Albert Einstein

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses,” Einstein wrote.


Faced with their own mortality, most humans nestle up to the notion of a higher being. But Albert Einstein was no normal man. Just a year before his death, the famous physicist penned a letter rejecting the very notion of God and religion. According to reports, this “God letter” – as it’s come to be known – will soon be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The final price is expected to top $1 million.

Roasting Religion

The 1954 letter, which was written to religious philosopher Erik Gutkind, is considered “one of the definitive statements in the Religion vs. Science debate,” according to Peter Klarnet, an auction house expert in books and manuscripts. The letter offers fascinating insight into Einstein’s skepticism toward faith. Among the most notable quotes, Einstein wrote:

“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.”

Inside the Mind of Einstein

When this letter first became known to the public in 2008, it shattered the image of Einstein as a person of faith – which is how biographers and historians often portrayed him.

For example, Einstein biographer Denis Brian told readers of a young child that was devoutly Jewish, and even wrote “songs in praise of God” which he “belted out” on the way to school. For many years, anecdotes such as these were used as proof that Einstein – while an incredible scientific mind – was also focused on his faith. But further reading indicates that once Einstein began studying higher mathematics and philosophy, he “abandoned his uncritical religious fervor, feeling he had been deceived into believing lies.”

The “God letter” is yet more proof that Einstein was in fact deeply skeptical of religion.

What Did Einstein Really Believe?

Despite these convictions, Einstein never embraced atheism. Instead, he began to believe in what he’d later term “cosmic religion,” which is explained as “a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.”

His own scientific breakthroughs in relativity and the nature of space and time, incidentally, led him to conclude that the mysterious architecture of the physical universe was far more profound than anything chronicled in the Talmud. And although Einstein often spoke about “God,” the metaphor applied more to the Universe itself than any grand puppeteer. “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes its creatures, or has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves,” he wrote in 1931.

Even when speaking specifically about his own religion, Einstein didn’t strike a particularly charitable tone: “For me the Jewish religion, like all other religions, is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions, and the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people,” he said.

Science vs. Religion

Whatever the letter proves or disproves as to his own personal beliefs, it is evident that Einstein felt religion plays an important role in guiding people between right and wrong. In this interpretation, science is a powerful tool – but it’s not capable of answering all of life’s great philosophical questions. For this task, another type of thinking is necessary. As he once put it: “science can only ascertain what is, not what should be.”

34 comments

  1. Rev. Rene says:

    I am sure even Einstein could not prove the big bang was not a “design by God”! In any case, I am all for selling this letter and doing good works with the proceeds!

    1. Wu Zhu says:

      We don’t need God to discuss the Big Bang. Therefore, why do we need God?

      1. Muse says:

        We wouldn’t be talking about the big bang at all if something didn’t trigger it. Whether it was a godlike being or something else we’ll probably never know for certain.
        Why do we need god? At the very least because we need an explanation for what happened “before” the big bang and what caused it to occur.

  2. Gary Hynous says:

    I wonder what Einstein’s experience of death and an afterlife or reincarnation was really like. We’ll never know but in time we’ll all get to find out when we shed our bodies like an old suit of clothes and our soul (Christian) or our Self (Hindu) transitions. In the face of God or whatever higher power you subscribe to we’re all “children” born once perhaps to be born again. Genius doesn’t have the answer to these questions nor does anyone else. It’s all based on faith and hope. Purgatory anyone?! The Catholics would have us burn awhile and then zip right up to heaven or the other way. Better live a moral life just in case. When Tim Allen’s neighbor, Baxter, asked Allen why he was going to church Allen responded “I’m hedging my bet!”

    1. Wu Zhu says:

      Yes, but hedge which bet? A good Muslim won’t go to Baptist Heaven, nor are Baptists welcome elsewhere. The old “Pascal’s wager” only appears to have any logic if there are only two options. Obviously, there are many

      1. Lori says:

        You say ‘Many’, Wu? Sorry. Nothing is obvious, unless you have actually been there and back. Somehow I don’t think that is the case. It’s a nice thought though. Everyone wants the afterlife to be what they want it to be. Yours is as good as any.

  3. Lionheart says:

    I love his quote “I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes its creatures, or has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves,”

    As for me, I cannot conceive of a god that condones slavery, but bans the eating of shellfish. and then for some weird reason people say God is love. Try telling that to those who were slaves, or being stoned to death.

    1. Lea Weisenbach says:

      Correct..

    2. Lori says:

      Einstein also said, “That which is impenetrable to us really exists. Behind the secrets of nature remains something subtle, intangible, and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
      He never claimed to be an atheist. Only someone that could think outside the box.
      I agree with you that there can be no punishing God as described in the bible. God, the Universe, the Source, or what ever you want to call it, is something neutral that does not respond to human whims. I like Einsteins philosophy. It invokes thought and the need to maintain an open mind.

