The private religious thoughts of the world’s most famous genius were up for sale this week in a London auction.
It was in astrophysicist Albert Einstein’s last year of life that he wrote the letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind. In it, Einstein describes (in German) his cynical views on God, religion, and Scripture:
The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. . . . For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.
Einstein, who was Jewish, also downplayed the perception of Jews as God’s chosen people, saying, “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. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
Oxford University’s John Brooke, professor of science and religion, comments that “Einstein was not a conventional theist” nor consistent in his views about religion during his life, though Brooke adds that Einstein believed in “some kind of intelligence working its way through nature.” Einstein did stand in awe of the universe and described a “cosmic religious feeling,” but he also rejected “the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil.” And speaking at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1939, Einstein said that a “conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible.”1
The conflict arises, in fact, when science is divorced from the absolute truthfulness of Scripture. But without a solid basis of truth for conducting science—laws of logic, uniformity of nature, reliability of our senses, etc.—what good is the scientific method? Without the starting point of Scripture and the rational, non-contradictory God, we lose the basis for science. Einstein may have been blessed with high intelligence, but Scripture reminds us in Psalm 111:10 that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Bloomsbury, the London auction house that sold the letter, said it was “100 percent certain” that the letter was genuine.
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