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Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'
Up for auction: An original 1954 stamped envelope and letter, shedding light on Albert Einstein's religious beliefs.
October 4th, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist - Albert Einstein - was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Dubbed Einstein’s “God Letter” by the Los Angeles-based auction agency that's posting it online,  the original document will be up for grabs starting Monday. The opening bid: $3 million.

The letter provides a window into the famed genius's religious beliefs. Einstein wrote it to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind, one year before Einstein died, in reaction to Gutkind’s book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”

“I’ve been managing high profile auctions since 2005, and this is the most historically significant item to come up ... since I’ve been doing auctions,” said Eric Gazin, president of Auction Cause, the group that's organizing the eBay auction.

Einstein was “one of the most brilliant minds to ever live, but so much of what we know is scientific. … As related to God and Judaism, this is so significant. It really lends itself to further study,” Gazin told CNN. “No one even knew this letter existed till recently.”

But Diana Kormos Buchwald, a history professor at the California Institute of Technology and the director of the Einstein Papers Project, says that's not true.

She said copies of this letter, not to mention numerous additional writings reflecting similar sentiments, have been known to researchers and available for decades, both in the Pasadena-based Einstein Papers Project and The Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Einstein Papers Project recently published its 13th volume of Einstein’s collected papers.

Einstein, who was raised a secular Jew, was open about his religious views starting in the 1920s, when he became a public figure after winning the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, Buchwald said. And biographers, including Walter Isaacson, have documented Einstein’s faith journey.

“There are no revelations here,” Buchwald said of the so-called God letter. “But it is frank in the sense that there are other writings where he says he understands a need for religion and is not derogatory. … Here he makes his own position very clear.”

In the letter about to be offered on eBay, Einstein drove home his strong opposition to the idea that Jews, or any people, may be “chosen.”

Here’s part of what he wrote, according to the Auction Cause translation:

For me the Jewish religion like all other religions 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 also no better than other human groups … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

Buchwald, who has dedicated her life to making Einstein’s works available, believes any discussion of historic documents has value, but she is critical of how this letter is being presented.

There are word choices in the translation that she, as a German speaker, would tweak. She also doesn’t get why it’s said to be written on Princeton University letterhead, when a blown-up image shows it wasn't. Einstein wasn’t even employed there, she pointed out; he was with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, not at Princeton.

Though she views such incongruities as "a bit muddy," she said she wishes the auction agency and seller luck. "It's just hype. ... I don't have a horse in this race."

The letter first became fodder for public discussion and mass fascination when the original sold at a London auction in May 2008 and “poured gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion,” The New York Times reported. Back then, it fetched a mere $404,000. Among the bidders who reportedly lost out that time around: big-name atheist and author Richard Dawkins.

Gazin of Auction Cause, which pairs marketing with charities, said the 2008 anonymous buyer sought his group out for the Einstein letter's sale after noting the agency's other successes. Topping the list: the $2.1 million raked in for an October 2007 letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and signed by 41 other Democrat leaders, demanding an apology from Rush Limbaugh.

"More than a few” potential buyers have gotten prequalified to enter this upcoming Einstein letter bidding war, Gazin said. He described those expressing interest so far as people in the technology and atheist communities, as well as university and public museums.

At the current owner’s request, Gazin said, an unspecified portion of the letter's proceeds will go to cancer research.

For those not interested in such heady materials, Auction Cause is offering some less profound items on eBay this month: the dress Maria Menounos wore to the Emmys; shoes from Kourtney Kardashian's closet and time with Howard Stern in the shock-jock's studio.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism • Charity • Culture & Science • History • Judaism • Science

soundoff (6,703 Responses)
  1. Scott

    How come the smarter, more intelligent that you are, the less you are likely to believe in a "GOD"? How scientists generally don't believe in religion, yes the vast majority of hillbilly white trash do? When you believe in god, the only thing you do, is open yourself up for others to take advantage of you.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • snowboarder

      scott – with every bit of education and intelligence our reliance on the mythological for answers is diminished.

