritarian abuses, then got the hell out of Germany and became a Swiss citizen.

Lots of us physicists are facing similar choices and, rumor has it, some are now actively studying Farsi and Mandarin.

Revenant said...

Homosexuals can maintain, while hiding, their lifestyles by kissing and marrying girls (or, in the case of lesbians, guys); the atheist can't fake belief without compromising his very visceral (non-)beliefs.

So a gay man marrying a woman is, in your opinion, less of a compromise than an atheist pretending to believe in God?

I really don't know what to say to that. That's just plain nuts, in my opinion.

Revenant said...

That's why he invented the term "bright" to describe us.

And there's some hope of us living down the embarrassment of that, if people would only stop mentioning it. :)

jimbino said...

Revenant:

Get real--marriage has had nothing to do with love throughout almost the entire course of human existence. Alexander the Great figured that out and so did the Biblical Patriarchs.

Where have you been?

Revenant said...

Alexander the Great figured that out and so did the Biblical Patriarchs. Where have you been?

Living in the 21st century, where marriage is virtually always about love.

blake said...

Every child is born an atheist and it will always be so.

Huh. In my experience, every kid is born a nudist. Though I suppose that's not relevant. More a propos is that they all seem to be animist.

I have never met a 2-5 year old child (even one who has been heavily indoctrinated against it) who did not attribute a spirit to just about everything he put his attention on. Generally, they also feel that they can communicate with the thing in question, and that the thing in question as the same affinity for them that they do for it.

It's part of why you have to watch kids around dogs or other animals. They like the animal therefore, they believe, the animal likes them.

God? God tends to be mom and dad.

Kids are born with a variety of beliefs (or develop them quickly) long before adults really have a chance.

jimbino said...

Speaking of Albert Einstein, see here his loving demands in writing of his wife Mileva giving the conditions under which he would agree to continue to live with her in Berlin:

A. You will see to it that:
1. My clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. I will be served three meals regularly in my room;
3. My bedroom and study are kept tidy, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will relinquish all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Particularly, you will forgo my:
1. Staying at home with you;
2. Going out and traveling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
1. You will not expect any tenderness from me, nor will you offer any suggestions to me;
2. You will stop talking to me about something if I request it;
3. You will leave my bedroom or study without any back talk if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or

blake said...

That's why he invented the term "bright" to describe us.

No, he co-opted the term "bright" because he's got the same need for approval that most people have, and atheists--well, okay, for the most part, atheists that I've known have been properly embarrassed by the designation.

But the need to be pandered to doesn't end outside the church, as any of our politicians will testify.

Freeman Hunt said...

You are the exception: most atheists, as Dawkins points out, are more than atheists. In addition to the God-bullshit, they don't put up with bullshit of any kind.

Is this to imply that I "put up with bullshit?" Ha ha ha.

We've obviously never met in person.

Revenant said...

Not to mention that there are Communist atheists, libertarian atheists, Republican atheists, and Democratic atheists -- so it is demonstrably true that at least SOME of us must be not merely putting up with bullshit, but actively promoting it. :)

EnigmatiCore said...

"that there wasn't a religion on Earth whose gods he believed in" does not imply or demand or mean that "his beliefs were basically the same as that of atheism".

Thinking that all the religions misunderstand the nature of God is not the same as believing there is no God. Functionally speaking or not.

Revenant said...

"that there wasn't a religion on Earth whose gods he believed in" does not imply or demand or mean that "his beliefs were basically the same as that of atheism".

I disagree. An atheist is a person who doesn't believe in gods, and the word god has generally accepted definitions -- all of which describe a being, beings, or force which Einstein believed did not exist. That is why his beliefs amounted to atheism: by the definitions society uses to describe gods, Einstein did not believe in gods. That makes him an atheist.

Revenant said...

Let me illustrate a little better what I mean:

Take a person, like me, who has no belief whatsoever in any god you might care to mention. I.e., an atheist. Now suppose that I say to you, "Oh, I define 'god' as 'ordinary housecat'. So of course I believe in gods. They're all over the place. They're hell on the local squirrel population." Am I now not an atheist, because I believe housecats exist?

EnigmatiCore said...

