The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. (Albert Einstein)
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. (Albert Einstein, 1954, The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press)
Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of Nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being.
(Albert Einstein, 1936, The Human Side. Responding to a child who wrote and asked if scientists pray.)
A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
(Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science”, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)
I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature. (Albert Einstein, The World as I See It)
I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own — a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms.
(Albert Einstein, Obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955)
One strength of the Communist system … is that it has some of the characteristics of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion.
(Albert Einstein, Out Of My Later Years, 1950)
I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.] My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance — but for us, not for God. (Albert Einstein,The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press)
If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. (Albert Einstein)
The idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I am unable to take seriously. (Albert Einstein, Letter to Hoffman and Dukas, 1946)
The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action. (Albert Einstein)
I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it. (Albert Einstein, The Human Side)
I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, 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 received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being. (Albert Einstein)
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. (Albert Einstein)
The mystical trend of our time, which shows itself particularly in the rampant growth of the so-called Theosophy and Spiritualism, is for me no more than a symptom of weakness and confusion. Since our inner experiences consist of reproductions, and combinations of sensory impressions, the concept of a soul without a body seem to me to be empty and devoid of meaning. (Albert Einstein)
I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details. (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p.202)
It is very difficult to elucidate this [cosmic religious] feeling to anyone who is entirely without it. . . The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in man’s image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it … In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it. (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, p. 207)
I see a pattern, but my imagination cannot picture the maker of that pattern. I see a clock, but I cannot envision the clockmaker. The human mind is unable to conceive of the four dimensions, so how can it conceive of a God, before whom a thousand years and a thousand dimensions are as one? (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p. 208)
We know nothing about [God, the world] at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. Possibly we shall know a little more than we do now. but the real nature of things, that we shall never know, never. (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, Page 208)
Geoff – I think Einstein is referring to the limitations of mathematical physics and his failed attempt of a continuous field theory of matter (i.e. mathematics does not describe reality, only its quantities). However, with a wave structure of matter in space we have further knowledge that Space is a substance with properties of a wave medium. But we are still imagining space based upon our own limited minds and imagination, so in a sense the solution is always incomplete.
Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is the same as that of the religious fanatics, and it springs from the same source . . . They are creatures who can’t hear the music of the spheres. (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, 2000 p. 214)
Geoff – It is interesting that Einstein refers to the ‘music of the spheres’, a perfect description of the the spherical standing wave structure of matter in Space!
In the view of such harmony in the cosmos which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognise, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what makes me really angry is that they quote me for support for such views. (The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press, p. 214)
What separates me from most so-called atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos. (Albert Einstein to Joseph Lewis, Apr. 18, 1953)
When the answer is simple, God is speaking. (Albert Einstein)
The area of scientific knowledge has been enormously extended, and theoretical knowledge has become vastly more profound in every department of science. But the assimilative power of the human intellect is and remains strictly limited. Hence it was inevitable that the activity of the individual investigator should be confined to a smaller and smaller section of human knowledge. Worse still, this specialization makes it increasingly difficult to keep even our general understanding of science as a whole, without which the true spirit of research is inevitably handicapped, in step with scientific progress. Every serious scientific worker is painfully conscious of this involuntary relegation to an ever-narrowing sphere of knowledge, which threatens to deprive the investigator of his broad horizon and degrades him to the level of a mechanic …
It is just as important to make knowledge live and to keep it alive as to solve specific problems. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims and the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this. (Albert Einstein, 1930)
The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description .. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. (Albert Einstein)
In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this religious feeling and keep it alive in those who are receptive to it. (Albert Einstein, 1930)
Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death. (Albert Einstein, 1930)
There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. (Albert Einstein, 1934)
For the scientific method can teach us nothing else beyond how facts are related to, and conditioned by, each other. The aspiration toward such objective knowledge belongs to the highest of which man is capable, and you will certainly not suspect me of wishing to belittle the achievements and the heroic efforts of man in this sphere. Yet is equally clear that knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. One can have the clearest and most complete knowledge of what is , and yet not be able to deduct from that what should be the goal of our human aspirations. Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source. And it is hardly necessary to argue for the view that our existence and our activity acquire meaning only by the setting up of such a goal and of corresponding values. (Albert Einstein, 1939)
To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. And if one asks whence derives the authority of such fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justified merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgments of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. (Albert Einstein, 1939)
.. free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. There is no room in this for the divinization of a nation, of a class, let alone of an individual. Are we not all children of one father, as it is said in religious language? (Albert Einstein, 1939)
If one holds these high principles clearly before one’s eyes, and compares them with the life and spirit of our times, then it appears glaringly that civilized mankind finds itself at present in grave danger. In the totalitarian states it is the rulers themselves who strive actually to destroy that spirit of humanity. In less threatened parts it is nationalism and intolerance, as well as the oppression of the individuals by economic means, which threaten to choke these most precious traditions. (Einstein, 1954. p43-4)
But if the longing for the achievement of the goal is powerfully alive within us, then shall we not lack the strength to find the means for reaching the goal and for translating it into deeds. (Albert Einstein, 1939)
We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive. (Albert Einstein, 1954)
The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.
