LOL! Atheism Wins

LOL!

After all these years, we won Einstein:

“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.”

For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are 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.”

LOL!

But wait! We have to hear from the bumbling theologian!

“Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him,” said Brooke. “It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.”

Despite his categorical rejection of conventional religion, Brooke said that Einstein became angry when his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism. He was offended by their lack of humility and once wrote. “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.”

Evangelical Atheism!!!! During the MCCARTHY ERA!!!! AAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! w00t!

Comments

  1. #1 Sili
    May 12, 2008

    Why not reclaim the word?

    Personally, I certainly find “There are no gods” to be a very joyous message indeed.

  2. #2 MIkeG
    May 12, 2008

    “There are no gods”…

    It took me a whole to get here, but it does feel good to say, doesn’t it?
    No more fear of the dark, as it were. Nice.

  3. #3 Physicalist
    May 12, 2008

    I’ve a friend who’s one of the most respected Einstein scholars around; I’ll ask him what Einstein thought of atheists. He obviously rejected the notion of a personal god, but seemed to be attracted to something like the impersonal pantheistic god of Spinoza. Certainly he didn’t believe in the god of the fundies.

  4. #4 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 12, 2008

    This triggers one of my little rants. Einstein’s views on religion changed over time, just like many people. The statements “Einstein was an atheist” is true as are “Einstein was a deist” and “Einstein was a theist”. They are all also highly misleading. Einstein certainly became more supportive of atheism as he got older. Can everyone now please stop engaging in this appeal to authority? At minimum if one must engage in it please specific a time in Einstein’s life you are talking about.

  5. #5 Physicalist
    May 12, 2008

    And I guess I don’t quite get your comment

    Evangelical Atheism!!!! During the MCCARTHY ERA!!!!

    Are you suggesting that there weren’t atheists trying to win people over back in the 50s? Of course the label “evangelists for atheism” is stupid, but I take it that’s not your point . . .

  6. #6 ERV
    May 12, 2008

    *points to the newly released letter*
    Einstein said he went through a fundy phase when he was little and was crushed when he realized it was all made up.

    And its not an argument from authority. I would be an atheist with or without Einstein. Im just glad to have him on the team, and think a ‘respected’ theologian lying to try to ‘keep him’ is hysterical.

    WHOOOOOO!!!! LOL!

  7. #7 William Wallace
    May 12, 2008

    Assuming Mr. “God doesn’t play dice” was an atheist, why does that make you feel better?

    Just curious?

  8. #8 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 12, 2008

    Abbie, that he went through a highly religious phase as a kid isn’t news but is well known prior to this.

    Also, whether or not you are making an argument from authority people arguing over Einstein’s theological predilections often seem to make it one (maybe I’d be less cranky if there had been an aside in your post making it clear that people who try to make that argument are being stupid).

    The thing with the Brooke at the end amusing. And frankly anyone who sees the claim that “The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility” as an endorsement of religion isn’t being very logical, at least not in religion in the classical sense. Sections of Job and psalms both talk about how incomprehensible God’s works are. Furthermore, if there is a deity it can run things by fiat with the rules changing over time. One could thus argue that stability and constancy in the universe reflect the absence of any controlling entity.

    However, Brooke is actually a historian not a theologian which makes his comments less amusing…

  9. #9 Robert O'Brien
    May 12, 2008

    I respect Einstein for his contributions to physics but that’s it. We theists have far more and better.

  10. #10 Crake
    May 12, 2008

    Fantastic news! But it doesn’t come as a suprise, I always thought Einstein was too clever for the religious schtick.

  11. #11 Physicalist
    May 12, 2008

    Close Crake, but it’s “Einstein was far too quick for this religious schtick.”

  12. #12 Lassi Hippeläinen
    May 13, 2008

    I can parse “his views were appropriated by evangelists for atheism” also in another way: “…by evangelists [of religions] for atheism”. Einstein is accusing evangelists for using his views to describe atheism in a negative way.

    The ambiguity is probably due to inaccurate translation. German grammar has some quirks (it seems to be optimized for a computer with stack architecture), and it takes some experience to connect the five verbs at the end of a clause to the right things.

  13. #13 Tucker
    May 13, 2008

    Einstein was a Pantheist, or possibly a Deist. Just because he rejected a personal God, and the Abrahamic God doesn’t make him an Atheist.

    This is, after all the man who said “I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.”

  14. #14 ShavenYak
    May 13, 2008

    A funny thing about “God does not play dice with the Universe” – the statement expressed Einstein’s belief that quantum mechanics was an incomplete theory, and that there were “hidden variables” which could explain its apparent paradoxes. In 1964 (after Al’s death) John Bell showed that hidden variable theories could be experimentally checked against pure quantum mechanics, and it turned out that Einstein was wrong.