      it is no coincidence that the most religiously devout areas of the world also have some of the lowest rates of education.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:58 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Scott: read my post below and you will realize how much more smart I am than you

      October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • snowboarder

      gop – irrational fear of a boogey man is not a virtue.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:05 am |
    • snowboarder

      gop – not to mention that if you have chosen wrong of the innumerable deities, religions and doctrines today and throughout history. you will lose equally.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @GO_GOP
      Have you read the responses to your assertion of intelligence for adopting Pascal's Wager?
      Who is to say that Angus, Belenos, Brigid, dana, Lugh, Dagda, Epona, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Atehna, Demeter, Dionysus, Eris, Eos, Gaia, Hades, Hekate, Helios, Hephaestus, Hera, hermes, Hestia, Pan, Poseidon, Selene, Uranus, Zeus, Mathilde, Elves, Eostre, Frigg, Hretha, Saxnot, Shef, Thuno, Tir, Weyland, Woden, Alfar, Balder, Beyla, Bil, Bragi, Byggvir, Dagr, Disir, Eir, Forseti, Freya, Freyr, Frigga, Heimdall, Hel, Hoenir, Idunn, Jord, Lofn, Loki, Mon, Njord, Norns, Nott, Odin, Ran, saga, Sif, Siofn, Skadi, Snotra, Sol, Syn, Ull, Thor, Tyr, Var, Vali, Vidar, Vor, Black Shuck, Herne, Jack in the Green, Holda, Nehalennia, Nerthus, endovelicus, Ataegina, Runesocesius, Apollo, Bacchus, Ceres, Cupid, Diana, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Maia, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Pluto, Plutus, Proserpina, Venus, Vesta, Vulcan, Attis, Cybele, El-Gabal, Isis, Mithras, Sol Invictus, Endovelicus, Anubis, Aten, Atum, Bast, Bes, Geb, Hapi, Hathor, Heget, Horus, Imhotep, Isis, Khepry, Khnum, Maahes, Ma’at, Menhit, Mont, Naunet, Neith, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Ptah, ra, Sekhmnet, Sobek, Set, Tefnut, Thoth, An, Anshar, Anu, Apsu, Ashur, Damkina, Ea, Enki, Enlil, Ereshkigal, Nunurta, Hadad, Inanna, Ishtar, Kingu, Kishar, Marduk, Mummu, Nabu, Nammu, Nanna, Nergal, Ninhursag, Ninlil, Nintu, Shamash, Sin, Tiamat, Utu, Mitra, Amaterasu, Susanoo, Tsukiyomi, Inari, Tengu, Izanami, Izanagi, Daikoku, Ebisu, Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Fu.kurokuju, Jurojin, Hotei, Quetzalcoatl, Tlaloc, Inti, Kon, Mama Cocha, Mama Quilla, Manco Capac, Pachacamac, Viracoc.ha, or Zaramama aren't true gods?
      How can the Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, New Testament, Quran, Sunnah, Nahjul Balagha, Avesta, Vedas, Upanisahds, Bhagavad Gita, Puranas, Tantras, Sutras, Vachanas, Adi Granth, Purvas, Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pravacanasara, and Pancastikaya; Anupreksa; Samadhishataka of Pujyapada; Tattvarthasutra of Umasvati, Tattvarthasutra, Pali Tripitaka, Jataka,, Visuddimagga, Tripitaka, Lotus Sutra, Garland Sutra, Analects; the Great Learning; the Doctrine of the Mean; the Mencius, Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, Kojiki, Nihon Shoki, K-oki, Ofudesaki, Mikagura-uta, Michi-no-Shiori, Johrei, Goseigen, Netarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Chun Boo Kyung, Kitab-i-Iqan, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Book of Mormon, Dianetics, or Revelation X be dismissed as Holy Books since they all claim to be The Truth?
      If you're a Bible adherent, how do you know whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, oriental Orthodox, As.syrian, Byzantine, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Anabaptism, Brethren, Methodist, Pietism, Apostolic, Pentocostal, Charismatic, African Initiated, United, Quakers, Couthcotti.tism, Millerism, British-Isrealism, Latter Day Saints, Mennonite, 7th day Adventism, Kelleyism, Co.oneyism, Shakers, Methernitha, Strigolniki, Yehowism, Christadelphians, Christian Science, doukhobors, Iglesia ni Cristo, Makuya, Molokans, Subbotniks, Ebionism, Martinism, Rosicrucians, Rastafarianism, Santo Daime, or Umbanda is the REAL interpretation of your God's words?
      If the One True Deity, shaper of The Universe, wishes their words to be transmitted and adhered to, they should have been a bit less ambiguous. Expecting people to select The Truth out of limitless possibilities on faith alone seems a sloppy way to run things – especially if the punishment for a wrong choice is eternal torment.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:08 am |
    • rob

