“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.
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.