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Einstein Letter Critical of Religion To Be Auctioned On EBay 414

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-behind-me-science dept.
cheesecake23 writes "In an admirably concise piece in The Atlantic, Rebecca J. Rosen summarizes Einstein's subtle views on religion and profound respect for the inexplicable, along with the news that a letter handwritten by the legendary scientist that describes the Bible as a 'collection of honorable, but still primitive legends' and 'pretty childish' will be auctioned off on eBay over the next two weeks. Bidding will begin at $3 million."
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Einstein Letter Critical of Religion To Be Auctioned On EBay

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  • 3 million (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Urthas (2349644) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:17AM (#41654947)
    I'm fairly certain that were Einstein still alive, he would be shaking his head at such ridiculousness.
  • Church and Einstein (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:19AM (#41654953)

    Also Einstein said:

    "Being a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but, no, the universities immediately were silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities, were silenced in a few short weeks. . . ."

    "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly."

    ORIGINAL SOURCE (you need a paid subscription): http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,765103,00.html
    ALTERNATIVE SOURCE: http://www.thinkingchristian.net/2008/12/time-christians-in-germany-during-world-war-ii/

    • by Sique (173459) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:21AM (#41654967) Homepage

      And still - just because you praise an organisation for its stand in a conflict, you don't need to subscribe to her ideology.

      • by artor3 (1344997) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:50AM (#41655101)

        Absolutely. But if you praise an organization for its stand in a conflict, perhaps you should not be so quick to call for its complete obliteration. Einstein, to my knowledge, never called for the complete elimination of religion. But I'd wager that someone will do just that before this thread falls off the first page.

        • by Sique (173459) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:04AM (#41655147) Homepage

          Just because you don't subscribe to the ideology of an organisation you don't call for its elimination.

          • by artor3 (1344997)

            Uhh, yes, that's true. I never suggested otherwise. But the fact that some atheists don't call the elimination of religion does not mean that no atheists do. As with any belief set, you've got extremists who want to force their views on everyone.

            Indeed, just five minutes after you posted, an AC posted to say that our species is better off without religion (going as far to include a Hitler analogy), thus proving me right.

            • by Sique (173459) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:02AM (#41655619) Homepage

              You also don't burn down the stadium of the opponent you play in your next game, if you lose. But you will still have people in your fan crowd demanding exactly that.

              My personal stance is quite similar to this one:

              Religion is like a penis.
              It's fine to have one.
              It's fine to be proud of it.
              But, please don't pull it out and wave it around in public.
              And never ever force it down the throat of my children.

            • Saying that we would be better off without a religion is not the same as calling for its elimination.

              We would be better off without stupid people, but that doesn't mean we should round 'em up.

              • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                Saying that we would be better off without a religion is not the same as calling for its elimination.

                We would be better off without stupid people, but that doesn't mean we should round 'em up.

                Actually, saying we are better off without religion IS calling for its elimination, just like we are better off without without totalitarianism. We have a long history of trying to get rid of things we are better off without -- polio, smallpox, Marxism, Communism, people who think different than we do, etc. etc.

          • Just because you don't subscribe to the ideology of an organisation you don't call for its elimination.

            Someone please tell that to The Jews/The Arabs.

        • by Jawnn (445279)

          Absolutely. But if you praise an organization for its stand in a conflict, perhaps you should not be so quick to call for its complete obliteration. Einstein, to my knowledge, never called for the complete elimination of religion. But I'd wager that someone will do just that before this thread falls off the first page.

          No, but here's a call for the complete elimination of religion from any role in law or government. Huge difference of course, but sadly, that difference will be lost on a great many "true believers".

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Correct. For instance, the Nazis actually did great things for Germany's economy and national pride. On the other hand, their methods and ideals are why the entire world reviles even the mention of their name.
        As Sique was saying, just because a group does one good thing, you don't have to like or agree with them. (My paraphrasing of his statement.)
        • by risom (1400035)

          Correct. For instance, the Nazis actually did great things for Germany's economy and national pride.

