Einstein and Religion

“Scientists are likely to be atheists.”

This is a new-age myth that materialists attempt to foster. It is not based in truth. Indeed many surveys have shown that a greater proportion of scientists believe in God, personal or otherwise, than do the general population.

I want to work through the writings on the subject of some real scientific heros – Neils Bohr, Max Planck, Erwin Schroedinger, Werner Heisenberg and the man who got me started – with his work with Karl Jung – Wolfgang Pauli.

But, to start. What did Albert Einstein really think? (Apart from “God doesn’t play dice”).

He spoke often about the relation – and complementarity – of religion and science. His view was, of course, often canvassed. He set down his thoughts most extensively in “Ideas and Opinions” (1954) and ” The World As I See It” (1949).

Einstein was most definitely not a materialist, and considered  “true” science and “true” religion to be complementary.

“The interpretation of religion, as here advanced, implies a dependence of science on the religious attitude, a relation which, in our predominantly materialistic age, is only too easily overlooked. While it is true that scientific results are entirely independent from religious or moral considerations, those individuals to who we owe the great creative achievements of science were all of them imbued with the truly religious conviction that this universe of ours is something perfect and susceptible to the rational striving for knowledge”.

He did not adhere to any one religion. In his earlier writing he categorises his view of a kind of “progression” of religious thought from a “religion of fear” through to “moral religions” and finally a “cosmic religious feeling” – which he finds in:

“many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learnt from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer especially, contains a much stronger element of it. The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image”


He also admired particularly the writing and thinking of Francis of Assisi and Spinoza, together with the “Jewish-Christian” tradition.

“The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations”

Einstein did not think of religion and science as being in conflict – except where one sought to make statements related to the sphere of the other. This, applies both ways. He identified that each validly approached a different question.

“the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet it is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be..Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievement of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.. mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends”.

Einstein did not in the end believe in an anthropomorphic God – made in man’s image, but he certainly believed in something beyond the material and knowable.

“A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in the alone, I am a deeply religious man”.