Recently I saw a Christian catechism book which described Albert Einstein as a firm believer in God. Nothing is farther from the truth.
In his biography Einstein clearly states that his “deep religiousness” came to “an abrupt end” at the age of twelve when he realised that established authorities like the state and religions were deceiving people with “lies”. As an adolescent Einstein developed a “mistrust of every kind of authority” because he could see through the falsehood that upheld the authorities.
Yet Einstein was religious in the sense that he saw sanctity in the universe. “I believe in Spinoza’s* God,” declared Einstein, “who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and doings of mankind.” Answering a scientist who questioned Einstein’s reported religious faith, Einstein wrote, “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.”
He was awestruck by the marvel that the universe is. That awe was his religion. It was a humble acceptance of man’s own smallness before the miracle that the cosmos is. “Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations,” he said. Yes, he accepted the mysterious order in the universe. But not a creator of that order.
There were occasions when Einstein spoke of himself as religious. But his religion was not the kind of the ordinary mortals. “The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical,” he said. Mysticism is the ability to “stand rapt in awe”. Einstein was a mystic insofar as his religion was concerned. “To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the centre of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men.”
Religion has little to do with god(s). It is about the experience of the awe which makes us humble and compassionate. Instead of promoting worship of god(s), genuine religion will cultivate “the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.”
If we understand Einstein’s views on god and religion and internalise them properly, we will not only be better human beings but also bring about the kingdom of heaven here on our planet itself.
* Read my story on Spinoza: The Accursed
PS. All quotes are from Einstein’s own writings.