Steve Paulson Reports on Albert Einstein's Religious Beliefs

January 4, 2009

Steve Paulson speaks with several scientists, religious scholars and atheists about Albert Einstein's religious beliefs. We hear from Richard Dawkins, Elaine Pagels, and Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson who debate what Einstein meant by "god."


It is my belief that Einstein was not "religious" in that he did not choose one of the main religions of today, yet had to acknowledge the presence and possibility of higher authority or energy that created and/or governs the universe. Religion has and continues to hinder human evolution from a scientific perspective which Einstein was well aware of, which is why I believe he knew that he must not discourage anyone's beliefs while encouraging critical thought in everyday life in a way suitable for everyone. What he says about religion matters because it is still relevant today which is why it was discussed in the broadcast. It is a touchy subject that many avoid to touch due to the conflicts created by it because, as is apparent, there is not much separation between religion and state across the globe. What Einstein says about "god" provokes thought, something this world collectively needs to do more of. Religion is religion, all made with the intention of creating a collective understanding and respect for one another and life. Einstein does not promote a "means to an end" as most religions do, he promotes a way to live that is sustainable and beneficial to human interaction, life and advancement.

It was good to hear a discussion on this topic. However, the discussion needed to be informed by a better understanding of philosophy, especially continental philosophy, such as the Idealism of Hegel and others going back to Plato. Spirit or Geist can be interpreted as a creator but this is not inherently implied. It may mean simply a unifying or underlying force or rationality. You said Einstein believed in a Creator but never, I believe, quoted him to that effect specifically. This is a separate issue from whether this is an underlying rationality. Or for that matter whether "God" had a choice. (As you surely know, modern science suggests there may be indeed many "choices."

More telling was the comment made that Einstein thought that humans might come to understand the universe. Or, more specifically, that this is what is most mysterious. This is indeed outside the main stream of modern epistemology, which tends to hold that humans can truly know or understand only their own (mental) creations (e.g. mathematics). This is also behind the importance of revelation in religion, since it is only through revelation, it is said, that we can begin to understand the true nature of God. The question is, if indeed we can understand the universe, how is it that we share that same fundamental "spirit" of rationality (or whatever) in a way that allows us to understand it.

One needs to read four pages in the book: "Physics Metaphysics and God - Second Edition - by Jack W. Geis. It tells stories of Einstein having been seen and heard speaking within the Christian Science churches and reading rooms. The Library for the Betterment of Humanity in Boston has other references.

Diana Blanchard

St. Louis, MO

Programming that talks about atheism in a positive way is seriously lacking in all major media formats. There must be more of a balance in regards to belief and nonbelief because as it stands today, religious groups have money to promote their views whereas alternative views - although popular in some respects, fall short of being heard.
Thank you for putting this program out there because the balance is severely needed.

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