    If Einstein was wrong about whether dice were being played, he can also be wrong about whether there is a God to play them. So no one needs to read too much into whatever it was that he believed.

    And since we started by talking about dice, I’ll leave with a little ditty by another famous philosopher who likes to be coy about whether or not he believes in God, Rush’s Neil Peart:

    Why are we here? Because we’re here, roll the bones.
    Why does it happen? Because it happens, roll the bones.

  15. #15 Dr Benway
    May 13, 2008

    The non-believers get the pantheists, the deists, and most of the transcendentalists on their team.

    You believers get to keep Fred Phelps, Rev. Wright, Lois Farrakhan, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Osama bin Laden, etc.

    Hope this helps.

  16. #16 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    Assuming Mr. “God doesn’t play dice” was an atheist, why does that make you feel better?
    Just curious?

    Because idiotic god-botherers frequently cite Einstein as an example of a religionist, so this additional clarity on his position reveals that yet another of the god-botherers’ arguments is totally bogus.

  17. #17 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    Did you notice they opened up the article with the “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” quote? read it in context:


    Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

    By “religion” he does not mean belief in a personal god, a position which he argues against in the rest of that essay. He is using “religion” here to mean axiology. I deny that “aspiration toward truth and understanding” necessarily derives from religion, as most people understand the term. I also deny that belief in “the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational” is a faith-based belief; there is plenty of evidence for that position based on centuries of scientific inquiry.

    When Einstein said in 1954, “I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly.” he was quite wrong. His continued use of words such as God, religion and faith, when he did not mean by them what most people understand those words to mean, do not constitute “clarity.”

  18. #18 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    The non-believers get the pantheists, the deists, and most of the transcendentalists on their team.

    “Freethinkers” might be a more appropriate and inclusive term.

  19. #19 J-Dog
    May 13, 2008

    Hey William Wallace – Why haven’t you answered any of our questions for you on your ATBC thread?

    “Just curious”.

  20. #20 Dr Benway
    May 13, 2008

    Yeah “freethinkers” seems more inclusive than “non-believer.” But I think the distinction is moot.

    If you ask, “non-belief in what, and why is that so important?” I think most atheists would say, non-belief in an interventionist God. We can’t accept claims about God’s alleged interventions in the world without evidence.

    Rules of evidence are basic to civil society. They make science possible. They keep innocent people out of jail. And they protect your money from con artists.

    The deist god or the patheist god can’t be denied or defended using evidence. So although these gods might stand in violation of our sense of parsimony, they don’t violate our rules of evidence. Parsimony violations are like misdimeanors, whereas a lack of evidence where evidence is required is a felony.

  21. #21 Samuel Skinner
    May 13, 2008

    Actually, deism and pantheism can be refuted. For starters, pantheism is meaningless- saying “God is existence” is redefining God in such a way to fix an already existing phenomena.

    As for deism… well, the universe shows no evidence of deism. Not to mention a God would have no reason to make a universe in the first place.

    Both are simply attempts to keep the warm and wuzzy feeling you get from shutting you mind off and protect it from the meanie atheists.

  22. #22 James McGrath
    May 13, 2008

    Hi! I think there’s a need to nuance Einstein’s view (assuming he had a single view as opposed to one that developed significantly during his life) in light of other things he said.

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/05/science-and-religion-around-blogosphere.html

    I’d also welcome input from you – I have a pseudoscientific stalker on my blog, apparently. If you and any others with expertise in biology and chemistry would like to give him a proper scientific workover, please do visit http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2008/05/scientists-responses-solicited.html Perhaps you can do for this guy what you did for Behe! :) Thanks!

  23. #23 Robert O'Brien
    May 13, 2008

    The non-believers get the pantheists, the deists, and most of the transcendentalists on their team.

    You believers get to keep Fred Phelps, Rev. Wright, Lois Farrakhan, Jerry Falwell, Oral Roberts, Osama bin Laden, etc.

    Hope this helps.

    Your protuberant stupidity is just precious. Let’s take a look at who else is on our team:

    Newton, Gauss, Euler, Cauchy, Archimedes, Plato, Socrates, Leibniz, Pascal, Fermat, Descartes, Lagrange, Bolzano, Brook Taylor, Colin Maclaurin, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Heisenberg, Goedel, Dante, Boethius, Aquinas, Fibonacci, R.A. Fisher, Schroedinger, Robert Boyle, James Clerk Maxwell, George Stokes, Maria Agnesi, Plotinus, Roger Bacon, Longfellow, Tennyson, Elena Cornaro Piscopia, Michael Faraday, Handel, Rousseau, Gregor Mendel, Kelvin

    Among others.