      As someone who falls in the top 1% of people on intelligence tests, I beg to disagree. I find people who do not believe in the supernatural to be lacking in that portion of intelligence that allows human beings to conceive of something beyond their animal existence. Put another way: the minds of people who cannot imagine a God are similar to the minds of field mice.

      October 6, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Imagining something /= belief in it.

      Anyone who claims to be so bright would understand the distinction.

      October 6, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  2. Colin

    Actually Mark, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:

    The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.

    The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.

    Throwing the three together into one being effectively cubes its already dispositive implausibility.

    We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. We can’t help but ask ourselves, “did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?”

    The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.

    The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, the Judeo-Christian god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?

    We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.

    We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”

    We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.

    Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.

    We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.

    “You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them, or even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.

    When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.

    It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?

    To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.

    So, before you next proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.

    Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling before and supplicating yourself to something, at least make it something that exists. You fvcking mental featherweight.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • truth be told

      There is no such thing as an ex Christian, there are those that were involved with churches but none that actually knew God.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • nope

      @colon,
      nope

      October 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • GO_GOP

      Colin: Try and answer this: I pray hard and donate to my church and go there regularly. It is win win for me. If there is God I go straight to heaven and enjoy life there for 1000 years. If not I just cease to exist the moment I am dead. But for you, when you die you go straight to Hell and burn there if there is God and if there is no God you cease to exist like me. So brother Colin who is smarter? I played the better, smarter bet and am happy. You will lose terribly if you are wrong.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • KarenM

      GO_GOP, what if there is a god that hates christians with a vengeance but tolerates atheists?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Colin

      I did below. Re-posting.

      Go GOP.

      That logic is called "Pascal's Wager."

      This is why it is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.

      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the Christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.

      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.

      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the likelihood of the risk times the gravity of the risk.

      a. Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god, including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      b. One cannot “choose to believe” something. That has to be an honest conclusion drawn from the facts. I could not “choose to believe in the Hindu god Shiva or Leprechauns, for example, as that would make no sense. What I can do is SAY I believe or PRETEND to believe. But going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      c. The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. $ex life may suffer for some, too.

      d. In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order. Here is where proponents of the wager say they have a leg up, as an eternity of perdition must be valued very highly. However if the concomitant likelihood is close to infinitely low, it balances out to close enough to zero to be ignored. If one were to take the believer’s approach, one should live about a mile down an abandoned coal mine, to avoid a very, very unlikely, but fatal meteor impact.

      When extrapolated to the extreme of a god, the math becomes meaningless. For e.g., if I posited a god a billion times more vengeful and gruesome than yours, would you drop your belief and run over to my super-god?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      @GO_GOP
      What will you do if the Norse were correct and you wind up with a miserable afterlife because you failed to die gloriously in battle?
      What if the Aztecs were right and you'll have to pass through 9 lives in the underworld before you can reach Mictlan becuase you died a normal death? Perhaps you should find a priest to cut out your heart on an altar.
      There are countless afterlife myths. If you're trying to appease only Abraham's God, your not hedging your bets very well.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Hi Pascal, I thought you were dead.

