13 May 2008

Einstein on the Bible

What did Albert Einstein think about the Bible? Well, here's what he said a year before he died.
The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.


Jason said...

And here's what Newton said about the same: "Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done." (Isaac Newton—Inventor, Scientist and Teacher, Mott Media, Milford (Michigan), 1975)

And: "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily." (ibid)

Then there's this amusing one: "Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors." (Newton’s Philosophy of Nature, p. 65)

Brian_E said...

That's because Newton knew what happened to scientists that didn't profess a belief in god, such as Galileo and Bruno. Thankfully by Einsteins era we were evolved enough to not try to shut up our greatest minds (in the best case) or burn them at the stake (obviously the worst case). As Hitchens so well puts it, religion poisons everything.

Anon said...

Newton also said:

"I have not been able to discover the cause of those properties of gravity from phenomena, and I frame no hypotheses;' for whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis, and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy." (http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Isaac_Newton)

So if I'm reading this correctly, he personally believed in God, but didn't think God had a place in science.

And according to "Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction" By Gary B. Ferngren, Newton treated the idea of the trinity as an "abomination", in the words of Ferngren. Newton referred to believers in the Trinity in his own words as "Idolators, Blasphemers, and spiritual fornicators", calling belief in the Trinity "false, infernal religion". (p. 156-167)

Jason, what do you think about these views from Newton? One could safely say that neither Newton nor Einstein believed in the trinity, which most Christian churches hold is essential to salvation.

Jason said...


What do I think about Newton's views on the Trinity? I don't have a problem with them.

Jason said...


Galileo was Roman Catholic and Bruno was an ordained priest in the Dominican Order who ultimately tried to convert to Catholicism. Both required a profession of belief in God.

Brian_E said...

Way to miss the point Jason. My point was that any scientist up until modern age had better profess some belief in a god lest they be burned at the stake, like Bruno eventually was. Not because he was an atheist, but because he had the balls to express an opinion contrary to the Catholic church. It's as close to an atheist as one could even be and still be alive. They say there are no atheists in foxholes, well there are also no atheists in the 16-17th century either.

And I believe the point of this entire post was to nix the notion that Einstein was a Christian, as most Christians like to trumpet. I personally don't care what religion any of these scientists were, so long as their religion didn't sway their work, unlike the creationists of today. If Galileo was as deluded as your typical creationist is, then he would have burned his work and focused on finding proof that the earth indeed was the center of the universe. If that were the case, he would now be viewed as a clown, instead of an innovator. He had the guts to put aside his religious beliefs in favor of what the scientific data told him. If all Christians could operate with this level of honesty, then atheists would have a whole lot less to be upset about.

Jason said...


You said: "That's because Newton knew what happened to scientists that didn't profess a belief in god, such as Galileo and Bruno."

This is obviously incorrect since both scientists did profess a belief in God as seen by the fact they both joined religious groups who believed in God.

Admit you made a mistake and move on.

McGuire said...

Newton spent more time writing on religious matters than scientific... he also spent a lot of time seeking executions for counterfeiters.

Brian_E said...

The only thing I'll admit is that I'm not explaining myself properly, which can be difficult in this medium at times.

I explained my point in my previous post; these scientists, despite their religious affiliation, behaved more like atheists than religious fundies with an agenda. Newton would've been in the same boat as Galileo and Bruno had he lived 200 years earlier; he either would've had to throw out his work, or risk his neck in the name of science. In this regard, all these scientists have more in common with atheists than the religious establishment.

Do you think Galileo, Bruno, Einstein or even Newton would today be ID/creationists?

Jason said...


You claimed that Newton expressed his belief in God because he knew what happened to scientists who didn't profess a belief in God.

To restate your claim: ...Newton knew what happened to scientists that didn't profess a belief in god, such as Galileo and Bruno

Your mistake is in saying that neither man professed a belief in God. This is blatantly incorrect. Admit it and move on.

Brian_E said...

Yes...on second glance my wording is incorrect. A better way to phrase this would've been Newton knew what happened to scientists that didn't bend over to the religious establishment. I like that better anyway.

It's worth mentioning though, that just because someone attends a church doesn't mean they buy into the belief. I know plenty of atheists that attend church.

And I also stand by my other 2 comments: there were no 17th century atheist scientists, and Newton should be grateful for those two for paving the road of heretical scientific discoveries that he so closely toed.

Jason said...

