The Notes of Michael the Great
“The word God for me is nothing more than the expression and the product of human weakness, and the Bible is a collection of venerable but nonetheless rather primitive legends. No interpretation, of any kind, can change this (for me) “.
“For me the Jewish religion is, like all other religions, the embodiment of a primitive superstition. And the Jewish people, to which I am proud to belong and with whom I have a profound affinity, does not have a different form of dignity than other peoples ”.
These are two central passages of the “Letter on God” that Albert Einstein wrote on January 3, 1954 (he will die the following year) on Princeton University letterhead. It was addressed to Eric Gutkind, the German Jewish philosopher and author of the book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. In 2018, the letter was auctioned by Christie’s in New York for nearly three million dollars, including taxes. But already in 1940, in an article published in the journal Nature, the great physicist had illustrated his famous statement “I do not believe in a personal God”. In it he explained that he did not ignore “the sublime imprint and the admirable order that are revealed in nature and in the world of thought”. He added that he did not even give up the idea of god (with a lowercase d), which however is not, and cannot be, that of the Bible. That of Einstein, therefore, it is an uncomfortable, rational, “cosmic” religiosity. A religiosity that “knows neither dogmas nor those conceived in the image of man. There can be no Church that bases its own doctrine on it. And therefore among the heretics of all times that we find men penetrated by this superior religiosity “.
These claims caused a shower of indignant reactions, cited in Max Jammer’s 1999 essay Einstein and Religion. Physics and Theology (in Italian you can find a broad summary in the volume of Francesco Agnoli Philosophy, Religion and Politics in Albert Einstein, Edizioni Studio Domenicano 2015). A US Catholic lawyer, who worked for an ecumenical association, wrote to the scientist: “We deeply regret that he has made a statement […] in which he ridicules the idea of a personal God. Nothing that has been said over the past decade has ever succeeded in suggesting that Hitler had any reason to expel Jews from Germany. While recognizing the right to speak freely, I assure you that what he said makes you one of the greatest sources of discord in America ”.
No less violent is a letter addressed to him by the founder of the “Calvary Tabernacle Association of Oklahoma”: “Professor Einstein, I think all Christians in America will answer you: We will not renounce our faith in God and in his son Jesus Christ , but if you don’t believe in the God of the people of this nation, we invite you to return to your country. I have tried in every way to be a blessing for Israel, and here she comes and with a single sentence of her blasphemous language she harms the cause of her people just as Christians who love Israel are striving to eliminate anti-Semitism. from this land. Professor Einstein, all the Christians of America are ready to tell you: you take her crazy and false theory of evolution and go back to Germany, where you came from, or you stop trying to break the faith of a people who welcomed it when it was forced to flee from its native land ». For his part, a professor of the “Catholic University of America”, the Reverend Fulton J. Sheen, attacks him sarcastically wondering who would ever be willing to sacrifice his life for the Milky Way, to conclude: “His cosmic religion has a unique flaw: one more ‘s’ “.
In short, what was Einstein
An atheist, an agnostic, a deist or a pantheist
The atheist is the one who absolutely denies the existence of any transcendent entity. The agnostic does not express himself, he says he does not know and cannot reach knowledge, since divinity is something intangible and not perceptible to man. The theist believes in a supernatural intelligence which, in addition to having created the universe, continues to oversee and influence the events of its own creation. In many theistic systems, divinity is closely involved in human affairs: hears prayers, forgives or punishes sins, intervenes in the world by performing miracles, cares about good or bad deeds, and knows when they are done (or even just thought of).
Even the deist believes in a supernatural intelligence, whose task is limited to establishing the laws that govern the universe. The deist God never intervenes and certainly is not interested in human affairs. Pantheists do not believe in a supernatural God, but use the term God as a non-supernatural synonym of Nature or the universe or laws that govern the universe. Unlike that of theists, the God of the deists does not hear or answer prayers, does not care for sins or confessions of sins, does not read thoughts and does not perform miracles at his whim. As for the difference between deists and pantheists, the deist God is a sort of cosmic intelligence, rather than the poetic or metaphorical synonym with which the pantheist designates the laws of the universe. Pantheism is “an ornate atheism”,
Since Einstein declares “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the harmonious order of nature, not in a God who cares about human destinies and actions”, there are good reasons to argue that his famous aphorisms, such as “God and subtle, but not malicious ”,“ God does not play dice ”or“ God had a choice when I create the universe
”, are pantheistic. If so, “God does not play dice” should be translated as “randomness is not the essence of all things”; “God had a choice when I created the universe
” means “The universe could have started in another way
“. That is, Einstein used the term God in a purely poetic and metaphorical meaning. It cannot therefore be confused with the God of the Holy Scriptures. Anyone who tries to do so would commit a crime of intellectual treason.
The Notes of Michael the Great