  24. #24 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 13, 2008

    Robert, most of the people on that list lived in times in which being religious was at minimum the default. If we want to play this game in its entirety then atheists wouldn’t need to pick out specific people they could just point to the fact that both higher IQ and higher education levels are correlated with atheism.

  25. #25 Bayesian Bouffant, FCD
    May 13, 2008

    Robert O’Brien is on the other team. That’s enough to satisfy me that I’ve made a good choice.

  26. #26 Dr Benway
    May 13, 2008

    Actually, deism and pantheism can be refuted. For starters, pantheism is meaningless- saying “God is existence” is redefining God in such a way to fix an already existing phenomena.

    I think we agree.

    The atheist has the universe.
    The deist or patheist has the universe n’stuff.

    The “n’stuff” is something psychologically useful but not subject to corroborative verification or falsification. It might violate parsimony. But it’s not going to stone anyone so I’m cool with it. The n’stuffers can ride with me. They’re on my team.

    Hi Mr. O’Brian. Gosh, you sound just like a follower of Christ.

  27. #27 Robert O'Brien
    May 13, 2008

    Robert, most of the people on that list lived in times in which being religious was at minimum the default.

    To the contrary, several people on my abbreviated list lived after the miasma of atheism had started to spread among the self-styled elite of the West. The (possibly apocryphal) story of Euler humiliating Diderot is instructive here.

    If we want to play this game in its entirety then atheists wouldn’t need to pick out specific people they could just point to the fact that both higher IQ and higher education levels are correlated with atheism.

    I have noted sampling problems with at least some of those surveys. In any event, even if that were true, that “fact” and a dime would not get you a gumball from a gumball machine.

  28. #28 Jim Lippard
    May 13, 2008

    Einstein would NOT want to be identified as an “evangelical atheist.” In a 1949 letter, he wrote:

    “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    In a 1945 letter, he wrote that “From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. Your counter-arguments seem to me very correct and could hardly be better formulated. It is always misleading to use anthropomorphical concepts in dealing with things outside the human sphere–childish analogies. We have to admire in humility the beautiful harmony of the structure of the world–as far was we can grasp it, and that is all.”

    The qualifier “from the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest” should not be ignored. It appears to me that he’d be comfortable being called an agnostic, or an atheist with respect to anthropomorphic gods of the major world religions, but not as an “evangelical atheist.”

    The two letters I’ve quoted from were first published in full in Skeptic magazine in 1997.

  29. #29 Thomas S. Howard
    May 13, 2008

    In any event, even if that were true, that “fact” and a dime would not get you a gumball from a gumball machine.

    Posted by: Robert O’Brien | May 13, 2008 9:40 PM

    Depends on the gumball machine. Very sloppy, Mr. O’Brien. Very sloppy. Next time you use some completely irrelevant aphorism, I expect a better showing on the research effort front.

  30. #30 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 13, 2008

    Robert, I said “most of the people” hence your response that “several” were post that time is simply not a helpful response. It is especially unhelpful given that even in the last few centuries there have been strong pressures against holding atheist or agnostic viewpoints.

    As to your second point about claiming there are sampling problems with such studies, I’d love to hear that in some detail but simply asserting that sampling problems exist isn’t going to cut it. As to your comment about gumballs, I don’t even understand what you are saying there so you might as well expand it rather than use some moth-eaten cliche. (Marginally connected aside – it used to be a lot of fun when I was still very religious pointing out such studies to other religious people. Made them very uncomfortable. Has much less of an impact now that I’m pretty agnostic bordering on atheist).

    Jim, the letter you are quoting is from 1945. The letter Abbie quotes from is from 1954. The reasonable interpretation is that Einstein got more atheistic as he got older.

  31. #31 William Wallace
    May 13, 2008

    AtBC, another component of the PT-mafia juggernaut.

    I wonder why they are so afraid to participate at my blog?

    [Apologies to Abbie, but it seems I have a stalker.]

  32. #32 Mithrandir
    May 14, 2008

    Of course, yet another of the many howlers in O’Brien’s original dropping was claiming Socrates in his camp. Socrates may not have been an atheist as we understand the term today, but he was certainly condemned (to the point of feeling compelled to drink hemlock) precisely for undermining belief in the gods.

  33. #33 Robert O'Brien
    May 14, 2008

    Of course, yet another of the many howlers in O’Brien’s original dropping was claiming Socrates in his camp. Socrates may not have been an atheist as we understand the term today, but he was certainly condemned (to the point of feeling compelled to drink hemlock) precisely for undermining belief in the gods.