( Albert Einstein – The Merging of Spirit and Science)
1. “George Bush says he speaks to god every day, and christians love him for it. If George Bush said he spoke to god through his hair dryer, they would think he was mad. I fail to see how the addition of a hair dryer makes it any more absurd.” – Sam Harris
2. “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours” -Stephen Roberts
3. “I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence” -Doug McLeod
5. “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” –Richard Dawkins
6. “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike” -Delos B. McKown
7. “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the the universe.” – Albert Einstein
8. “Gods are fragile things; they may be killed by a whiff of science or a dose of common sense.” –Chapman Cohen
9 “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” –Albert Einstein
10. “Don’t pray in my school, and I won’t think in your church” – Unknown
11. “I do not think it is necessary to believe that the same God who has given us our senses, reason, and intelligence wished us to abandon their use, giving us by some other means the information that we could gain through them” –Galileo Galilei
Americans elect a lot of public officials – over half a million, from the President down to school district level. If atheists and other nonbelievers were represented fairly, you would expect about 50 in the US Congress and another 50,000 at State and local level.
In 2007, the Secular Coalition for America tried to find them. They found only five. Three were very local officials: a school board president, a school committee member and a town meeting member. And the two most senior were both in their seventies, much closer to the end than the start of their political careers.
The first, Pete Stark, was born in 1931 and served in the Air Force and founded a bank before being elected to Congress in 1973 to represent a liberal district in California. He grew up a Republican, but had switched sides when he opposed the Vietnam War. He is a Unitarian Universalist, a congregation in which members seek their own truth about theological issues. Stark does not believe in a supreme being, saying that he is more interested in people, though he adds that the Stark family does recognize a supreme being – his wife Deborah.
So what horrific future would this openly atheist Congressman inflict on Americans? His shocking priorities are universal health care, ending the war in Iraq and protecting Medicare. He wants higher taxes for the wealthy and on cigarettes. He wants incentives for teachers to work in low-income schools. He wants higher payroll taxes to better fund social security. He wants better job re-training, child care and housing assistance. He supports the UN, the Kyoto protocol, abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action. He opposes the death penalty, and wants to restrict sex and violence on television. May God protect us all from Pete Stark.
Stark is unruffled by religious fanaticism, saying that ‘the leading candidates all agree that they believe in a supreme being, but forget about it as soon as they are elected.’ He believes that religion affects the style, rather than the substance, of the main political debate in America, which he says is between the Democrat view that government makes our lives better and the Republican view that government is dangerous for us. On ‘coming out’, he looked forward to ‘working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social service.’
Ernie Chambers, Nebraska State Senator
Next comes Ernie Chambers, the only openly atheist lawmaker at State level. He was born in 1937 and worked as a barber before he became a local civil rights leader in the 1960s. He was first elected as an independent candidate to the Nebraska Senate in 1971, and is the State’s only black Senator, its longest serving Senator and the only one to wear blue tee-shirts and jeans instead of a suit. His crimes against God include ending corporal punishment in state schools, getting equal state pensions for women, and blocking the legalization of concealed weapons. He strongly opposes the death penalty, and starts every legislative session by proposing its abolition.
Chambers got world attention in 2007 when he took a legal case against God. In a different case, a Nebraska judge had barred a woman from using the words ‘rape’ or ‘victim’ while alleging that she was a rape victim. He insisted that she describe what happened as ‘sex’, which is a bit like calling a mugging a ‘financial transaction’. The woman took a lawsuit against the judge, but her case was dismissed as being frivolous. Chambers took her side, arguing that the Nebraska constitution allows anyone to sue anyone. To make this point in a satirical way, he sued God in the district court of Douglas County, Nebraska.
Chambers wanted an injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities including the making of terroristic threats as well as ‘fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like.’ He argued that the court had jurisdiction because God, being omnipresent, was personally in Douglas County, and that he should not have to serve legal papers because God, being omniscient, already knew about the case.
Three Local Elected Officials
The three local officials who responded to the Secular Coalition were Terry Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, California.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Massachusetts. And that, in the early twenty-first century, was the extent of openly atheist elected officials in America: Pete Stark married to his supreme being in California, Ernie Chambers suing God in Nebraska, and three local officials scattered across three million square miles of land.
Clearly there are many, many more elected atheists in the American closet. If one in every ten citizens rejects belief in gods, then about fifty members of Congress should do so. The Secular Coalition says there are 21 others who are not yet willing to go public. Even if this is true, it would still be less than half the amount that would be proportional to the overall population. It is time for elected American atheists to stand up for their rational beliefs.