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September 23rd, 2004


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09:27 am - Einstein and Religion
For some reason, I took it to my mind to look up Einstein's views on religion this morning. Lucky me! This was an excellent idea, because it presents the workings of an extremely intelligent mind on a difficult problem -- in essence, the problem of religiosity.

What is the problem of religiosity? you ask. Let me explain. In essence, this is the observation that the "best" people we know are not always the most religious, and the most religious people we know are not always all that good. What I mean by good here is something like: in harmony with the universe, at ease with themselves and others, wonderful teachers, wonderful learners, wonderful servants. You do, of course, find "religious" people who fit all these qualifications, but you find others that fit them as well, and you find quite a few religious people who don't seem to fit the bill at all.

(By the way, I cringe too when I see the phrase "in harmony with the universe" above. It's cheesy, but I think it does express what I'm trying to say.)

Enter Einstein. He wrote a marvelous essay, in which he explained his view of religion. It is both historical and spiritual. He goes through an anthropological understanding of religion, without for a moment disparaging its foundations in reality. He claims three types of religion: 1) the religion of fear, 2) the religion of morality, and 3) the religion of sublime and marvelous order. The first two are concerned, in his words, with "the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain." As such, they are fundamentally anthropomorphic: they shape God in the image of man.

But the truth is: God shaped man in His image, not the other way around. We may have the ability to, in some sense, "be like" God; but it is nonsense for us to claim that God is anything like us. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me. It is high; I cannot attain it" (Psalm 139). This is where even the possibility of theology -- the study of God -- becomes impossible.

And yet, even that which is not understood can be known. The infant does not understand all the motivations, all the histories, all the emotions, of the mother, and yet -- the infant can truly participate in a relationship with her. So it is with us and God.

Einstein's two sources of relationship (which he calls "cosmic relgious feeling) are interesting: mysticism and science. Both these sources of relationship are somewhat challenging to the conventional believer, and yet -- it seems to me -- they have the fruit of real life. They are encounters with the Truth of all, about which both things are true: we cannot comprehend a thing about it, and yet we can never truly know anything else.

A bizarre journal, today. :) Nice to see y'all again!

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Date:January 26th, 2011 04:43 pm (UTC)

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Einstein and Religion - Urset's Musings

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