      And truthy, can I not truly be a Potterer without 'knowing' Dumbledore?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • WASP

      @GOP: the smarter person is the one that truly believes, not the believer just edging their bet.
      you believe out of fear of eternal punishment and the hope of an eternal reward. that is acting like a child. you're just scared.
      i doubt your act is fooling an all-knowing being, you even said it online that you only believe because you are wanting to go to heaven.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • mlg4035

      OMG! What an absolutely PERFECT summary! Done,....and done!
      I want to frame this and put it on my wall: is there a copyright on your comment?

      Thank you for this, the best quote I have ever read on the internet!
      P.S. No, I'm not being facetious.
      Thank you!

      October 5, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • Shane

      @Truth be Told:

      I'm an ex christian. So who are you to tell me whether or not I actually believed in God or not. You don't know me, you don't know what affected my decision.

      Once I was a blind follower, now I can see.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • Shane

      @GOP

      The issue with that little wager, is you are believing in God just to go to heaven. This is like saying the only reason you don't shoot your mother is because it is against the law and you would be punished.

      If I were an omnipotent, all knowing God then if someone was trying to trick me into letting him into Heaven, then he'd be one of the first I cast into Hell.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • SAi

      @Colin. A clear though not concise way to express what most of us here know and care deeply about. I'm going to quote you on that.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:21 am |
    • Bionic Simian

      A well thought out and interesting view. Nice talking points and examples. And your entire argument became invalid and thrown in the trash all because of your last sentence insulting the previous poster. You'll never convince anyone that they should entertain your ideas as a possible choice when you follow your reason with slam on their intelligence. You should be the bigger person by having a rational discussion without resorting to childish retorts.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:27 am |
    • Wisdom

      You need to read Lee Strobel's A Case for Christ. He was an athetist and felt the same way you do, until he actually looked into the facts and could no longer deny the existence of God and Jesus Christ. No need to get all worked up over it and write a novel trying to convince yourself and others it's not true. No one can force anyone to believe in God. Even God gives you the choice to decide what is true and what is not. Just remember that eterninty is a long time to be wrong. Your words and unbelief and knowing the fact that you choose incorrectly will be what will cause you great torment and agony for all of eternity. Know b4u go. God Bless.

      October 5, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Arcangel

      blah blah blah ... Einstein is not the 'all knowing being' that you purport him to be either. Feel free to look up the concept of Quantum Entanglement and understand that things like the speed of light being the fastest thing there is in the universe may not be true after all...

      I agree with you on one aspect: from our tiny limited perspective, the universe seems endlessly vast – but apparently there are things (bordering on the mystical) in the universe that can easily span it in an instant.

      November 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  3. Moose

    The man was brilliant and could also tell the difference between fact and fiction.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • truth be told

      The guy is dead and really only had the one God given idea.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  4. nsam

    How true this is. He is a greatest mind ever lived on this planet and he realized the truth that there is no God and the bible is merely a compilation of legends written by some unknown people. At the end we individuals are responsibile for us and not the God. Those who need a God indeed are weak as he says because they believe they can not rely upon themselves and need a higher power to protect them.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • ecaps24

      Every human being is weak and therefore needs God. If you're gonna say some are strong enough, then why is it that every man dies and even the smartest person on earth is no exemption?

      October 11, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      One has an exemption; one is the exception. Figure out what you mean. Otherwise, you post is gibberish.

      October 11, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  5. GO_GOP

    Colin: You think you are a smart guy? How about this – I pray hard and donate to my church and go there regularly. It is win win for me. If there is God I go straight to heaven and enjoy life there for 1000 years. If not I just cease to exist the moment I am dead. But for you, when you die you go straight to Hell and burn there if there is God and if there is no God you cease to exist like me. So brother Colin who is smarter? I played the better, smarter bet and am happy. You will lose terribly if you are wrong.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • ron

      So I guess I interpret this as an attempt to try to buy your way into paradise?

      October 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • not so smart...

      What if there is a God but it will punish you for following that other god that you are following? What if he punishes anyone that follows the bible or the commandments?

      October 5, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Colin

      Go GOP.

      That logic is called "Pascal's Wager."