      1. ET says:

        May the force (whatever it is) be with you!

        1. Lori says:

          And also with you!

  4. Bear says:

    A lot of people do become “Religious” in
    Their final times.This auction of the Letter can be used for the good of many.I just hope it does.

    1. Lionheart says:

      It would be nice if Joel Osteen and the Pope matched the auction figure to further help to make good use of the money. I guess that would be asking a bit too much of their Christian generosity.

    2. BethKCZ says:

      It’s a lot more common for the religious people surrounding the non-religious deceased person to claim (s)he had a deathbed conversion. They will then go on to claim that this irreligious-person-in-life “saw the light” near the end, found God, and awaits them in the afterlife.

      1. Lea Weisenbach says:

        As always.

  5. Daniel says:

    The Big Bang has NOT been mathematically proven as fact. They’ve taken it to numerous hundredths of decimal points, but as for the rest: they have to ALSO take it on faith.
    Science PROVES we have to logically leave the door open for at least the possibility of their being a god.
    for example: science has shown that are physical senses are limited in their perception. Namely right now we are all surrounded by radio waves that we know are there because if we have a radio we can tune in to them. Therefore, in the same way that our physical senses are limited we also have to allow for the fact that our scientific developments are also limited, and right now we could be surrounded by any number of infinite possibilities other than just radio waves; including the possibility of the eternal essence of God or as some would say, the “Holy Spirit”, well others might use the term ”Chi”.
    If we compare to God to an airplane that flew around the world 1000 years ago we could clearly expect that there would be any number of tribes of people who would see and hear the airplane yet come up with their own interpretations of what it was and what it meant. Some may call it the giant bird with bad gas, while others might call it a flying squirrel. Even so, whatever the various interpretations might be, and whatever religious creeds may follow, and whatever atrocities might be committed in the names of those religious creeds, would not change the fact that the airplane was in fact an airplane and it flew through the air to the amazement of all. It is not fair to blame God for mankind‘s interpretations and applications of those interpretations that have resulted in a lot of trauma and abuse for mini, well also, at times resulting in improving things for as many people as possible.
    In the same way that Einstein recognized science as a reflection of the laws of nature we have to remember that our playbook of those laws is very limited as to what all of those laws actually are.
    Our current science is like kids playing Yahtzee with only three dice. somethings can’t be done. Then if someone, like the Christ or others, comes around with the other ”pair-a-dice” to say “ya-ought-see this” people think they’re cheating by doing “miracles”.
    Miracles are simply the result of the expanded rules version of the laws of nature.
    I pray we ALL find the pair-a-dice (paradise) needed to REALLY play Yahtzee, while leaving our hearts open to the source of all creation in God’s game store.

    1. Neil says:

      And not only has the Big Bang not been proven, it was actually disproven in the last 12 months by a team of European Union scientists who found that in the explosion the matter and anti matter actually implode on each other during the explosion. As a result the explosion is negated. We know the Universe was created somewhere, but science is now indicating that it wasn’t from the Big Bang Theory.

      It is also interesting that the article indicates he believed in some kind of “cosmic religion”. He didn’t completely negate the possibility of the existence of some kind of supernatural power. But he clearly didn’t believe in the human’s gods.

      1. John Lee Pettimore III says:

        Please cite your sources and the people involved in this “team of European Union scientists”.

        Science and the scientific method do not function to PROVE anything. Science works by falsification. So, in a nutshell, science doesn’t and can’t prove anything. It can only indicate what isn’t.

        It wasn’t an “explosion” in the colloquial sense. This initial outward expansion can (and is) typically called “an explosion” for metaphorical reasons. Primarily, it makes it easier for us to wrap our primitive monkey-brains astound the concept.

        No. We don’t know the universe was CREATED. That’s a concept that’s being pursued into us by various religious concerns. The one thing that probably (in my opinion) describes it, is that the Universe “came into existence”.

        As for it happening “somewhere”, yes. It actually happened everywhere at the same time according to the currently accepted model. It wasn’t simply matter, but space that came into being and inflated.

        The Big Bang theory didn’t create anything. The THEORY is our overarching body of knowledge that best explains, categorizes, and codifies the observed facts. The theory simply explains what happened.

        Matter and anti-matter don’t “implode”. It’s mutual annihilation.

        The whole matter/anti-matter mutual annihilation debate has been going on for some time. This is nothing new. For some reason, the scales were topped in favor of the creation of matter, and more of that was produced in the initial inflationary period.

