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Einstein Letter Goes on Sale 615

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-what-a-smart-guy-says dept.
ErkDemon writes "For any Slashdotters who want a piece of frameable Einstein memorabilia, a letter from A.E. to Eric Gutkind goes on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions today (May 15th). The content of the letter mostly deals with Einstein's views on religion. (Einstein pronounces himself rather unimpressed by the whole idea and rejects it as "childish.") The Guardian has printed a translated excerpt from the letter."
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Einstein Letter Goes on Sale

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  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyngyrz (762201) * on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:10AM (#23415302) Homepage Journal

    Reading it, you'd think this would stop the theists from repeatedly dragging the man unwillingly into their camp; but since this well-known remark...

    "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

    ...didn't do it... somehow, I doubt this new letter will, either, clear as it may be.

    • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:18AM (#23415324) Homepage

      Certainly theists trying to ascribe some form of theism to Einstein are mistaken. However, the atheists can be just as bad. I have already seen in Internet forums that atheists are using this newly found statement of Einstein to boost their cause, arguing along the lines of "Einstein was a genius, and he didn't believe in God, so clearly rejecting the existence of God is the smart thing to do." Einstein, though a brilliant physicist, was not trained in the philosophy of religion. It's a pity that when atheists could refer to eminent philosophers of religion like Mackie in his The Miracle of Theism [amazon.com] (Oxford University Press, 1983) or (pre-conversion) Flew as examples of how to argue well against theism, they instead use completely inappropriate figures like Einstein.

      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by kestasjk (933987) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:30AM (#23415372) Homepage
        Why do you need to be a "philosopher of religion" to have a say on whether God exists? Surely a physicist has as much to say on what's real as anyone?
        • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:41AM (#23415428)
          Agreed. Thats like saying an astronomer's opinion means nothing regarding astrology. If you're studying "the philosophy of religion", you've already decided on a camp.
          • Re:Well... (Score:5, Funny)

            by Fred_A (10934) <fred&fredshome,org> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:22AM (#23415598) Homepage
            And unless you *also* have a degree in Chocolate Philosophy, don't even think of discussing Easter !
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              And unless you *also* have a degree in Chocolate Philosophy

              I don't need a fancy-schmancy degree, I have the real world experience of having a sweet tooth the size of Alaska!
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)
            And it doesn't. Validity of 90% of the claims of astrology should be "verified" (ahem) by biologists.

            Are people born under a white moon more likely to be X or Y ? That's not something astronomy confronts itself with. At best it answers the question when a white moon occurs. Astrology uses astronomy as a tool, to make their calendars and doesn't dispute the validity of it. The science they dispute the validity of is (mostly) biology and economics.

            You will find most idiotic groupings disputing biology and eco
            • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:39AM (#23415668)
              the evidence that Jesus walked over water is exactly as strong as the evidence Julius Caesar conquered Gaul

              In case (a) we have some guy telling a story of how Jesus walked on water. In case (b) we have some guy telling a story of how Caesar conquered Gaul, plus coins found throughout France showing Caesar's image, plus Roman and Gaulish weapons of the period found throughout France, plus centuries of evidence in writing and in artefacts of continuous Roman occupation of Gaul which coincidentally begin at the time of Caesar.

              And that's before we discuss the relative plausibility of the two written accounts we began with. One describes a man doing something exotically impossible, while the other describes a man doing something we know perfectly well that men do from time to time. Does that not make one far more likely to be a fiction than the other?

            • Re:Well... (Score:4, Funny)

              by aadvancedGIR (959466) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @08:07AM (#23416172)
              "the evidence that Jesus walked over water is exactly as strong as the evidence Julius Caesar conquered Gaul"

              That would explain why the live-size Julius Caesar brass bust recently discovered in the south of France was underwater.
            • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by martinmcc (214402) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @08:22AM (#23416298) Homepage
              Science can easily disprove a Christian-style religion, it is a trivial task to be done. The Christian religion believes that the bible in the inerrant word of their god. The bible is full of in-factualities and inconstancies, therefore the Christian religion is proved wrong. Now, many of the slightly more enlightened followers realise this, but then get scared, so they redefine their religion to cater for it, picking and choosing what passages are what god meant, and which are merely popped in for the fun of it. But again, many claims can be tested. Do you believe praying can have a positive outcome in medical cases? Then there should be a statistical difference between the mortality of praying Christians and non-praying. There isn't*, so again, it is proved wrong.