      This is why it is a fallacy:
      a) Pascal's Wager assumes that there are only two options.

      b) Pascal's Wager assumes the Christian god doesn't care whether someone actually believes, or simply goes through the motions.

      c) Pascal's Wager discounts the price paid for belief before death.

      d) Pascal's Wager vastly overestimates the likelihood of the risk times the gravity of the risk.

      a. Positing only two options is ridiculous. There are, of course, thousands of possibilities when it comes to gods. Based on the evidence available for these gods, it is not reasonable to assume one is more likely than any of the others. To increase the odds of a positive outcome of this wager, the believer would have to believe in, and worship, every possible god, including the ones that haven't been invented yet. Aside from the drain on the available time, it presents the problem that quite a few of these gods are pretty selfish. They frown upon believers believing in other gods. In some religions that is enough to not be eligible for the reward (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      b. One cannot “choose to believe” something. That has to be an honest conclusion drawn from the facts. I could not “choose to believe in the Hindu god Shiva or Leprechauns, for example, as that would make no sense. What I can do is SAY I believe or PRETEND to believe. But going through the motions and pretending to believe may fool your community, but it can't fool an all-knowing god. It is very unlikely that anyone would gain the ultimate reward for simply faking belief (making the belief position a lose/neutral one).

      c. The price paid for the belief position isn't nothing. It involves going through the rituals, day after day, week after week. It may have severe side effects on physical and mental health. $ex life may suffer for some, too.

      d. In estimating whether the cost of any given action is worth it, an evaluation of risk versus reward is in order. Here is where proponents of the wager say they have a leg up, as an eternity of perdition must be valued very highly. However if the concomitant likelihood is close to infinitely low, it balances out to close enough to zero to be ignored. If one were to take the believer’s approach, one should live about a mile down an abandoned coal mine, to avoid a very, very unlikely, but fatal meteor impact.

      When extrapolated to the extreme of a god, the math becomes meaningless. For e.g., if I posited a god a billion times more vengeful and gruesome than yours, would you drop your belief and run over to my super-god?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • snowboarder

      gop – hell is an imaginary place created to scare the children. if your reason for belief is simply fear of an entirely unsubstantiated place you are coward and a sheep.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:02 am |
    • SAi

      Believing in god so that you might be right is shallow and intellectually lazy. You are not smarter, you are in fact actually very stupid. It is like buying lottery everyday hoping one day you might hit the jackpot even though chances are you will never make more money than you wasted in your entire life. It also cheapens the concept of god and spirituality for the rest of us when you pass your Machiavelli beliefs as on par with thoughtful people like Einstein.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:13 am |
    • Adam

      This line of reasoning is sometimes referred to as "Pascal's Wager," and while I'm not inclined to take that wager myself, its logic is not unsound. Where it gets sticky is when you take that wager, and then live a life of intolerance, judging others harshly and causing them to suffer for your beliefs. If you don't do that, I can respect you and the wager you've made. I'll even wish you 'good luck.'

      But if you do cause others to suffer for your beliefs, and upon death learn you were right about heaven, don't be too surprised if you find yourself someplace noticeably 'hotter' instead. You can go to church everyday and twice on Sundays, but if you treat others badly in life, and judge them harshly (which I'm pretty sure God considers HIS job, not yours) you may not be scoring nearly as many points as you think. And if you're wrong, and there is no heaven, you and the people who you've made suffer will all just cease to exist – the only real outcome will be that you lived your life making others suffer for no purpose at all. In that case, you've kinda lost twice. Not only do you not get to heaven, but the only justification that you might have had for causing all that suffering will turn out not to exist either. Nice job.

      I don't fault anyone for taking Pascal's Wager. But I can certainly fault someone for causing others to suffer for what he believes in. Live and let live, I say.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  6. Dee

    to snowboarder:
    I did not say Faith "alone" can help you win a game. I said Faith can help you win a game because it gives you the illusion (mindset) the game outcome is already set in your favor hence gives you an extra boost of positive energy. Why do people use the word "believe" so often in sports?

