Science and Religion: Did Einstein Believe in God?

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind”. This quote from Einstein is famous, but did he really believe in God?

“God doesn’t play dice with the universe,” Einstein once remarked on the new science of quantum mechanics in one of his lifelong debates with Neils Bohr, one of the founders of the new science. On another occasion he said of science and religion, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Did Einstein believe in God? Arguably, his now famous statements tell his seeming inclination towards God.

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Einstein in his twilight years.

While at the pinnacle of his scientific greatness, the mainstream media in their many conversations with the creator of the famous Special and General Theory of Relativity was centered on his genius and scientific achievements, not more on his religious convictions which seemed out of question because of his countless allusions to some sort of divine that appeared to point out to the personal Christian God in which Einstein was known to be a devotee in his boyhood.

Despite of the initial successes of his theories at explaining previously observed yet unexplained natural phenomena such as the anomalous orbit of Mercury and the prediction of the bending of light passing at the vicinity of the Sun, his theory was not spared from adverse criticisms, maybe due to the theory having permeated almost every aspect of human intellectual endeavor -literature, philosophy and religion. The two grand scientific theories thus went into becoming a subject of heated debates among scholars from different fields.

Arising from the controversial nature of his theories, Einstein, perhaps the greatest theoretical physicist in science history would later saw himself at odds with many high-profile people from different facets of society including the once influential Catholic Church. For one, Cardinal O’Connel of the state of Boston openly attacked Einstein by giving a vehement warning to the youth of America that the General Theory of Relativity “cloaked the ghastly apparition of atheism and “befogged speculation, producing doubt about God and his Creation” (Clark,1971,413-414).

This adverse clerical pronouncement permeated the consciousness of the Cardinal’s comrades in the church. On April 24, 1929, Rabbi Herbert Goldstein of New York dialed Einstein to inquire, “Do you believe in God?” (Sommerfield, 1949,103), Einstein’s return message was a statement that would the next day hit the news headlines across the United States and shortly the world: “ I believe in Spinoza’s God who concerns himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings ,” clarifying all his previous God-alluding statements. “I can not accept any concept of God based on the fear of life or the fear of death or blind faith. I can not prove to you that there is no personal God, but if I were to speak of him I would be a liar.” 

Einstein went even more, revealing he was an agnostic. In one of his work, he wrote:”I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or hasa will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.” [Albert Einstein, The World as I See It American Institute of Physics Online]. Judging him on the strength of this revelation, Einstein must be an atheist.

Until his death, Einstein maintained his belief of a God equated to the order and harmony in the universe or the natural laws that were gradually brought to light through deep research in science. Steven Weinberg (1992), an American astrophysicist noted on Einstein’s religious conviction “But what possible difference does it make to anyone if we use the word “God” in place of “order” or “harmony,” except perhaps to avoid the accusation of having no God?” Highly agreeable, and though Einstein’s belief was glaringly at variance with most of us, still he deserved respect not only for his remarkable science but his being a product of his subtle personal opinions that we are perhaps incapable to comprehend.

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30 Responses to “Science and Religion: Did Einstein Believe in God?”
  1. nobert soloria bermosa Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 10:45 am

    interesting read,thanks

  2. iampriteshdesai Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

    There is no such thing as God.

  3. Lauren Axelrod Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    I love the study of Einstein and philosophy. It’s a great connection and a well put together article. well done.

  4. Angrified Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Interesting article. Thanks for sharing.

  5. R J EVans Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Very interesting – thank you!

  6. tracy sardelli Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    I love thought provoking articles, well written, thank you.

  7. Darlene McFarlane Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    An interesting article. You have given us something to think about.

  8. Verniel Cutar Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Atheism is a belief that tries to disprove everything and proves nothing. Atheists try to erase God from people’s minds, and yet they don’t provide a better solution or explanation about our existence. Accepting that there’s no God is like saying to yourself: “Ok, I came out of nowhere, I’m a complete bastard, there’s no reason for existence. I’m smart, good looking, talented — but all these things came out by accident. When I die, I will rest in peace and be forgotten as if I’ve never lived”.

    Good luck to those who choose the life of an atheist.

  9. mae Says...

    On August 23, 2008 at 10:39 pm

    a good read. thank you.

  10. Juancav Says...

    On August 24, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Einsteins a genious but also a theoretical,theories are replaced,in his last minute life, a person can change his mind,facing with the beyond.
    God doesn´t punish creatures but test them,to grow up.