          Except they didn't do great things for Germany's economy. Neither in workers wages nor in GDP.

      • by vlad30 (44644)

        And still - just because you praise an organisation for its stand in a conflict, you don't need to subscribe to her ideology.

        The ideology behind religions is generally not bad, most teach good behaviour, morals and tolerance as the basis of the religion. For some humans who cannot think for themselves need something to guide them. The problem is those that deliberately misinterpret the teachings to promote their own agenda

        • by garaged (579941)

          I mostly agree with you, until the point of not thinking by themselves. I am religious, and I do learn science and have a very letftiah libertarian way of thinking, so I dont see how can someone say that I dont think by myself, still I might be blind.

          There are some people working an agenda thru religion, but most are really not, they are learning just as any scientist, every day trying to discover a little new thing about what God left us. And you can be surprised by the good things you get to learn when yo

          • I mostly agree with you, until the point of not thinking by themselves. I am religious, and I do learn science and have a very letftiah libertarian way of thinking, so I dont see how can someone say that I dont think by myself, still I might be blind.

            Religions can only exist if people accept someone else's story regarding the existence and nature of a mythical being based on no factual evidence whatsoever. People believe in religions because it brings them comfort. But if you accept anything purely on faith and especially if you cannot possibly verify the claims, that is pretty much the definition of not thinking for yourself. You have traded rational and independent thought for comfort. Seems a costly trade to me.

    • by bloodhawk (813939) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:28AM (#41654991)
      He praised their actions not their beliefs, I also praise the actions of church groups that help the needy and homeless. But I still don't believe in the mythology they try and push.
    • by raahul_da_man (469058) on Monday October 15, 2012 @01:31AM (#41654999)

      "Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler's campaign for suppressing truth."

      Einstein was wrong about this one, if it is in fact an authentic Einstein quote. Can someone please verify for me?
      The Catholic and Protestant Churches supported both Nazism and Fascism.

      On the Protestant side:

      European Protestantism bore the fierce impress of Martin Luther, whose 1543 tract On the Jews and Their Lies was a principal inspiration for Mein Kampf. In addition to his anti-Semitism, Luther was also a fervent authoritarian. Against the Robbing and Murdering Peasants, his vituperative commentary on a contemporary rebellion, contributed to the deaths of perhaps 100,000 Christians and helped to lay the groundwork for an increasingly severe Germo-Christian autocracy.

      On the Catholic:

      The Lateran Treaty of 1929 was when the Catholic Church threw its full formal support behind Mussolini. Of course, there had been longstanding informal support long before this, but this is the formal document that the Church cannot deny! It is a impossibility to win power in heavily Christian countries like Italy and Germany were in the 1920's without the active support of the church.

      • Interestingly, I recently read that when Japan joined the Axis they passed a law forbidding persecuting the Jews in Japan.

      • Partly true (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:02AM (#41655141) Journal

        Urk is a fishing village in Holland known to be part of the bible belt. They were also FIERCE resisters, their fishing vessels carrying many a Jew and downed allied airmen to safety. There reasoning wasn't so much a love of Jews and others they helped to safety but a pigheaded resistance to being told what to do. They knew wrong and right and nazism was wrong, end of story. They were good men, who did do something.

        But I wouldn't call them lovers of freedom, just people who when pushed, push back, by instinct. They would also have had nothing to do with mass religion, claiming "protestants" are one group is damn silly. Most consider the people in the next village to be weirdos.

        Meanwhile the pope at the time was thought of to be a good man too. He just didn't do anything.

        Mussoline and the holocaust were strange bed fellows, it has to be remembered that nazism and facism are not the same thing. And Mussolini was a fascist, not a nazi. He regonized Jews were part of Italy and should be left undisturbed, Jews were members of his party in quite high positions. It is only with the increasing power of Germany that this changed, resulting in Jews being stripped of citizenship rights in 1939.