    October 5, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      dee – that the outcome is predetermined in your favor causing you to excel? nonsense. that is exactly the opposite of reality. what causes you to excel is the knowledge that your efforts will make a difference.

      faith that you will win a game is worse than useless. confidence in your and your teams abilities based on experience and going that extra mile because every game is up for grabs is how you win games.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:54 am |
  7. Lou

    The Order of Creation

    Genesis 1:11-12 and 1:26-27 Trees came before Adam.
    Genesis 2:4-9 Trees came after Adam.

    Genesis 1:20-21 and 26-27 Birds were created before Adam.
    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Birds were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:24-27 Animals were created before Adam.
    Genesis 2:7 and 2:19 Animals were created after Adam.

    Genesis 1:26-27 Adam and Eve were created at the same time.
    Genesis 2:7 and 2:21-22 Adam was created first, woman sometime later.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • snowboarder

      lou – it is not a factual account. it doesn't matter what it says.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  8. Man

    Its funny how people try to portray themselves as having a higher level of intelligence because they do not believe in God, because to them they find no evidence that a personal God exists. However, its VERY easy to believe that there is no benevolent, spiritual being that is holding us accountable to uphold a transcendent moral standard and we are only accountable to ourselves. There's no intelligence needed in thinking I can do what I want with ultimately no repercussion.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:44 am |
    • snowboarder

      but incredibly greater intelligence in determining that i am responsible for my own actions to myself and my community.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • jose

      absolutely true

      October 5, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Cel

      There will many brilliant minds in hades. God said" the things of God are foolishness to them that perish foolishly". He choose the foolish things or simple things of the word to confound the wise.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:01 am |
    • snowboarder

      cel – the age old scare tactic of religion. hades is an imaginary place with which to frighten the children.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:03 am |
    • Shane

      So are you saying you need some higher being to keep you in check?

      I don't believe in God, and I am not about to harm another individual without good reason, I don't steal, and I am a very honest person.

      It is called personal accountability, and moreso, understanding that my actions have repercussions to my family, my friends, my community. I don't need to serve a God to be a good person. If the only reason you try to be a good person is to get into Heaven then in my opinion you need to rethink your priorities.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  9. snowboarder

    it is no coincidence that the majority of religions stem from a time when understanding of the natural world was so limited and mythology was so common.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • johnUtah

      "Does man think we will no re assemble his bones, yes we are able to even proportion his fingertips" Said by god 1400+ years ago when "your" scientists just found out this uniqueness this past century. To not believe in God is to believe that a bottle in the middle of the room "just appeared" there without somebody actuallly manufacturing and putting it there, only a fool would believe that!!!!

      October 5, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • snowboarder

      john – meaningless fallacies you use to prop up your unsupported beliefs.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:56 am |
  10. The Justice

    As predicted on page one the christian apologists were out in full force on this topic. Christian apologetics is a field of christian theology which aims to present a rational basis for the christian faith, defends the faith against objections and attempts to expose the faults of other world views. Spin and false statements are an acceptable practice to achieve the apologists mandate.
    Chad stated....Einstein deplored any association with atheists, untrue. He based this statement on an Einstein quote he posted. However some of Einsteins friends and/or colleagues were atheisists. Neils Bohr, Linus Pauling were both atheists and Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner were both agnostics. This is the type of spin that Chad often uses, lame
    Bill Deacon concluded..."Believers have faith that ultimately every knee shall bend and every head shall bow before the glory of god. I hope I get to see the outcome." Bill has his mandate and the conclusion he wishes to achieve any view that opposes that conclusion must be defended against no matter what new evidence, logic and reason refute his beliefs.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  11. Mars

    Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven". In the most innocent and loving minds can come the faith that God welcomes and that welcomes God. Perhaps we would all be better off without knowledge sometimes. It can interfere so with our spirit. And "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.."

    October 5, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • mlg4035

      Yes, and to ignore knowledge is deadly!

      October 5, 2012 at 9:26 am |
    • Shane

      Lack of knowledge can be just as dangerous.

      I still have a hard time believing in a loving God that destroys a society because they are becoming too advanced (Tower of Babel) punishes people who have never heard of him, and throws the temper tantrems of a 3 year old

      October 5, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  12. Terry

    Hmm. I thought he smarter than that?

