Though everyone likes to quote his famous statement "God does not play dice with the universe" as proof of him being religious, it is not that way. The phrase was used only to describe his refusal to accept the most popular interpretations of Quantum Theory.

Some quotes of his:

"The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events could never be refuted {italics his}, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot.

But I am convinced that such behavior on the part of representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an incomparably more worthy task..."

"Science, Philosophy, and Religion, A Symposium", published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941.

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."

A letter Einstein wrote, dated 24 March 1954, included in "Albert Einstein: The Human Side".

Does this mean anything as far as the truth or falsehood of religion or Einstein? No. I noded it just to try to eliminate the common repitition of the idea the Einstein was religious.

Over the span of a lifetime, many great men change their convictions. Also, folks say a lot of stuff. From that stuff we have to figure out what was inherently meant. So just because you post a few quotes that he said and that state that he was not religious (and the term "religious" is one that is vague and inspecific) doesn't necessarily make it absolute. Having read several biographies of him, I believe he was religious in some respect. But maybe not in the "I go to church every Sunday to commune with God" sense.

Re-reading this real quickly--I'm not intrinsically disagreeing with Saige. Einstein was a complex man. Making a simple statement such as "he was/wasn't religious" is probably an injustice.

An addendum for those who think I'm being "congenial":

The act of being religious doesn't require a personal god, nor does it require priests or organized faith (look it up in a dictionary if you don't believe me). Einstein was a highly spiritual person who _believed_ in the science not just as a fun set of classes to take and a cool new way to impress people, but as a driving force behind his existence. He studied it, he played with it, he thought about it. He firmly believed that it was simple and beautiful. He believed that it would guide his soul. It irked him no end that Quantum theory posed the idea that it's all random because it destroyed the simplicity and beauty which he believed in his whole life. In this way, I say he more than spiritual and he is absolutely and in no uncertain terms, religious. Perhaps not a conventionally religious person but you would never see him at the local Christian or Jewish ceremony.

"I want to know God's thoughts--the rest are details." -- Albert Einstein

My saying that he is religious does not imply that he believed in a prime mover or a personal God. Joseph Campbell was very religious and didn't believe in God or priests or Catholicism or organized religion either.

This isn't a thesis though and there's very little factual proof in my or Saige's node. And nothing factually redeeming in ximenez's node. But if a couple of quotes is all you need to decide the "facts", then you're a poor historian. But you should believe whatever is congenial to you.

This node was inspired by ximenez observation that the quotes cited were decades apart. I thought it might be of interest to read how his ideas changed over a forty year period of time. The first quotation of Albert Einstein 's (1879-1955) on the subject of religion and God begins when he was about 36 years old and ends with his obituary at the age of 58.

God's Punishment

Why do you write to me "God should punish the English"? I have no close connection to either one or the other. I see only with deep regret that God punishes so many of His children for their numerous stupidities, for which only He Himself can be held responsible; in my opinion, only His nonexistence could excuse Him.

Letter to Edgar Meyer, colleague January 2, 1915.

Reverence Before Nature

In every true searcher of Nature there is a kind of religious reverence, for he finds it impossible to imagine that he is the first to have thought out the exceedingly delicate threads that connect his perceptions.

1920; quoted in Moszkowski, Conversations with Einstein

Religious Feeling in Science

Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man.... In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.

Letter to a child who asked if scientists pray, January 24, 1936;Einstein Archive

God and Goodness

Whatever there is of God and goodness in the universe, it must work itself out and express itself through us. We cannot stand aside and let God do it.

From conversation recorded by Algernon Black, Fall 1940; Einstein Archive

Superpersonal Objects and Goals

A religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt about the significance of those superpersonal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation.

Nature 146 (1940)

Greater Things than Jesus

It is quite possible that we can do greater things than Jesus, for what is written in the Bible about him is poetically embellished.

Quoted in W. I Hermanns "A Talk with Einstein," October 1943

Philosophy and Reason

I would not think that philosophy and reason themselves will be man's guide in the foreseeable future; however, they will remain the most beautiful sanctuary they have always been for the select few.

Letter to Benedetto Croce, June 7, 1944; Einstein Archive


My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.

Letter to M. Berkowitz, October 25, 1950

The Religious Character of Science

I have found no better expression than "religious" for confidence in the rational nature of reality, insofar as it is accessible to human reason. Whenever this feeling is absent, science degenerates into uninspired empiricism.