  6. Lea Weisenbach says:

    Religion is just someones idea..The beginning of laws for people to live in harmony. But people have decovered..Hay we can control people..we can make a lot of money..All we have to do is take control of their minds.. Make them put all their faith and hope into our ideas…Very flawed…When people depend on religions for everything that happens to them…They have giving up responsibility for their own happiness.

  7. Lea Weisenbach says:

    I could not finish..So I’m back..
    God is different for everyone. I think you have to find what that is yourself. But I like Einstein idea..The universe..We are one..religion just decided us.

    1. Jeri says:

      I would say religion divided us.

  8. Lori says:

    “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.” Einstein.

  9. Gail D says:

    “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.” — Albert Einstein: The Human Side

    1. Lori says:

      This is also a wise and wonderful quote.

  10. Fred V Miller Sr Captain's Table says:

    To Whom it May concern; I as you are travelers on a plane called the river of life. I am very old and have trod the road and trail of tears and joy. I have witnessed the best and the worst of our kind. I have had two out of body experiences, one in the service in 1945 My belief in a GOD falls short acceptance . I have arrived at a point in life when this process called ;life can be only minutes away. I do believe that Jesus Christ was given the gift that made him a god born or created. I believe in a presence that exists i n the pages of human growth. I believe that GOD as identified can not be in a human form. GOD is a presence that we have accepted. I am not an atheist. To much have I seen, I do except the Evil exists. I have confronted it a few times in my long life. I have also been in the presence of goodness. All or most of us exist as mortals that can fall to temptations. What religion’s responsibility is to give guidance and protect us from the evil of temptation. My judgement has arrived at a conclusion the the majority of us are good people. I believe that Eisenstein him self came from the position of ; if this is all there is OK if not I accept that.too, If there exists more to be in store good. My association with our church comes from the conviction that Christ ordained all followers to be delivers of his messages.
    ;
    . I am in my nineties and will accept what is to follow. If i again be in the presence of my wife of sixty years, if I can seem my son who was killed early in his life and if I can again be with my old dog barren I ask for no more. If can not be, it is what it is. All my old friends are gone,I miss them. Fred

    1. Lori says:

      I hope and pray that those things will be true for you. Bright blessings Fred.

    2. ET says:

      I also lost a loving wife. She was an atheist who wished she had faith, but could not believe in a God. I’m agnostic. I believe anything is possible. For my own mortality, I lean toward thinking when I die, I’ll just cease to exist. I’ll be back to the scattered molecules and atoms that were there before I was born. Recently my house burned down with 80 years worth of collections destroyed. This loss was easy to accept. The loss of my wife was the difficult one. As you said, “it is what it is”. I hope you do find your wife in the afterlife if there is one. Make the best of the time you have left and be well of mind and body.

    3. Skot Barker says:

      Dear Fred,
      I wish I knew you. I wish I could glean from your wisdom and that you were my friend. Perhaps your close but if not maybe we could be friends regardless. Bless you brother. Thank you for sacrificing for us as well.

  11. Madge says:

    Madge: You’re Soaking in IT!

  12. Woke says:

    Einstein was a plagiarist and a fraud, stealing theories from his first wife (who he abandoned, along with his son) and other real and brilliant scientists. He was put forth by powerful Bolsheviks because they and he wanted power and fame and was shameless enough to lie and steal whenever necessary. His myth is upheld by the media, an extension of the corruption, control, and censorship of Bolshevism.
    His life is a lie. He was a horrible and hateful (he despised non-Jews) person. Who cares what he thinks?

  13. stephen kennedy says:

    Does such a letter really exists? Doesn’t sound like something Einstein would have written.

  14. Minister Raymond Evans says:

    In the Holy Scriptures knowing God can be experienced through the power of his word as we come to the knowledge and understanding of our experience. We then being the journey through the wisdom of Jesus Christ to receive the answers that man’s religions fail to explain. The living experience through Jesus Christ is an abundance of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of who God is and as important of who we are spirit, soul, and body with our purpose in life and with God. Einstein like most people saw the flaws of religion that claim to know and explain God existence but the living experience of God in religious living hold no wisdom, knowledge, or understanding towards the creation or creatures of God. Einstein in all of his wisdom, knowledge, and understanding could go no further without the Spirit of God within him was like most blind to the true knowledge of God. If Einstein had received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior having Jesus within him day after day there may have been another letter written of the awesome power he experienced through the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God. Not to be auctioned off but seen as foolishness from a man the world could reject that in his latter years failed the science of the world. It is through our spirit in Jesus Christ that we know God He is the way the truth and the life.

  15. Philip Harris says:

    The foolishness of God remains wiser than the wisdom of any man.

    1. Lionheart says:

      Try telling that stupid rubbish to children dying of cancer and their parents.

Leave a Comment