              What science cannot disprove is a story that is redefined every time it is questioned, and fobs most stuff of to 'the mystery'. But anyone who can conduct some honest self questioning does not need science to prove/disprove it.

              *I saw a study of it somewhere previously, but can't find the link, so don't take my word for it, check it out if you want to repeat it :)

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by MightyYar (622222)

                The Christian religion believes that the bible in the inerrant word of their god.

                The largest sect, the Catholic Church, believes no such thing. They fully understand that the bible was written and translated by men. They do believe that it was divinely inspired.

                Most Christian sects share this belief - fundamentalists are more of the exception than the rule.

                It is impossible for science to "disprove" anything about the supernatural world, as science only seeks to explain our natural world. As you state, though, science is well-equipped to disprove specific claims about the effects of rel

              • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

                by cmaurand (768570) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:09AM (#23417558)
                Religion is a leap of faith. I'm a Christian and I don't believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. It was written by men before there was much of an understanding of science. It was written by men who were subject to the prejudices of the time. The Bible that we know of today was translated from Hebrew and Greek. Jesus spoke Aramaic, probably closer to Hebrew than Greek. Aramaik doesn't translate well to Greek, Hebrew doesn't translate well to either English or Greek and Greek doesn't translate that well to English. The Hebrew Bible refers to Moses parting the sea of reeds, not the red sea. The Hebrew Bible starts with "When God began creating..." not "In the beginning..." I could go on, but you get my drift. Look up a couple of books by Bishop (Episcopal) Shelby Spong. You'd all be very impressed. You're right the Bible is full of inconsistencies because its not a historically accurate book. Its poorly translated and it is a collection from a lot of different authors that were chosen by committee.
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by hesiod (111176)
                > Then there should be a statistical difference between the mortality of praying Christians and non-praying. There isn't*, so again, it is proved wrong.

                Not exactly the same thing, but I saw a study that found an inverse correlation between a patient's hospital stay and the number of people who said they were praying for the person (unbeknownst to the patient, as I recall). I consider it likely that the people who said they were praying for the patient thought they were doing enough just by praying, whil
                • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @02:36PM (#23421980) Journal

                  Repeat after me: Correlation != causation.

                  It is equally likely, if not more likely, that the people for whom more prayers were said were more seriously ill or injured to begin with. You don't generally get hundreds of people praying for someone who had an appendectomy, but when somebody is in a car wreck or has pancreatic cancer, a lot of people are praying for that person. Unless the study focuses on a single cause of hospitalization within a single age group, etc., there are too many other variables that would have more of an impact.

                  Further, there were studies done that have shown pretty conclusively that religious patients under the care of doctors who were dismissive of religion or ignored it entirely tended to fare worse than patients whose doctors and other care providers were willing to pray with them. Whether this is the power of prayer or the power of self suggestion is, of course, more a matter of philosophical debate rather than scientific debate.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Simon Brooke (45012)

              Why am I bothering to reply to something so obviously foolish....?

              Physics is the study of the physical universe. God, as an entity, doesn't exist in it. Either

              • there is nothing which exists outside the physical universe;
              • or else anything which exists outside the physical universe cannot interact in any way with anything which exists within it.
              • Personally I'm quite happy to accept that God is a real emergent property of human politics, and that, in that sense, God exists. By creating a God and persuadin

          • Don't you mean 'astronomy'? Astronomy is for people who study the science of the heavens, Astrology is the manipulation of bored housewives out of their money with 1-900 numbers and infomercials.

          • Re:Well... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Pietzki (1254878) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @07:50AM (#23416030)
            nope. I have studied a fair bit of philosophy of religion. And I came out way more balanced than before. I used to call myself an atheist. I believed in Kant's ideas of rationalism and that any form of theology is just the irrational 'opium for the masses'. After learning more about arguments for/against and generally more about religious ideas I've realised that agnosticism is a much more rational position on the whole idea of a god.
            • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @09:01AM (#23416680)
              Most people who I know who identify themselves as atheists, myself included are technically agnostic. Just like I'm agnostic that Santa exists. Which of course means that I realize I can't absolutely disprove it, and I'd believe if I saw compelling evidence, but for now I'm going to live my life like it's poppycock.
        • by elucido (870205)

          Physicists don't usually think about why things are, they only think about how things work.

          So a physicist can explain the math behind quantum entanglement but a physicist cannot explain why math is capable of solving all the mysteries of the universe.

          I'm getting a degree in philosophy so I can explain.