Letter to Maurice Solovine, I January 1, 1951; Einstein Archive

Unbelief as Philosophy

Mere unbelief in a personal God is no philosophy at all.

Letter to V. T Aaltonen, May 7, 1952, on his opinion that belief in a personal God is better than atheism, Einstein Archive

Einstein's Religious Feeling

My feeling is religious insofar as I am imbued with tile consciousness of the insufficiency of the human mind to understand more deeply the harmony of the Universe which we try to formulate as "laws of nature."

Letter to Beatrice Frohlich, December 17, 1952; Einstein Archive

An Unperceivable Being

To assume the existence of an unperceivable being ... does not facilitate understanding the orderliness we find in the perceivable world.

Letter to an Iowa student who asked, What is God? July, 1953; Einstein Archive

God's worry

If God has created the world, his primary worry was certainly not to make its understanding easy for us.

Letter to David Bohm, February 10, 1954; Einstein Archive

The Society of Friends

I consider the Society of Friends the religious community which has the highest moral standards. As far as I know, they have never made evil compromises and are always guided by their conscience. In international life, especially, their influence seems to me very beneficial and effective.

Letter to A. Chapple, Australia, February 23, 1954; Einstein Archive

A Religious Nonbeliever

I am a deeply religious nonbeliever.... This is a somewhat new kind of religion.

Letter to Hans Muehsam March 30, 1954; Einstein Archive

Awe of the Structure of the World

I don't try to imagine a God; it suffices to stand in awe of the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.

Letter to S. Flesch, April 16, 1954; Einstein Archive

No Purpose in Nature

I have never imputed to Nature a purpose or a goal, or anything that could be understood as anthropomorphic. What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism.

1954 or 1955; quoted in Dukas and Hoffman, Albert Einstein the Human Side

Moral Worth

A man's moral worth is not measured by what his religious beliefs are but rather by what emotional impulses he has received from Nature during his lifetime.

To Sister Margrit Goehner, February 1955; Einstein Archive

Einstein's Religion

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive With our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.

Quoted in the New York Times obituary April 19, 1955

As a matter of personal opinion I would conclude that he was a religious man. Although Einstein wasn't religious as in manifesting a faithful devotion to an acknowledged deity, he did maintain a diligent and conscientiously faithful religious attitude with regards to his lifetime of thoughtful observances of an ultimate reality.

As a young filthy atheist, I found the "God does not play dice with the universe" quote worrying. People who count themselves rational thinkers have to be aware of the possibility that they can be wrong as phlogiston, which nobody wants and everybody manages, now and then. What does it mean when the great scientific thinkers acknowledge the ridiculous divine? Are there factors I'm missing? Where's my Glorfindel to save me from the river with the horse faces?

But as I grew in my filthy atheism and got to that awesome human trick of illogically rationalizing a defense against the apparent facts of the world, I came up with an answer that satisfied me. It may or may not be accurate on a social or scientific level, but that's not the point. So few of the things we know do we know for sure-certain, and so few of us are adapted to grasp the deep physics that's pretty much necessary to perceptive philosophy. There are situations where it's best to pull a crazy and make what sense you can of the life.

I decided that the quote had nothing to do with God. It wasn't about spirituality. It was about order. Einstein (in my little mind) wasn't telling us that there's some creeping, haloed drag queen trolling the cosmic Craigslist for d/d-free in shape under-30s for play or something more. He was talking about rules. To the ordered genius, the thought that there's anything in the universe that can't be understood and predicted must be laughable pessimism. To Archimedes, Newton and Hawking, everything is systems and interactions. Effect follows cause, and with enough processing power, everything's predictable. The quiet slam of electron into electron follows a procedure. Forces swirl in line. There's sheet music to the humming of the stars, and it's not illegible. It just takes time to work out. There's no such thing as a random occurrence. Everything is the result of something else, and leads to another everything the next instant.

Now, don't take this as a physics lesson. I've been told that there -is- such a thing as quantum uncertainty--events at an infinitesimal level that are truly up to chance. Collisions on perfectly equal terms. That'd be all it took to set the whole mess out of procedure again. Any event that's not predictable with infinite present knowledge ruins the ocean harmony of the universe. Not saying that's a good thing or a bad thing; nonhuman processes aren't good or evil, and they're beautiful no matter how imperfect they might seem to us, because perfection doesn't exist without people to create the standard. This is philosophy. Did you honestly expect to learn anything?

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