    October 5, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • snowboarder

      apparently he was

      October 5, 2012 at 8:44 am |
  13. Milton

    Einstein was a marvelous man with a very creative and insightful mind. Yet it is funny that he is almost raised to God-like status and this I would think would cause such people who do this to be weak. Ironically, we must go beyond what Einstein was capable of understanding into that place he was not capable of understanding, and there is such a place. Only the strong will go there be there a God or not.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  14. that hurts

    CNN and atheist crack me up. Article after ARticle comes out on religon and god and it becomes a cest pool of ....waaa im an atheist...and waaa I get upset over something I dont believe in..

    October 5, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • SAi

      I think you are upset by how many people actually are atheist or agnostic. You try to play it off that atheists as shrill and frivolous but your need to demean us shows how threatened you actually feel. You are probably very sheltered into thinking that the whole world thinks like you do, and is shocked to find out that most don't. What upsets atheists and agnostics more than anything is the denial of facts and truth in lieu for lies and irrational passion, especially when coated in the guise of goodness and righteousness.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  15. Shelly

    I've gotta go with Einstein on this. The whole "god" myth is ridiculous in this day & age. I would never tell my religious friends, but I believe they are weak minded & lack intelligence for believing such nonsense, and I tend to lose respect for anyone as soon as they start talking this religious nonsense.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  16. Walter

    People need to start realizing that they need to rely on themselves and their family and friends – not a god, and most definitely not on the government.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:37 am |
  17. citizen bob

    just because Einstein indicated he doesn't believe in God doesn't prove there is no God any more than Plato stating a belief in a divinity proves one exists.
    God can't be explored by scientific methods anymore than other concepts like love. One can't experiment with God or "love" as a dependent variable in a laboratory setting and measure its responses to environmental manipulations.
    But even though concepts like love (or hate for that matter) can't be subject to the experimental method, doesn't negate a reality about their existence.
    Concepts like God, emotions, feelings etc. have only one observer, the individual experiencing that feeling. So, they can't really be proven or dis-proven.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:33 am |
    • Shelly

      That's ridiculous. Spoken like a true sheep I guess.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • ChrisVC

      Your statement shows a profound misunderstanding of what "science" is; which at its core is the unbiased, empirical search for facts about reality. If it exists then scientific study CAN understand and quantify it. Hiding behind mystery, subjectivity, and emotion doesn't add credence to a god or God that has no objective evidence. Faith may make you feel good (and science can certainly understand/explain it) but that doesn't make your (G)god real.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • SAi

      Of course it doesn't prove god exist or not. That's not the point. Logically, god will have about the same probability of existence as santa claus or the tooth fairy. You cannot prove either of their existence and it is an exercise in futility to do so. The same thing applies to god, it is all make believe. Whatever religious feelings or the small voice you heard in your conscience is not a supernatural phenomena, it is a natural process that is part of who we are.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • Quin

      Actually love and emotions can be traced to the discharge of neurohormones and their effects on the brain.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • KarenM

      Love (and hate, for that matter) can, and have been subject of experiments, and scientifically studied. Like all neurobiological processes, they are complex, but there's nothing about them that science cannot study. Emotions are categorically different than metaphysical constructs. You are somewhat correct that as a fully metaphysical construct, god is not testable one way or another, but science can make very specific claims and proofs against specific gods. If a god is said to have created the universe 5000 years ago and if science says the universe is almost 14 billion years old, science has for all intents and purposes disproved that god.

      Belief in god(s) is no different than belief in horoscopes, witches, easter bunny, leprachauns, santa claus... etc. One doesn't need to be an Einstein to see the emptiness and childishness of such belief, but one does need to be weak minded and unable to face reality in order to keep believing such things as an adult.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:52 am |
    • Primewonk

      Love is an emotion that evolved, like other emotions. We can "see" love. Certain brain areas light up in fMRI scans. Additionally, "love" is based on a neurohormone – oxytocin.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:57 am |
    • Greg Beal

      I think you just stated the reason eloquently for not believing in God. If God's presence cannot be measured in any way why go out on a limb and believe in something where there is no evidence to support the belief. Using your argument or most foundations for religion you can just make up a God of some sort and have just as much evidence as any other religion, absolutely nothing.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  18. Gerald

    What? People don't believe in teh FLying Spaghetti Monster???? uggh ignorance!