        This was not at all popular with the Italian fascists and the pope even send a strong letter of critism on this. To increasingly appease Hitler, Jews were started to be round up in Italian controlled areas and send to labor camps but Mussonlini until the Italy surrender refused to send them to German controlled extermination camps. The Germans complained that Italy and its territories were becoming a save haven in Europe for Jews.

        After Italy surrendered, Mussonlini was freed by the Germans and they took over control over the remaining Italian land and started to put their holocaust plan into action. Italian soldiers who were not captured by Allied forced found themselves improsoned by the Germans, Italy very much became subjegated to full German control and all that entailed.

        The role of religion in WW2 is far from clean, but it is not as simple as some Discovery Channel programs would like you to believe.

      • by tinkerton (199273)

        The Catholic and Protestant Churches supported both Nazism and Fascism.

        Actually I think you're the one that is wrong on that one. And so was I until not so long ago. The main thing that can be said against the Catholic church is that it didn't openly oppose nazism under the war - but they surely opposed them. Read up on Pius XI and XII . Wikipedia is a start.

      • by cheesecake23 (1110663) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:41AM (#41655303)

        Einstein was wrong about this one, if it is in fact an authentic Einstein quote. Can someone please verify for me?

        Here [skeptic.com] is an apparently honest attempt at verification by a math professor who put a lot of effort into sourcing the quote in 2006. He concludes that it is probably not authentic.

        HOWEVER, in 2008, a woman brought a series of letters to an episode of Antiques Roadshow [youtube.com]. Apparently her father had also attempted to source the quote. Her father finally received a letter from Einstein himself:

        "It's true that I made a statement which corresponds approximately with the text you quoted. I made this statement during the first years of the Nazi regime-- much earlier than 1940-- and my expressions were a little more moderate."

      • He did a few things back in WWII and later went on to be Pope John Paul the second, I'm sure you've heard about him. He wasn't the only one.
    • My Credo. (Score:4, Informative)

      by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:05AM (#41655151) Journal
      Albert hit the religion nail on the head in the last paragraph of his famous speech "My credo", which he gave to the German League of Human Rights in late 1932.

      My Credo

      It is a special blessing to belong among those who can and may devote their best energies to the contemplation and exploration of objective and timeless things. How happy and grateful I am for having been granted this blessing, which bestows upon one a large measure of independence from one's personal fate and from the attitude of one's contemporaries. Yet this independence must not inure us to the awareness of the duties that constantly bind us to the past, present and future of humankind at large.

      Our situation on this earth seems strange. Every one of us appears here, involuntarily and uninvited, for a short stay, without knowing the why and the wherefore. In our daily lives we feel only that man is here for the sake of others, for those whom we love and for many other beings whose fate is connected with our own.

      I am often troubled by the thought that my life is based to such a large extent on the work of my fellow human beings, and I am aware of my great indebtedness to them.

      I do not believe in free will. Schopenhauer's words: 'Man can do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wills,' accompany me in all situations throughout my life and reconcile me with the actions of others, even if they are rather painful to me. This awareness of the lack of free will keeps me from taking myself and my fellow men too seriously as acting and deciding individuals, and from losing my temper.

      I have never coveted affluence and luxury and even despise them a good deal. My passion for social justice has often brought me into conflict with people, as has my aversion to any obligation and dependence I did not regard as absolutely necessary.

      I have a high regard for the individual and an insuperable distaste for violence and fanaticism. All these motives have made me a passionate pacifist and antimilitarist. I am against any chauvinism, even in the guise of mere patriotism.

      Privileges based on position and property have always seemed to me unjust and pernicious, as does any exaggerated personality cult. I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I know well the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual have always seemed to me the important communal aims of the state.

      Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice keeps me from feeling isolated.

      The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our minds cannot grasp, whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly: this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all there is.