Sorry, but your example didn't really clarify your point to me at all. I don't follow what you were trying to get at.

So I will try to explain what I was getting at instead, to try and bridge the gap. One can agree with atheists that none of the religions get the nature of God correct without agreeing with atheists that religion is foolish (which most atheists do believe) and without agreeing with atheists that there is no God.

I guess what I am saying is that if you define the significant characteristic of atheists being a disbelief in all religions, then I think it is hard to claim Einstein as a fellow traveler, since he speaks of the necessity of religion, and how it complements science. If you define the significant characteristic of atheists being a disbelief in a 'personal God', then by that definition Einstein would clearly be a fellow.

I don't think the answer is clear-cut.

blake said...

No, Rev, but let's say the definitions of "cat" include "acting nasty", "being promiscuous" and "torturing the helpless" (i.e., "playing cat-and-mouse") and you don't believe in any of THOSE things.

Do you then not believe in cats?

:-)

Revenant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

Sorry, but your example didn't really clarify your point to me at all. I don't follow what you were trying to get at.

What I'm getting at is that Einstein didn't believe in God. He believed in a vague sort of principle that he occasionally called "god" but which other people would not. That's why I say he was effectively an atheist -- you can't reasonably be said to believe in God if the only person who accepts your definition of "God" is you. That's the cat example -- calling a cat a god doesn't make an atheist into a theist.

I think it is hard to claim Einstein as a fellow traveler, since he speaks of the necessity of religion

You don't have to believe in any religions to see them as necessary. Many atheists consider religion to be a useful lie, encouraging people who would not behave morally of their own free will to do so out of fear of divine punishment or desire for divine reward. It probably wouldn't have survived this long if it didn't have SOME useful social function, after all.

And blake, I'm afraid I didn't get your joke. :)

blake said...

What I'm getting at is that Einstein didn't believe in God. He believed in a vague sort of principle that he occasionally called "god" but which other people would not. That's why I say he was effectively an atheist.

My point only being that if this is the most accurate definition of "cat" (or God), he's less an atheist than anyone.

I read a self-proclaimed atheist on the net who answered the question "How do you know God doesn't exist?" with "He told me." Although he saw the humor in that, he was also quite serious.

It seems to me that a being that created the universe wouldn't necessarily be part of it, and therefore wouldn't, in fact, "exist" (as we generally use the word).

If you believe in that being, are you an atheist? I'd say not.

Revenant said...

My point only being that if this is the most accurate definition of "cat" (or God), he's less an atheist than anyone.

The most accurate definition of "God" is the one most widely accepted by people. That's what a definition *is*: "the formal statement of the meaning of a word". An atheist is a person who doesn't believe in "gods" as that concept is defined by society, not as that concept is defined by whoever wants to make something up and slap the word "god" on it. Otherwise it just gets ridiculous. Like I said, I can define "god" as "cat". Now not only are there no atheists (since everyone believes cats exist), but Christianity and monotheism in general are objectively wrong -- it is a proven fact that there are many gods.

It seems to me that a being that created the universe wouldn't necessarily be part of it, and therefore wouldn't, in fact, "exist" (as we generally use the word).

If you define the universe as "everything which exists" then it is a tautology that there is nothing outside of it. If you posit that a creator would have to be outside of the universe, the direct inference is that there is no creator. In order to posit a creator outside of the universe, you must first posit the existence of an "outside of the universe" in which things other than the universe itself exist.

So if you choose to posit that the universe was created by a deity which doesn't exist you aren't a theist OR an atheist. You're just making some basic mistakes in formal logic.

Nihimon said...

“In the 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 makes me really angry is that they quote me for support of such views.” (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000)

Nihimon said...

Lest anyone think I ignored the last line of Ann's post, I would add that I expect Einstein would have been equally frustrated if people quoted him in support of their pro-God arguments...

blake said...

This is too long to discuss here.

I would submit, in brief, that if God created the universe, he could hardly be of the universe. That suggests a location that isn't the universe.

For the definitions of "exist" that require location in this universe's time and space (most of them), God does not. Or rather, God may or may not. (The Hindus have the concept of the avatar, in which an aspect of God takes material form, not dissimilar to how the Christians describe Christ.)