          And if you think you can challenge my philosophy go ahead.

          1. God is self awareness.

          2. When an entity, individual or species becomes more self aware, they become closer to God. As a result, their science gets b
          • Re:Absolutely not. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Thiez (1281866) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:19AM (#23415588)
            Explain this: if the universe cannot exist without self-awareness, and there was a time when the universe did not exist, then how did the universe came to be? One cannot be aware of oneself if one does not yet exist. Your philosophy sounds an aweful lot like that new-age crap, but let's assume you came up with this yourself. How did you come to this philosophy of yours?
            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by elucido (870205)

              PErhaps self awareness existed on the particle level before the 3d universe big banged itself into existence. Perhaps the existence of the 3d universe was a result of self awareness of the 2d.

              And since you believe all new age philosophy to be crap, you are probably a closed minded athiest so why does it matter how I came up with my opinion?

              But if you want me to make it simple, nothing exists outside of our minds. You only think that stuff exists but you have no way to actually prove anything exists prior to
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Fred_A (10934)

            1. God is self awareness.
            Huh ?
            Sorry, is that what they teach you at school ? To start with bland empty made up statements ?
            (not impressed)

            • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

              by elucido (870205)

              God is the mind of the universe. Is that better?

              Or, God is the collective mind of all beings in the universe. Is this more clear?

              And this mind intelligently designed the universe.
              • Re:Absolutely not. (Score:5, Insightful)

                by holloway (46404) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @07:09AM (#23415816) Homepage
                The arguments about the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Pink Unicorn and Russel's Teapot are all good responses to that. For example, I'm going to claim that pink unicorns did it and that you're wrong. How is your theory any better than mine? Where the evidence?

                In your response please do keep in mind that unicorns are pretty and they can do anything they want.

              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Dr_Barnowl (709838)

                Or, God is the collective mind of all beings in the universe. Is this more clear?

                No. It's still an empty assertion. You are claiming that self-awareness can exist independent of a material substrate ; you claim that the creation of the universe was the result of its perception by this ephemeral self-awareness (despite it not actually existing to be perceived). You then go on to claim that simple substrates (rocks, etc) are incapable of self-awareness, implying a correlation between substrate complexity and self-awareness ability and that zero matter has zero ability to be self-aware, w

          • Re:Absolutely not. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by drsmithy (35869) <drsmithy@nosPam.gmail.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:28AM (#23415630)

            1. God is self awareness.

            What is the basis for your core assumption ?

            This means, life is real if it's aware of itself. Humans and most mammals are real.

            Most mammals ? Which ones are unlucky enough not to make the cut ? Who decides ?

            Where do reptiles and fish fit into your scheme ? Or, aren't they cute enough to have feelings ? Do the poor old insects get a raw deal as well ?

            • Yeah, I agree with you. This guy is a fine example of why drugs are bad.

              I'd be willing to put a dollar down and say he's vegetarian too.
          • Re:Absolutely not. (Score:5, Insightful)

            by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:49AM (#23415726) Homepage
            I propose a simple experiment. You say the universe exists only inside one's awareness.

            In other words, you believe in magic. But we can easily experimentally verify this state of affairs.

            I put you inside a dark room, completely and utterly dark, so that most of your perception is disabled. What you don't know is that there is a hole in the floor of the room : but no worries, nobody is aware of the hole, and it isn't aware of itself : so you won't fall through it.

            Obviously if you do fall through : your "philosophy" is worthless and untrue : it failed a prediction.

            Your philosophy is different in nothing from any ancient belief that you would call utterly stupid. They believed something that could be trivially disproven and "the world is only what you think about it".

            Obviously it's not. The world exists independantly of you.
            • I propose a simple experiment. You say the universe exists only inside one's awareness.

              In other words, you believe in magic. But we can easily experimentally verify this state of affairs.

              I put you inside a dark room, completely and utterly dark, so that most of your perception is disabled. What you don't know is that there is a hole in the floor of the room : but no worries, nobody is aware of the hole, and it isn't aware of itself : so you won't fall through it.

              If the universe were not self aware, there would be no such thing as a hole. The example you give depends on some God like being creating a concept called a room, creating a hole, and putting us in that room. The simple fact is, if nothing ever perceives the hole then there simply is no such thing as a hole.

              The same argument athiests use to try and explain how there isnt a God because we can't collectively perceive of a God, is the exact argument I'm using to prove that nothing exists without being perceiv

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by croftj (2359)
          His opinion is just as relevant as anybody's This is because opinions like assholes are built in. With that said, why should his be any more relevant than anyone else's including mine? Discounting God, his only answer to "Where did it all come from?" is "I don't know".