      Einstein - 1932
    • The behavior of the Church during (and leading up to) world war 2 was entirely more complex than standing squarely across the path of hitler's ambitions and campaigns: Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. Especially the words and actions of pope pius [wikipedia.org].
    • Einstein never said that as he confirmed in an unpublished letter: http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-01-05/ [skeptic.com]
    • by quantaman (517394)

      Churches form a of counter-government in Western society. Thus in a time of revolution they are one of the few organizations that have the ability to resist. That is not so much an argument for churches as an argument for spreading out the concentration of power in a society. The news media and Universities have both grown stronger since Hitler, but neither really has the ability to act as an independent and alternate government to the same degree.

    • The entire hierarchy of the Catholic church, top to bottom, colluded to hide the rape and torture of small children by priests in Ireland only a few years ago. I guarantee said rape and sexual abuse is still going on TODAY in less enlightened places where the church still holds power, and when it is unearthed, it will be covered up as much as possible as well.

  • This reminds me of catholic high school when I quoted Einstein for an assignment in my religion (indoctrination) class as a way of proving that god DID exist. To make my (nonunderstanding) teacher look foolish in front of the rest of the class. Good times.

  • His definition is basically that "God" is the mystery, AKA creating force, of the universe itself. Whether that "force" turns out to be a bearded dude or natural laws is a lower level than the definition.

    It's a great wiggle-room definition. Thus, you can be a geek who admires the "glory of God" without having to subscribe to a particular religion or "shape" or sentient-level of creator.

    It's the kind of non-committal fuzz that would make Mitt Romney proud ;-)

    • by Epeeist (2682)

      It's a great wiggle-room definition. Thus, you can be a geek who admires the "glory of God" without having to subscribe to a particular religion or "shape" or sentient-level of creator.

      All definitions of god have a huge amount of wiggle room, AKA incoherence. I always thought of Einstein as a pantheist due to his claim of following the god of Spinoza, perhaps though he would be better characterised as an igtheist [onlinephilosophyclub.com].

    • It's the kind of non-committal fuzz that would make Mitt Romney proud ;-)

      Careful application of Occams Razor shows that under all that non-committal fuzz is a face-full of self-interest.

  • by felixrising (1135205) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:14AM (#41655193)
    As several commenters on the source article mentioned already, the word "Childish" does not appear in the original text. My German may be rusty but I concur, "Kindish" is not present in the original letter... but lets not let the facts get in the way of a sensational headline...
  • by aepervius (535155) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:37AM (#41655279)
    He said "primitive susperstition". That's way different. You can look it up in the original yourself , it is barely recognizable in the JPG but you can see he said "primitiven Aberglauben" (http://www.auctioncause.com/cf/einstein/images/large.jpg see second picture middle) und nicht "kindisch" which would be childish. Methink the person translating made a bit of creative translation here.
  • by WOOFYGOOFY (1334993) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:52AM (#41655765)
    DO NOT LET THIS FALL INTO THE HANDS OF RELIGIONSISTS who constantly use out of context quotes by Einstein to "prove" he variously a Christian a religious Jew, sympathetic to Christianity, a fundie, believed in god etc etc etc. none of which he did.
    • I'd upvote you if I could, but I can't. It really annoys me how the hell religious folk twist and bend words to their own meaning when it's clear what the intent is. It's almost as if being religious entitles you to misinterpret stuff and spin it towards your religion. That in itself puts me off the concept (bar from the fact it's bollocks). Religion enables the worst self-righteous individuals to push their views with a label to the detriment of all.
    • DO NOT LET THIS FALL INTO THE HANDS OF RELIGIONSISTS who constantly use out of context quotes by Einstein to "prove" he variously a... fundie, believed

      Just remind them of this
      http://monthlyreview.org/2009/05/01/why-socialism [monthlyreview.org]

    • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday October 15, 2012 @09:19AM (#41657371)

      Who cares what Einstein thought? That he was brilliant in one field doesnt make him an expert in all others; for all that he did he had some well known failings.

      Good grief, can we cease with the appeals to authority?

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