How do you know there were no 17th century atheist scientists? I don't know how you're planning on going about proving this but I'm interested in seeing how it's done.

As for Newton, he appeared to follow the Arian belief of a Unitarian God, quite obviously at odds with the Roman Catholic Church (of whom Galileo and Bruno were affiliated with). I would hardly call this "bending over to the religious establishment"...

Anon said...

jason said, What do I think about Newton's views on the Trinity? I don't have a problem with them.

Thank you for your reply. Most modern Christians would have a problem with these views (many people dispute or dislike Mormon theology based on this), so I guess that you and Newton agree on this point.

Emodude, based on my very brief review of Newton's writings online, it seems that he did believe in the Judeo-Christian God. I don't see anyone claiming he was a closet atheist or Deist.

Newton vehemently critiqued the concept of the trinity (which would have lost him his position at the very least), but it seems clear this was an attack from the point of view of a believer, not from the point of view of an atheist. While others definitely hid their non-belief, if Newton was a non-believer, it would be hard to prove from what I can tell.

But I think his statement that I cited earlier, "hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy" tends to indicate that he thought discussion of God has no place in the realm of science. If only this view were more widely held today among believers...

To get back on topic: Einstein, at least at the time he wrote the letter from the original post, was very clearly atheistic in his thought. People who put Einstein clearly among the religious will have to think twice in the future after this newly released letter.

v_quixotic said...

Anon quoting Newton: "hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy"

This statement is pure wisdom and remarkable in that it was centuries before Popper expressed similar thoughts. There is no point arguing there are or are not gods as it is an untestable hypothesis.

Blogs like this however do a fine job in arguing various wholey texts are probably not the infallible word of gods... there are just too many flaws to sustain such a view for me at least).

RR said...

Most scientists and philosophers from the 19th century and earlier were christians... why? Because most EVERYONE that was learned in those eras was a christian! The nation-states of the time were ruled by christian rulers (in Europe anyway).

Many great thinkers have have also been stupendously ignorant about various topics outside there area of genius. Just because Newton was a beleiver doesn't mean his theological opinion is any more 'informed' than the peasants of the time.

The simple fact remains: there is no evidence for the existence of a personal god... Hence religious folk profess to stand on "faith" -- while at the same time trying to use any scrap of science they can to bolster their case.

The entire enterprise is useless.

Unknown said...

First of all, Galileo and Copernicus were both Christians. Secondly the "church" if that is what you want to call it was operating on a diluted text that Constantine passed down. All the while he was hoarding up the real texts in a safe place. Still copies of the true word of God were circulating, but even Constantine was trying to rid of those as well. These copies would surface and Constantine's robots would burn anyone at the stake that came to the table with anything different than what Constantine provided. Constantine was a crook and a evil man. He turned Christianity into a religion in which it is not. Christianity is the blood Covenant pact between God and Man. Galileo and Copernicus both were Christians separate from the "Religious Liberalism" accepted by Constantine's robots. Galileo disagreed with Constantine's robots although not about anything to do with the Bible, but about the adopted views of the "so called" church about the philosophy of Aristotle. Galileo did however live in a time frame where a more accurate King James was released. The so called church was also getting used to this new text around the time of Galileo's lifetime. Please tell what really happened. We always get these people who are dead set against Christianity but have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

RR said...

The fact remains: there is no good evidence for 99% of the nonsense the bible claims is truth... In fact, most of its contents is demonstrably based on iron age barbarism and mythology. Most everything we've learned about the physical world and ourselves has been scratched out by swimming against the current of religious dogma & nonsense.

Anonymous said...

RR: Your comment is simply an opinion, not fact. If you have evidence for that claim than state it. Plus it takes more faith to believe that the bible is false than to believe it's true.

Anonymous said...

Also, this quote doesn't say that Einstein didn't believe in the Bible. He must of believed in it a little to say that the stories are childish.

Love Bomb said...

Man oh Man. It takes more faith to not believe in the Bible??? Whatever. Faith is gullibility is ignorant of what exists right before your eyes. Having to fit everything in the human experience into a book thousands of years old rather than pay attention to what is real, what exists is the seed of ignorance and in my opinion the source of the greatest evil on earth! Hosanna!

Unknown said...

I don't have enough faith to be an athiest (A person who holds the position that there is positively no God).
Love Bomb, if you're still out there in cyberspace, should I disregard what you wrote because it is now almost 2 years old, and the half-life of human knowledge is 4 years or less? How old something is or is not has little bearing on reality.