  11. Claris Says...

    On August 24, 2008 at 6:57 am

    nice and very informative one

  12. Evis T Says...

    On August 24, 2008 at 7:38 am

    He was a great man, and whatever his personaly beliefs, he did more to push fowards the advance of science than anyone else in the past 100 years.

    We can also credit Einsten with having a major role to play in ‘pop science’, bringing research and ideas from the lab into the public domain. No matter what your faith (or lack thereof), making people interested in the world around them can only be a good thing, be it to make them think for themsleves, or to appreciate the beauty of God’s design.

    Plus that photo of him sticking his tounge out is just hillarious. :P

  13. ParadoxHarbinger Says...

    On August 24, 2008 at 3:57 pm

    einstein, used the word god in a completely non-religious sense, much to the joy of all religious apologists everywhere. he did not believe in a god, he merely used the term, as was stated in the article, to equate to the harmony and order in the universe. a bit of research would reveal instantly that einstein had no faith in any god. this just the same old propaganda that religious people have been using for years on end.

    to juancav: i find god’s tests unbearably cruel, not for those being tested but the innocent victims that are usually the cause for the grief of the tested person. it seems to me the innocent bystanders are those that suffer the most from god’s tests. perhaps someone does learn a lesson or gain some insight from the loss of a loved one, but why, in all of god’s alleged infinite power and love did he have to make someone else suffer to teach the lesson? and please do not tell me when a disaster befalls a town or city that it was god’s plan, survivors do not thank god for saving you – where was god when that disaster struck? where was he for all of the other victims? what makes you, the survivor, so special god would pick you, among all of the others, to be saved?

    you, mr. cutar are a fool, and quite clearly have no idea what you are talking about. science has done more to explain the existence of everything than religion ever has. i will lay out the entirety of the religious explanation for existence here, don’t blink or you might miss it: god did it. with this single idea, this single phrase, has the human race been crippled since the concept of gods ever entered our minds. since no one can explain how something happened, it must be that god did it, correct? this is called the god of the gaps, and you sir, show your foolishness by even attempting employ the argument here. as scientific understanding grows, these gaps are becoming increasingly small, fewer and farther between. even a simpleton can see that these gaps will eventually vanish. and before it comes up, if god has always existed, if he does indeed exist, why is it any less likely that the universe itself has always existed?

    and do i detect a thinly veiled attack upon evolution there? you clearly do not understand the concept. evolution is exactly the opposite of blind chance. it this process by which something undergoes small, nearly insignificant changes over time spans which humans have difficulty framing in their minds, the sum of which result in entirely new things. i would assume that since you’ve posted here you have access to the internet and could easily research the concept yourself, there are innumerable sources in lay-men’s terms explaining it… though i would wager that since you have not done so yet, as exhibited by your complete lack of understand and the vehemence of your words, that you are unwilling to do so, as are most religious people i have known. and here lies one of the main problems that i have with religion: self-inflicted ignorance. no where else is ignorance seen as an enviable trait.

    as for atheism, i can only speak for myself, but i believe that i have but this one life to live… no more. i do seek the end of all religions, because as i look around, i can see the unbelievable amount of suffering that they have wrought in this world. this is not to say that religion has not done many great things either, but tell me this, is it better to do the right thing because it is what you truly want to do or because someone has threatened you to eternal damnation if you don’t? i myself do the right thing because i wish to. i do not need a religion to tell me what is right and wrong, i know something is wrong because it i would not want it to happen to myself. i will not do it to others because i recognize that they have but this one life as well.

    a bit rambling, i’m afraid… just too many inaccuracies to address.

  14. ParadoxHarbinger Says...

    On August 28, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    My comment is longer than your article.. how annoying is that??

  15. Josey Says...

    On August 29, 2008 at 5:45 am

    This is a wonderful article. Nice job. Very interesting.

  16. tonisan60 Says...

    On August 31, 2008 at 11:09 am

    Excelent article Unofre, thank you for sharing it.

  17. RNix Says...

    On September 2, 2008 at 10:37 am

    It was good that the author resisted the urge to take a personal stand on this issue…we can’t really know the innermost thoughts of anyone other than ourselves. Good article!

  18. Bernardo Says...

    On September 2, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    Very much agree with what ParadoxHarbinger writes.
    Excellent post ParadoxHarbinger!
    And excellent article about Eistein & God.

  19. B. James Perry Says...

    On September 7, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    He states “religion” not God in his quote. Religious can be an attitude of faith,believe, following,etc. One can be religious towards their agnosticism, atheism,politics, ad infinitum. it also can mean zealot in some cases. pretty much sounded like he was a Deist, to me. But then again it’s all supposition.