          Until he died, assuming there's an afterlife, he was no closer to the answer than I. In either case, now that he's dead and whether there's an afterlife or not, he still can't tell us the answer.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by notany (528696) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:36AM (#23415406) Journal
        I think the following might be from the same letter. At least it's written in same year. Einstein used to describe himself non religious but spiritual (his meaning of spiritual don't include belief in supernatural).

        "The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. If there's any religion that would cope with scientific needs it will be Buddhism." - Albert Einstein, 1954,from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by holloway (46404)
          Except that Buddhists hate homosexuals and they frown upon people have sex during daylight hours [youtube.com]!

          And why does their spiritual leader claim this is the truth path? Faith. And that's the same problem -- how do you change someones mind that homosexual repression is equally as wrong as black repression, or that having sex in the day is acceptable? Sure we all have some beliefs in our lives but beliefs are generally unhelpful things, for adults.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by chrb (1083577)

            In his book "Beyond Dogma," he has written that "homosexuality, whether it is between men or between women, is not improper in itself. What is improper is the use of organs already defined as inappropriate for sexual contact." Tibetan Buddhism prohibits oral, manual and anal sex for everyone - both homosexuals and heterosexuals. However, these restrictions refer only to members of the Buddhist faith. 4 From "society's viewpoint," same-sex relations can be "of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless." He supp

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by notany (528696)
            Buddhism in Tibet is unholy merge between traditional BÃn religion, Tantric Hindu practices and Buddhism. So is almost any traditional Buddhist tradition in Asia.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by BytePusher (209961)

          (his meaning of spiritual don't include belief in supernatural).

          If this is true, why does he make a distinction between natural and spiritual? "Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity." It is clear here, that he sees that "the spiritual" is something other than "the natural." However, he believes that both can be experienced. If you mean by "super-natural" something that can not be experienced, then very few people believe in a superna


      • It's as simple as this. The universe is completely in our collective minds. When I say our, I do not mean humans, I mean the collective self awareness of the universe.

        That collective self awareness of the universe perceived the universe into existence. The big bang was the beginning of the universe(self awareness), becoming aware of itself.

        Existence is self awareness. That which is self aware is all that is real in the universe. Everything else is just junk information, noise. If all self awareness in the u
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by martin-boundary (547041) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:01AM (#23415506)

        Einstein, though a brilliant physicist, was not trained in the philosophy of religion.
        Sure, and brain surgeons are not trained in snake oil quackery. News at 11!
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:08AM (#23415528) Homepage
        not trained in the philosophy of religion
        So to be clear here, what you are saying is that you have to be trained in religion to have an opinion on it? Surely this rules out 99% of theists out there today, pretty odd that they can't have a view.

        The flip side of this is that no-one (theist or atheist) should have an opinion on science unless correctly trained. That no-one can have an opinion on the Law unless fully trained in the law and become a politician unless trained in politics.

        Its a bit childish to refer to Einstein and saying "yeah see, proves it" but using his arguments (that religion is not rational for instance) certainly shouldn't be ruled out just because he was only a Nobel Prize winning physicist who revolutionised mankind's view of the universe. Philosophy of religion is the study of only a limited domain and it is a domain that has been reduced over the centuries by science, the best way to understand why religion is bunk is to read science books because they explain the universe much more effectively than "man with beard did it".

        Enlightenment is the antidote to religion, and you don't get much more enlightened than Einstein.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by CRCulver (715279)

          So to be clear here, what you are saying is that you have to be trained in religion to have an opinion on it?

          If you are going to be cited as an authority, it helps to be someone who has thought long and hard about one's position, and who is aware of common arguments for and against.

          • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @07:15AM (#23415844) Homepage
            What makes you think that Einstein didn't think long and hard about his position? Given the number of people who tried to claim him as a theist and his rebuttals (including this letter) he comes across as someone who is extremely well read on the subject and has a huge advantage over those who limit themselves to a philosophical discussion on religion. Religion is not a testable scientific proposition and Einstein was (at the time) the man who saw further than all others on how the Universe operated and thus had greater insight about the universe around us than anyone who simply studied religion.

            To imply that Einstein didn't think about his position and wasn't well read on the subject certainly appears to go against both his education and background as well as the writings and arguments he made on the topic.

