May 13th, 2008

agent

The day Einstein put on his cranky pants

As the 20th century icon of 'the scientist', Einstein gets batted around from time to time in the culture wars. In particular, his ambiguous quotes about god and religion. Even during his lifetime, he took some pains to set the record straight:

"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".

Elsewhere, Einstein expressed great admiration for Spinoza's brand of pantheism: "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."

But recently, a letter written by Einstein has come onto the auction block. I assume it has been authenticated by experts, but even I have to wonder about it, considering how gently he usually expressed his religious dissent. From the letter:

"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."

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions ... "

Hey, Al, what do you really think?