Thursday, October 8, 2009

Einstein on Judaism

From here:
The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. ... For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong ... have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything “chosen” about them.
Amen, brother.

Incidentally, that quote makes this video (shown to me recently by a frummie) seem even more stupid than it already did:


  1. Our time is distinguished by wonderful achievements in the fields of scientific understanding and the technical application of those insights. Who would not be cheered by this? But let us not forget that human knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the enquiring and constructive mind.
    What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy in living.

    Written statement (September 1937) as quoted in Albert Einstein, The Human Side: New Glimpses From His Archives (1981) edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman

  2. I'll have to disagree with Einstein there, JP. We don't need Moses and Jesus to teach us what is moral. In fact, I would argue that many of the "morals" espoused by those guys (killing gays, owning people...) are not moral at all.

  3. Everybody likes quoting Einstein to support their view (which is kind of silly, considering that he was a physicist, not an expert on philosophy or evolutionary biology).

    Now, if you consider all these quotes, including the ones that you disagree with, you'll see that he was neither a rabid secularist, nor a theist. So the rabid secularists (e.g. Richard Dawkins) and the fundi theists (e.g. JP) should quit quoting him out of context.

  4. e,

    I didn't quote him out of context, and I never said I agree with everything Einstein ever said. There's nothing wrong with quoting someone if you don't agree with 100% of the things that person ever said. And I find that there is usually a big difference in the way the "rabid secularists" and the "fundi theists" use such quotes. The fundi's will often use Einstein's quotes about God (e.g. rolling dice) to say "look, this genius believed in God, so you can't say that there is no intellectual basis for theism", while people like Dawkins will let the quotes speak for themselves.

  5. "Now, if you consider all these quotes, including the ones that you disagree with, you'll see that he was neither a rabid secularist, nor a theist."

    The difference is that the fundis often try to claim he was a theist, while the Dawkin's types (as far as I've seen) would never try to claim he was something that he was not.

  6. Einstein is too smart, I love him like a father...<333

  7. JP, that is at best a pragmatic argument for religion, and really isn't even that. Its just an acknowladgment that when it comes to happiness, the ideals philosophy and theology, not physics and technology, seemed to better show the way. I think that today this may not even be true anymore, as studies in psychology and nuerology are helping us to understand what really makes people happy.

  8. Its important to bare in mind Einstein was by no stretch an atheist.

    He was a secular pantheist.

    It would be more accurate to say he believed in the divine, but not in God!

  9. Einstein went to Catholic school I believe, making it very unlikely that a teacher would try to teach that there was no god. (Even more implausible than it otherwise would have been.)

  10. You may be interested in reading Rabbi Emanuel Feldman's essay on Einstein and his beliefs, in his book "The Biblical Echo."

  11. Well, in the Guide to the Perplexed, Rambam views evil as the absence of good.

    Hannah Arendt views evil as the absence of contemplation.

    Apikorsim, what's your definition of evil?

  12. Einstein's religious views changed a lot over time. So even if this had occurred when he was young, that would be almost an argument against it given his later changes to more deistic or pantheistic viewpoints.

    That's aside from the issue that Einstein's opinion on religion has as much validity as that of anyone else: Not much.

    Anyways, also commenting to let you know that you've been tagged:


    My frustration with yiddishkeit.