God: 1, Humanity: 0

Smart people succumb to the comfort of dimwitted platitudes like the rest of us. Perhaps it reassures them. In his essay “Science and Religion”, Einstein disappoints by choosing what Freud referred to as “a dull Christian ending” in reference to Dostoevsky’s limp of an epilogue at the end of Crime and Punishment. What a shame that Einstein did not use that beautiful mind of his to come up with an original cosmology! Instead he chooses the safe path, the idea that, in the words of Dostoevsky in the Brothers Karamazov, “without God everything is permitted”. How convenient for our governments and churches, among other self- proclaimed purveyors of the good news. A quick review of human atrocities across the centuries will reveal the opposite. Humanity uses God, or the religious impulse inhabiting humanity like a restless tapeworm, to justify every sort of ignominy, like a premium members card for all manner of atrocities and institutionalized buffoonery. We entered the platinum club about a hundred years ago.

Of course, Einstein tells us “religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship.” We also learn that religion uses tradition to inculcate values and brotherly love through tradition and simple narratives. How comforting to know that Einstein paid attention in Sunday school for the rest of us. Rather than use his unique stature as an internationally renowned man of science to criticize human societies for their lack of reason, generosity, and imagination, Einstein chooses to remain firmly ensconced in the mainstream delusions of his time. The dangers of the religious impulse extend far beyond religion itself. It conditions our unquestioning acceptance of hierarchy, our infatuation with meaningless iconography, our prurience, and our unreasonable hatred of our neighbors. It’s no wonder the best Christians abandon the Church. And yet, Einstein persists in repeating this nonsense in the aftermath of two wars made possible by humanity’s willingness to kneel before abstractions and prophets. Nice job, Einstein.

3 thoughts on “God: 1, Humanity: 0

  1. I see where you are coming from, but Einstein is not complimenting the Church, merely saying that christianity invokes a moral code, and a moral code is necessary when dealing with science. One must have boundaries. If the realization of communism thought us anything, it was that human nature cannot be trusted. A moral code that is widely accepted, such as religion, keeps human nature in check. Besides, science cannot, as of now, tell us where all the matter in the universe and the universe itself came from. Nothing comes from nothing, so where did everything come from? Religion answers this question, while science cannot.

  2. I think it is important to distinguish between a facile endorsement of Christianity and an argument for the symbiosis of science and morality. In my opinion, Einstein was firmly working towards the latter category. He epitomizes this view most pithily with his epithet “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” (Einstein) As you noted, a large number of “ignominies” throughout history have indeed been justified on religious grounds or with the dubious interpretation of a particular religious text. However, Einstein acknowledges this as well, noting that “a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible … these conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors.” (Einstein) Einstein too sees the shortcomings of both science and religion; in fact, these shortcomings constitute the basis for this writing. However imperfect they may be individually, his argument is that they are complementary and interdependent modes of thought and organization for humanity.

  3. To generalize and say all the best people left the church seems a little far fetched. It is unfair to say that in such a black and white tone, since history after all is more about finding the various shades of grey within the past. While I can see the author’s argument, it feels as if there’s a vendetta against Eisenstein and religion underlying the tone of this piece.

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