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.
Einstein’s writing on the contradictory nature of science and religion explains the limits of human knowledge and use of the scientific method. He believes that only religion can give us the sense of “ultimate and fundamental ends.” In addition, he adds that this is directly related to the democratic ideals and therefore with the discarding of religion, the democratic spirit is being set aside as well.
The part of this excerpt I found most intriguing was Einstein’s focus on ends and means. He states that while objective reasoning gives us “tools”, as individuals we need religion to get to goal or even long for a goal. He sees no way for an individual to develop to serve mankind without this higher power. It’s interesting because in a time where scientific progress was being made in such large strides to serve mankind, Einstein takes an opposite view explaining that only religion can serve this purpose.
In an era in such desperate need of moral guidance, why did so many flock to a scientific way of thinking?
The reading “Science and Religion” consists of two articles written by Albert Einstein. They both argue science and religion are interdependent. Einstein wrote that science could not exist without the questioning of one’s surroundings and pushing the boundaries of knowledge and fact, which are fundamental principles accompanying any religion. Likewise, religion could not exist without knowledge and fact, as knowledge lays the groundwork for ethics and rules.
Throughout the reading, Einstein made a couple of references to the Church. At the end of the second article segment, Einstein wrote why he believes a priest must become a teacher in order to get his message across. As Einstein was Jewish, I found it very interesting how he offered examples from the Catholic religion instead of Judaism. I thought of a reason this might be. My thought is that Einstein was a self-loathing Jew. He experienced the rise of Nazi Germany first hand, and was fortunately saved and allowed to immigrate to America because of his scientific work. He won the Nobel Prize in 1921, and moved to American in 1933. The Nazis burned his books and put out a hit on him in spite of all of his accomplishments. From the reading, it is obvious that Einstein believed that religion is important to incorporate into society and into one’s life, but is it possible he hated his own religion? Was he hiding his Judaism to be taken more seriously, as anti-Semetism was running rampant at this time? Or was he just appealing to the public and the majority?
We are currently living in an era defined by a technological renaissance. Humanities machines, weapons, and access to knowledge have surpassed the imaginary limits of many 20th century novelists and—to be quite honest, elicit in me a curious sense of caution as to our limits. The Internet, genomics, Solar-Photovoltaics—these are instruments and ideas that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago. My generation has always been exposed to a world of knowledge that hadn’t existed a few years before our birth. The Internet can provide us with the answers to all of our non-transcendental questions almost instantly. To many, religion is regarded merely as the manifestation of the human unknown—meaning, it is the explanation of what we have yet to prove with science. As an atheist myself, I used to frequently dwell on God’s existence, or more appropriately, the disproof for God’s existence that I could piece together using logic into a vain philosophical argument which proved to me nothing. To many, ‘logic’ and religion are incompatible.
Einstein takes a very different standpoint. He argues that religion has the answers to our aspirations and nature—something which cannot be entirely explained using proof. Einstein claims that overzealous nationalism and totalitarianism are destroying the human spirit, by resting their crosshairs on destruction rather than creation. Objective knowledge, he argues, is extremely important and has been colossal in its achievements. But does not, however, come close to giving us the meaning of our existence.