Saturday, April 07, 2007

Einstein and Faith

From the article: "But the awe part comes in his 50s when he settled into a deism based on what he called the "spirit manifest in the laws of the universe" and a sincere belief in a "God who reveals Himself in the harmony of all that exists.""

You know, it's uniquely frustrating to see such tripe proffered in one of the nation's leading news-magazines.  Einstein was not a deist.  Calling him one does not make it so.  Even the great man himself saying "I believe in God," would not necessarily point to him being a believer in an Almighty. 

Why? Well, let's perform a gedankenexperiment in Einstein's honor, shall we? 

The year is 1920.  You are in the heart of New York (or Paris, or London, Budapest, or any other place in western civilization).  You are in a position of power or importance, let's say you're an elected official or a scientist who wants to give his theories full shrift in the marketplace of ideas.  Go to your local broadsheet's office and ask to be interviewed.  In that interview, declare that you can no longer justify a belief in god, any god.

How many people do you think will listen to your ideas now?

Pete Stark recently came out as an atheist.  He's a minor representative from a state that has so many that most people in California couldn't list them all.  Yet he made the national news.  This was last month.  30 days ago, not 100 years ago.

However, it is true that he did not like being labeled an atheist, as attested to by this quote, "What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos."  But then again, who in their right mind would want to be labeled so?  It's not like atheists are a protected minority.  Freedom of religion in theory does not equate to freedom from religion in practice.  But Einstien's god is unlike any god the general population believes in.  His god is also utterly unlike what today's ivory tower theological intellectuals describe. 

The phrase "...utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos," is particularly telling.  Einstein does not worship a god.  He is entranced by mystery.  He is continuously amazed by the  simplicity of the universe but that doesn't mean he believes in a 'creator' or a 'first cause', just that he feels when studying the universe what other people feel when thinking about their god: wonder.

Calling Einstein a deist is like calling a swan a titmouse.  One is a majestic symbol of purity and light, the other is... a titmouse.


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