            If I want to know what is wrong with me, I ask a doctor not someone who studies the philosophy of illness, if I want to know what governs the universe then I'll ask a scientist over people who study the philosophy of religion. Einstein is an authority on what makes the universe tick, much more so than people who study religion.

            So maybe the question is what authority do philosophers of religion have when talking about what created and governs the universe?
             
      • The mind of God (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TapeCutter (624760) *
        "Einstein, though a brilliant physicist, was not trained in the philosophy of religion."

        And yet 50+ yrs after his death, religious philosophers, fellow scientists, and popular writers are all trying to understand what he meant by the phrase "The mind of God". So I hardly think "http://www.einstein-website.de/z_biography/credo.html">the personal philosophy of one of the great thinkers of the 20th century can be dismissed as inappropriate.

        However I do agree with the rest of your post it's more entert
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Informative)

        by aywwts4 (610966) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:21AM (#23415592)
        Dawkins had a good passage in his latest book for that theory, that all religious matters must yield to "an expert of theism trained in the philosophy of religion"

        "...Other Catholic clergymen chimed in: 'There is no other God but a personal God . . . Einstein does not know what he is talking about. He is all wrong. Some men think that because they have achieved a high degree of learning in some field, they are qualified to express opinions in all.' The notion that religion is a proper field, in which one might claim expertise, is one that should not go unquestioned. That clergyman presumably would not have deferred to the expertise of a claimed 'fairyologist' on the exact shape and colour of fairy wings. Both he and the bishop thought that Einstein, being theologically untrained, had misunderstood the nature of God. On the contrary, Einstein understood very well exactly what he was denying. "
      • I've never seen/heard/read an atheist say that I should be an atheist because Einstien didn't believe in God. I have, on the other hand, had several evangelicals claim that Einstein believed in God, and then ask me "Do you think you're smarter than Einstein?" After I explained that the God Einstein believed in was pantheistic and a repudiation of their own beliefs, I asked THEM "Do you think you're smarter than Einstein?"

        I openly asked them if they still find the logic persuasive, but intellectual inte

    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:21AM (#23415336) Journal
      He also said:

      I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.
      My own interpretation of that is, he appreciates the beauty and intelligence of how the world is put together, almost reveres its symmetry -- but certainly doesn't believe that there's a white-bearded man in the sky. The idea is that one can have an almost religious experience in the form of an equation, but the "I do not believe in a personal God" says that he doesn't believe praying is going to do any good -- if God is Nature, then Nature certainly doesn't care about your personal problems.

      Oh, that, and does anyone want to date these quotes? It seems very likely that his beliefs changed; after all, how many of us were born or raised atheist? It seems mostly something that you come to on your own -- having once believed, you start to have doubts, which eventually turn into disbelief.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tom (822) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:59AM (#23415502) Homepage Journal

        having once believed, you start to have doubts, which eventually turn into disbelief.
        That's a very friendly way of putting it, on course with what the various religions bash into our heads: That not believing in their bullshit is a kind of "fall from grace", that it has to do with "doubt" and "disbelief".

        I'm not sorry, and I'm not buying it. You don't call the sane people "dis-paranoid", or "un-shizophrenic".

        We don't "doubt". I "doubt" the christian god about as much as I "doubt" the flying spagetti monster, invisible pink elephants and moon-cheese. It's not a matter of "doubt", which is a negatively-loaded word and implies that there is some truth that could be believed. But in fact there's only a load of made-up bullshit. Not believing every shit someone came up with while on drugs isn't properly expressed with the word "doubt", and using that word indicates a tendency already.
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Adhemar (679794) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:03AM (#23415514)

        Spinoza didn't believe in a personal God either. In Ethica, his philosophical masterpiece, Spinoza says that God is "immanent" in nature, not some supernatural entity beyond the world, interfering or having feelings.

        Spinoza's concept of Deus sive natura (the God from nature) does not fit in the concept that most people mean when they speak of God. Schopenhauer wrote that because Spinoza called the substance God, he created his own problem of people misunderstanding him. Schopenhauer thinks Spinoza used the term God to make his ideas less objectionable. If only Spinoza choose to call his God-concept by any other name, his ideas would be understood more frequently for what they are: atheism in awe for the Beauty of Nature and the Universe; not theism, or pantheism, etc.

        Einstein has the same problem: he stated many times not to believe in a personal God; the quote from this letter is just one quote among many others, many times equally clear as in this letter. But because Einstein, like Spinoza, did use the term God (for instance in the dice comment), even if it meant something that falls outside of most people's definition of God, theists like to talk about him as if he were one of their own.

