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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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  • Re:2012 (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:24AM (#41654977)
    Prove it. Saying you feel it in your soul doesn't count. A book with very little forensic evidence backing it up, while concurrently having ample evidence of several rewrites by parties with something to gain over the centuries also doesn't count.
  • by raahul_da_man (469058) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:31AM (#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.

  • Re:2012 (Score:5, Informative)

    by grouchomarxist (127479) on Monday October 15, 2012 @02:44AM (#41655063)

    All praise Thor!!

  • My Credo. (Score:4, Informative)

    by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday October 15, 2012 @03:05AM (#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
  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Monday October 15, 2012 @03:05AM (#41655155) Journal

    The Japanese indeed never went after the Jews, specifically. They did however put civilians from conquered territories into labor camps and had their troops rape women and children for relaxation. Not specifically Jews, just anyone really who they had captured.

    They did kill millions of Chinese in their holocaust but their generals were not sickened by a little blood so they never bothered with gas chambers.

    Still, I don't think that exactly makes them the nice guys of the axis powers.

  • by felixrising (1135205) on Monday October 15, 2012 @03:14AM (#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 @03:37AM (#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 cheesecake23 (1110663) on Monday October 15, 2012 @03:41AM (#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."

  • Re:2012 (Score:1, Informative)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Monday October 15, 2012 @04:36AM (#41655519)

    The bible has been in human hands for centuries and copied by hand before printing presses came in. A spelling mistake here, bad handwriting there, the next guy comes along and misreads a word and then 'fixes' the sentence so that it makes sense. I'd be shocked if there was a single page in there that hadn't changed. And that's only accidental changes.

    Looking at the things politicians do today, when it's easier to fact-check and catch them out than ever before, I find it completely believable that people just... mis-copied parts of the bible to justify whatever they felt like doing. It's not like people in the year 900 were going to get on Facebook and compare notes with people in other countries. They'd probably never touched a copy of the Bible. Probably couldn't read. A man with a bible could tell people it said anything. Make some changes in his copy, noone would ever know.

    You are way wrong on this.

    Transmission [bible.org]

    B. The Masoretes

    The Masoretic scribes (A.D. 500-1000) in charge of the Old Testament manuscript copying used a very meticulous system of transcription and had a deep reverence for the text. God used their almost obsessive respect for the text to preserve the text’s accuracy. They had specific rules on the type of ink and the quality and size of parchment sheets. No individual letter could be written down without having looked back at the copy in front of them. The scribe could not write God’s name with a newly dipped pen (lest it blotch) and even if the king should address him, while writing God’s name, he should take no notice of him. They were so meticulous that they counted all the paragraphs, words and even letters, so they could know by counting, if they had done it perfectly. They knew the middle letter of each book so they could count back and see if they had missed anything. . .

    D. The Dead Sea Scrolls

    Since the oldest complete copy of a Hebrew Old Testament in existence is dated about A.D. 1000, that’s a long time after the originals were written (1450-400 B.C.). But there are portions that date back farther. Most significant are the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in caves in 1947 by an Arabian shepherd boy. These well-preserved Hebrew text fragments date back to 100 B.C. They include many Bible portions, including some complete books. Their value to the credibility of our Bible is that amazingly, there is virtual agreement between these Hebrew texts and the ones dated 1,100 years later! This proves how accurately the scribes copies for all those years.

    The evidence shows that our Old Testaments today are extremely accurate reflections of the original manuscripts.

    Meticulous Care in the Transmission of the Bible [bibleevidences.com]

    So how reliable are the manuscripts that all these Bibles are translated from? The evidence is overwhelming and seldom disputed. Manuscripts prepared from different individuals spread over various parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean region agree remarkably with each other. Also, the manuscripts agree with the Septuagint, which was translated to Greek from Hebrew possibly as far back as the 3rd century BC. The Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1947 also provided a profound testimony to the reliability of the centuries of transmission of the Bible text, as every Old Testament book found was virtually word for word with today's Bible! (the few differences were "obvious slips of the pen or variations in spelling"1).

    The scribes who were in charge of the Old Testament text dedicated their lives to preserving the text's accuracy when they made copies. The great lengths the scribes went to guarantee the reliability of the copies is illustrated by the fact that they would count every letter and every word, and record in the margins such things as the middle letter and word of the Torah. If

  • Re:2012 (Score:5, Informative)

    by qwak23 (1862090) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:03AM (#41655799)

    You are way wrong on this.

    Transmission [bible.org]

    B. The Masoretes

    The Masoretic scribes (A.D. 500-1000) in charge of the Old Testament manuscript copying used a very meticulous system of transcription and had a deep reverence for the text. God used their almost obsessive respect for the text to preserve the text’s accuracy. They had specific rules on the type of ink and the quality and size of parchment sheets. No individual letter could be written down without having looked back at the copy in front of them. The scribe could not write God’s name with a newly dipped pen (lest it blotch) and even if the king should address him, while writing God’s name, he should take no notice of him. They were so meticulous that they counted all the paragraphs, words and even letters, so they could know by counting, if they had done it perfectly. They knew the middle letter of each book so they could count back and see if they had missed anything. . .