  20. Verniel Cutar Says...

    On September 9, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Hi ParadoxHarbinger. At the moment you’re old and about to die, call me or send me an email and confirm if you still hold the same beliefs you stated above.

    It seems like you are supposing that Im totally ignorant about the theory of evolution. Funny, I’ve read and studied all kinds of stuff written and propounded by atheist scientists, and I’ve met hundreds of atheists, some of whom are even my closest friends (somehow we have learned to respect each other’s beliefs and it seems you’re INCAPABLE of doing that. Oh, maybe evolution will gradually change you someday).

    How about you? Do you have enough knowledge about religion? The Bible? Because unless you do, you are not in a position to comment on religion, acting as if you’re the legitimate authority.

  21. Verniel Cutar Says...

    On September 9, 2008 at 10:15 am

    P.S: and please dont think that this is religion versus science, because there are so many scientists who are known to be believers of God. Not all scientists are atheists, and not all religious people are skeptics of science.

  22. Juancav Says...

    On September 9, 2008 at 10:34 am

    If in this planet din´t exist sorrow,this planet would be heaven,but youl´l never understand from your point view to whom believe in God.

  23. Graeme S. Houston Says...

    On September 11, 2008 at 11:46 am

    You missed the quote from when Einstein was forced to speak out against those who were using his god quotes to imply that he believed in god. I reitterate it now on his behalf;

    “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, 1954, from “Albert Einstein: The Human Side”, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press.

  24. leena mathew Says...

    On November 23, 2008 at 11:27 am

    this is somewhat controversial evidence of einstein especially because he was a Jew by birth but i found it fascinating to know what an extraordinary man like him though about God’s existence.

  25. Dov Henis Says...

    On February 2, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    God-Religion Discussable Scientifically

    A. Re “God and Evolution Can Co-Exist, Scientist Insists”

    - Is there/what is, in the quoted article, a definition of the article’s “god” ?

    - Specifically, is the article’s “god” defined as a human artifact, or not ?
    Repeating, with sincere respect:

    If “god” is not defined/understood to be a human artifact, its concept is a human virtual reality artifact experienced only through sensory stimuli, and “god-science” is not scientifically discussable. Furthermore, in this case preoccupation with this subject within a scientific frameworks contributes to corrosion and corruption of science and scientism by manifesting or implying acceptance of virtual reality as reality.

    Everything is discussable scientifically. No limit. But for scientific discussion the framework must be clearly defined. The totality of subjects that come under the classification “virtual” are not an exception. You can include in the discussion Pavlov and the modes and manners of exploiting virtuality in many areas and towards many ends…

    B. “Evolutionary Biology Of Culture And Religion”

    C. It’s The AAAS That Promotes Religion In Science And In Law

    The AAAS and its affiliates and equivalent organizations, i.e. all the Science Establishment Guilds, loudly and pseudoscientifically promote and “profoundly respect” the “spiritual religious domain” as A REAL domain, a domain separate from the REAL, science, domain. They do this both because, unbelievably, they actually believe it and as a politically powerful tool in promoting their power and state-public support.

    Dov Henis

    (Comments From The 22nd Century)–?cq=1

    Life’s Manifest

  26. Vince Says...

    On July 30, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    I believe that we all at one point and time believe in God. I believe true Christians believe in God through thick and thin. I believe people who call themselves “Christian”, but just believe in God when its convienent. I believe that true christians are loved by God and that they will ultimately die in peace and inherit heaven. I believe Einstein was very secretive about his believes. Understanding that he could tarnish his historical figure with the wrong words. I don’t think that it is any of our business to judge the man. We will never know what he honestly believed. But God Bless and a very interesting comment.

  27. Mark Says...

    On August 5, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    One must understand the time in which Einstein was making these comments. A man proclaiming to be a full blown Atheist in 1954 was practically unheard of. Furthermore his life as well as his future intellectual endeavors must have been on his mind when he made his comments about religion or lack of it, thus I think it is likely, were he in a more tolerant generation, he would have more readily stated his disbelief of god and religion. Please remember this is only my opinion although I do believe it to be an educated opinion.

  28. Jack Says...

    On October 17, 2009 at 1:52 am

    There is no such thing as nobert soloria bermosa

  29. Darren Writer Says...

    On March 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Are you kidding? Einstein used the word “God” in a nonreligious sense. He said religion was “childish superstition.” For starters, here’s a letter, handwritten by Einstein himself:

    Regardless of how YOU personally feel about religion, there’s limitless evidence about how HE felt. How is there still all this conjecture?

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