    Christians were also considered “atheists” by pagans because they refused to worship pagan gods. What’s your point hayseed?

  34. #34 Robert O'Brien
    May 14, 2008

    Robert, I said “most of the people” hence your response that “several” were post that time is simply not a helpful response.

    I disagree that most of the people on my list lived during a time when atheism would not have been an option for them if they were so inclined.

    As to your second point about claiming there are sampling problems with such studies, I’d love to hear that in some detail but simply asserting that sampling problems exist isn’t going to cut it.

    The ones I have seen that attempt to poll “scientists of note” suffer from high non-response rates. One such survey was published in Nature about 10 years ago. (Although, I was pleased to see that belief is much higher among mathematicians in the NAS.)

    As to your comment about gumballs, I don’t even understand what you are saying there so you might as well expand it rather than use some moth-eaten cliche

    This is not difficult. Gumball machines typically require a quarter to purchase a gumball. If you already have ten cents, then that means the “fact” in question is not even worth fifteen cents.

  35. #35 Jim Lippard
    May 14, 2008

    Joshua: Why is it “the reasonable interpretation” that Einstein became more atheistic as he grew older? I don’t see any inconsistency between statements made in the three letters. The two I cited were four years apart, and the new one came four years later.

    Are there any statements made by Einstein at any time in his life that contradict the statement made by Brooke in ERV’s post? ERV suggests she doubts Brooke’s point on the grounds that there were no “evangelical atheists” in the McCarthy era, but the wording of Einstein’s 1949 letter shows him making *exactly* the point Brooke describes when he says “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

  36. #36 a lurker
    May 14, 2008

    “The reasonable interpretation is that Einstein got more atheistic as he got older. ”

    How?

    Anyone who has read his Ideas and Opinions must express complete non-surprise about the letter recently disclosed. Indeed it would be a complete non-surprise if one only read the pre-WWII stuff from the book.

    In those essays Einstein rejected virtually everything that most people think of when they think of a “god.” He rejected a personal god. He rejected one that interfered with natural events. He reject a god with a will. He reject a god that interfered with humanity. He rejected life after death. He rejected religious dogmas and theology. The only way he was religious, according to him, was via the experience of the mysterious. Morals are for humans only. He gave an explicate rejection of what we now call the God-of-the-gaps. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    I would not call what he believed in, in the 1930s, a “god.” Very few people back then or today would. Yet he did. Oh well. To each there own.

  37. #37 TomJoe
    May 14, 2008

    Im just glad to have him on the team …

    NEWSFLASH: He’s dead. Taking a dirt nap, and from your vantage point, never going to wake from it. Which means, he won’t be playing for yours or anyone else’s team, anytime soon.

  38. #38 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 14, 2008

    Jim, the later statements are clearly more atheistic. Furthermore, the comment “”I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist…” could easily be a statement about personal preference for activity rather than a statement about philosophical belief.

    Lurker, in that case you then have the situation that he became less willing to call what he believed in a deity as he got older.

  39. #39 Jim Lippard
    May 14, 2008

    lurker: I agree–I didn’t find the new letter at all surprising, in fact it appears to me to say almost exactly the same thing as the two earlier letters.

    Joshua: I disagree with your analysis of the “crusading spirit” sentence, which ignores the following sentence. He’s not just talking about activity, he’s talking about attitude towards the evidence when he offers an explicit contrast by saying “I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    All three letters express a position of atheism about the gods of world religions. The only thing new in this new letter is that he expresses distaste for the use of the term “god” at all, not just with the “personal” qualifier–even though he repeatedly used the word himself. Is there any evidence that he stopped using it after this 1954 letter?

  40. #40 Joshua Zelinsky
    May 14, 2008

    Jim, I concede the point on the crusading spirit line. However, distaste for the term isn’t a minor thing. I have for example a close relative who doesn’t seem to believe in a literal deity but talks about the “universal moral intuition” which he labels “God”. The step of saying that one isn’t going to even try to relabel something as “God” isn’t a small one and should not be dismissed.

  41. #41 Physicalist
    May 22, 2008

    Asked my friend the Einsten expert about Einstein on atheism. His response (paraphrased):

    While Einstein considered the traditional theistic picture of a personal god to be naive and wrong, he also tended to view atheists as making a similar mistake by considering and rejecting a naive notion of god. Einstein thought that wondrous nature of the universe is tied to something actually divine, but he rejected the picture of a god who acts and has desires in a manner analogous to human beings.

    Seems to me that Jim Lippard (#28) has got it right.