    D. The Dead Sea Scrolls

    Since the oldest complete copy of a Hebrew Old Testament in existence is dated about A.D. 1000, that’s a long time after the originals were written (1450-400 B.C.). But there are portions that date back farther. Most significant are the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered in caves in 1947 by an Arabian shepherd boy. These well-preserved Hebrew text fragments date back to 100 B.C. They include many Bible portions, including some complete books. Their value to the credibility of our Bible is that amazingly, there is virtual agreement between these Hebrew texts and the ones dated 1,100 years later! This proves how accurately the scribes copies for all those years.

    The evidence shows that our Old Testaments today are extremely accurate reflections of the original manuscripts.

    So how reliable are the manuscripts that all these Bibles are translated from? The evidence is overwhelming and seldom disputed. Manuscripts prepared from different individuals spread over various parts of the Middle East and Mediterranean region agree remarkably with each other. Also, the manuscripts agree with the Septuagint, which was translated to Greek from Hebrew possibly as far back as the 3rd century BC. The Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1947 also provided a profound testimony to the reliability of the centuries of transmission of the Bible text, as every Old Testament book found was virtually word for word with today's Bible! (the few differences were "obvious slips of the pen or variations in spelling"1).

    I see your possibly biased sources and raise you a wikipedia!

    According to The Oxford Companion to Archaeology:

    The biblical manuscripts from Qumran, which include at least fragments from every book of the Old Testament, except perhaps for the Book of Esther, provide a far older cross section of scriptural tradition than that available to scholars before. While some of the Qumran biblical manuscripts are nearly identical to the Masoretic, or traditional, Hebrew text of the Old Testament, some manuscripts of the books of Exodus and Samuel found in Cave Four exhibit dramatic differences in both language and content. In their astonishing range of textual variants, the Qumran biblical discoveries have prompted scholars to reconsider the once-accepted theories of the development of the modern biblical text from only three manuscript families: of the Masoretic text, of the Hebrew original of the Septuagint, and of the Samaritan Pentateuch. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the Old Testament scripture was extremely fluid until its canonization around A.D. 100.

    Sure, wikipedia may not be the best academic source on the planet, but at least the source article above is well cited. Oh, and that doesn't sound like "slips of the pen" to me.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_sea_scrolls [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:2012 (Score:3, Informative)

    by pantaril (1624521) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:46AM (#41655945)

    Actually it's not a "book" as such. It is distinctly a collection of stories and letters that were at one stage compiled and bound together. The original authors never intended for them to be in a book. Many of the letters were probably never even meant for more than one person. Go figure.

    What "ample evidence" is there that any individual part was rewritten?

    There were religious councils held in europe through the middle-ages that specificaly focused on rewriting parts of the bible so they suited the changing views of church.

  • by qbast (1265706) on Monday October 15, 2012 @06:54AM (#41655967)
    And if anyone STILL thinks about them as nice guys, read about Unit 731 [wikipedia.org]
  • by khallow (566160) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:06AM (#41657215)
    Keep in mind that some stories were written down by people with an ax to grind. For example, a number of books were written down during the period of the Babylonian captivity [wikipedia.org] when as I understand it, the upper class of the Kingdom of Judea were forced to move to Babylon (a standard tactic of the Babylonian kingdom was to move potential troublemakers and rivals to Babylon and out of their natural element).

    I've heard theories that this period was a key one which transformed the ancient Hebrews into Jews (even to the point where it might have been the period when they finally embraced true monotheism). A lot of books supposed got written (and perhaps rewritten) during this time with an eye to supporting the religious positions of the exiles and preserving their culture.
  • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:19AM (#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?

  • by AnAlchemist (1703640) on Monday October 15, 2012 @10:40AM (#41657669)

    It's a great article, IMHO. It's short, and definitely worth a read to get past the simplistic analyses of Slashdot posters. ;)
    ===========
    That's not, however, because Einstein rejected the notion of God, but because he took the idea of God very seriously, elevating it above a religious conception to a mathematical one. To Einstein, the elegance of the phsyics guiding the universe were God's handiwork, the mark not of a humanlike being that maintains control over the world, but of a divine beauty in nature's laws. As Walter Issacson wrote in his biography, following a religious phase in childhood, Einstein retained "a profound reverence for the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws." ....

    The religion of the Bible was too provincial, too small, to contain the God Einstein revered. That God, the one he found in physics and who inspired his science, deserved more. But, nevertheless, Einstein didn't believe that differing views on God should interfere with the development of understanding among men.

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