        In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins explains why Einstein's God-quotes do not contradict his unbelief.

        This is a quote from Albert Einstein, which summarises his position best (in my opinion):

        I am a deeply religious nonbeliever. This is a somewhat new kind of religion. I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naive.
      • by Auckerman (223266)
        If you read the translation of letter that's being sold, you can see a little further into his views of religion and Spinoza, more specifically:

        "As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew the priviliege of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision, probably as the first one.

        A belief in a world with natural and supernatural causes is on par with merely accepting supernatural cause
      • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @06:32AM (#23415646)
        how many of us were born or raised atheist?

        Er... all of us were born atheist. Many of us were later taught theism, and then some of us still later rejected that. Nobody is born believing in God, any more than they are born believing in Father Christmas.

    • Reading it, you'd think this would stop the theists from repeatedly dragging the man unwillingly into their camp; but since this well-known remark...

      "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

      ...didn't do it... somehow, I doubt this new letter will, either, clear as it may be.

      All it says is that Einstein does not believe in a personal God. The God in the bible is a personal God that cares about the fate of humanity.

      I don't believe in a personal God either, but I do believe in a God. Einstein also said that God does not play dice with the universe. If the universe is not random, there must be a God.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bob_Sheep (988029)
      I'm surprised no one else has posted this, so here is the actual auction listing: http://www.bloomsburyauctions.com/detail/649/303.0 [bloomsburyauctions.com]
  • by symes (835608) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:48AM (#23415450) Journal
    Einstein's letter raises another issue - do scientists, the great, good and so forth still write letters? My feelings are that people nowadays just type out emails or long journal articles. The letter writing industry seems to have disappeared - which would be a terrible shame. Letters written by big historical figures like Einstein provide important insights into their thinking that other forms of communication seem to lack.
  • Israel (Score:2, Insightful)

    by SimonGhent (57578)

    I believe in Spinoza's God, Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.


    This probably goes a fair way to explaining why he turned down the offer to be the second president of Israel. To do that job I would suggest that a belief in a god who does concern himself with the fate and the doings of mankind is something of a prerequisite.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Was it at the time ? He refused to acknowledge the "chosen people" dogma but identified with Jewish culture. There is no reason he would not have been a good president. Dismissing a humanist scientific genius because he is not religious seems one of the worst reason I can think of.
      • by SimonGhent (57578)
        Apologies, I was in no way dismissing him.

        I agree, he would probably have been an excellent president, but at the time (1950's) I think his lack of agreement with the Jewish religion's beliefs would have been a major obstacle for him and for the people.
  • In the translation: "In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew."

    Is "man" here meaning "adult male human", or just "human"? Is there a German speaker with access to the original text who can clarify this?
  • As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power

    Did he foresee their actions in Gaza and the West Bank when they did get power!
  • For some reasons, I think it would be very appropriate for this letter to end in the ownership of Richard Dawkins [wikipedia.org].

    Can you think of anybody else who you'd like to end up with this letter?

    (I won't go as far as to propose a fund to buy the letter for these people)
  • Am I the only one in deep bewilderment why this even makes it to the /.?

    It is just a letter by one of the scientists. Well, renowned scientists in the field of photoeffect (just kidding), but hardly a great philosopher or metaphysicist or actually anyone who's opinion on religion should matter for the rest of the mankind who consider religious experience to be outside of realm of science and deeply personal experience.

    Who cares what Einstein says about religion? Did he "disprove" religion?
    • Re:amused (Score:4, Insightful)

      by meringuoid (568297) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @07:45AM (#23416010)
      hardly a great philosopher or metaphysicist or actually anyone who's opinion on religion should matter for the rest of the mankind who consider religious experience to be outside of realm of science and deeply personal experience.

      No? Einstein discovered some of the most important principles upon which the Universe is built; he revealed the strange nature of space and time and how the two are related, the equivalence of solid material things and abstract energy, the connection between the propagation of light and the principle of causality itself.

      If there exists a creator, then Einstein's study of the creation has told us more about that creator than any prophet ever has.

  • by east coast (590680) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @09:45AM (#23417232)
    So the atheists are trying to beat on the theists by proving that a really smart guy was one of them?

    Frankly, considering the off-kilter nature of genius as we know it, I wouldn't want to lay too much value on having some of the same ideals of other geniuses, or many other people for that matter.

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