Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Einstein on Religion and Science

Any Scientific minded person who considers himself as a religious or an atheist, should read thses wonderful articles of Albert Einstein. These are, in a sense, an eye-opener to me, that how beautifully one could express how religion and science can be reconciled. There are four master-pieces, all of them are worth reading at a stretch. I know there will be many religious people claiming that Einstein was a ‘deeply religious’, but what I found here, that he defined the religion in totally a different way to build himself as ‘deeply religious’. Let’s go through a few excellent quotes.

On how the religion has come :

“With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connections is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates illusory beings more or less analogous to itself on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. Thus one tries to secure the favor of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation … This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets itself up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear …”

Problems in the above definition of religion and his own view :

“Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. … I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it. … The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. “

On morality :

“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.”

In praise of religion (article 1 and 2):

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. If one were to take that goal out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.”

Defining a religious person and religion (Article 3) :

“a person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to which he clings because of their superpersonalvalue. … Religion, on the other hand, deals only with evaluations of human thought and action: it cannot justifiably speak of facts and relationships between facts.”

In support of Science :

“For example, a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs.”

This is exactly where he sounds like an absolute Atheist :

“Nobody, certainly, will deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to this idea in itself, which have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? … The main source of the present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of science lies in this concept of a personal God. “

How religions with ‘personal God’ will play around Science :

“To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. “

A request to religious leaders to modify their approach to religion :

“In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests.”

Again restricting religion in the domain of idealism and attitude :

“As regards religion, on the other hand, one is generally agreed that it deals with goals and evaluations and, in general, with the emotional foundation of human thinking and acting, as far as these are not predetermined by the inalterable hereditary disposition of the human species. Religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship.”

On in-community brotherly love :

“For while religion prescribes brotherly love in the relations among the individuals and groups, the actual spectacle more resembles a battlefield than an orchestra. “

Overall, I feel the articles are really great. The gist is - Science and Religion are friends is they stay in their own ground. Science should not try to guide what is worthy and what is worthless, what we should do and what we should not. At the same time, Religion should not try to describe how the nature works, neither should it insist anything to be ‘created’ by God as a person. He condemned the idea of ‘religion of fear’, that is, the idea to tell people to be good only because some Omnipotent God will punish them otherwise after death. Overall, these come under one of the best read articles of my life time - they sound very strong.

Links once more.

Labels: , , , ,

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home