    October 5, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • WASP

      @gerald: i found your god's weakness, his achilles heel if you will. parmeson cheese and a fork. lmfao

      October 5, 2012 at 8:42 am |
  19. Mark

    Atheists trying to rewrite history. Yes Einstein was brilliant as was Nikola Tesla and many others. Einstein believed in God so deal with it. Tesla also believed in god and read the bible daily. Both scientists suffered for it with Tesla being labeled a lunatic and being largely ignored despite being the single biggest contributer to technological advancement in mans history and Einstein being accused of senility and burning out fast.
    I would imagine (as eluded to in the article by someone else) this letter is translated in a way that confuses his scepticism of organized religion with a disbelief in a creator. .

    October 5, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Joe

      I have always used that exact expression, believing in God is a sign of weakness. There is a sucker born every minute. I see religious people as people who can be easily manipulated and taken advantage of. I admire evangelists because they recognized this and make millions off of such gullible people.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • KAS

      Here we go again. Christians trying to rewrite history. Einstein, in his own words, explicitly states he had no belief in a supreme being, yet you want to claim otherwise, despite the facts. These are his own words, you can't now claim he believed in a supreme being when he clearly states he did not and felt that religion as a whole is nothing more than outdated mythological beliefs.

      Let me guess, you also try to rewrite history and claim that humans and dinosaurs lived together, that the Earth is the center of the universe with everything revolving around it and that evolution doesn't happen. Try as you might, ignoring the facts before your eyes will not change reality.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:38 am |
    • Shelly

      Actually, you're wrong. Einstein did NOT believe in god & just because you write that doesn't make it fact. Perhaps you're the one who needs to "deal with it".

      October 5, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • SAi

      No Einstein did not believe in god. He believe in science and its ability to probe the physical reality and the secrets nature holds. He felt a spiritual connection to the order of the universe and its vastness and its mysteries. He emphatically do not believe in a anthropomorphic biblical god with childish human themes such as kingdom of heaven, sins and hell. You can believe anything you want about him but the fact is that you are simply wrong. Of course, the truth doesn't really concern you whenever it suits your purpose or desire which you already demonstrated in your comment.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • purnellmeagrejr

      Dude, your post is hilarious; I personally interpret it to mean that ALbert Einstein expresssly suppports Barack Obama for the Presidency.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:41 am |
    • Realist

      You're so misinformed.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:42 am |
    • Dubhly

      umm he did NOT believe in god Mark that was the point of the article.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:43 am |
    • KarenM

      You can spot kooks immediately by their bringing in Tesla into any and all unrelated discussions.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:56 am |
    • Primewonk

      "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." Al Einstein.

      Why do you fundiott nutters lie?

      October 5, 2012 at 9:02 am |
  20. Colin

    God Meets His Physics Teacher

    Teacher: God, I have some bad news for you. You’ve been getting away with murder for eons, but I’m afraid that now you have to start abiding by the laws of physics.

    God: But I don’t want to!

    Teacher: I’m afraid that doesn’t matter. Look, you made this Universe and set the rules, you have to abide by them. One cannot tell his servants to do one thing while he does another. I think Jesus said that.

    God: That fu.cking kid. He’s been nothing but a problem since puberty. It’s his mother’s fault. All high and mighty the way she is, “I’m a virgin, I’m a virgin.” No big surprise there. She went to a liberal arts college and studied women’s rights. She loves the Indigo Girls and played a lot of sport. You do the math.

    Teacher: Anyway, the game is over. Time to start abiding by the rules.

    God: But I am omnipotent, I can do what I like.

    Teacher: Well….sorry to burst your bubble, but that’s the first thing to go. You see, the laws of physics state that an omnipotent being cannot exist. It is a meaningless concept, like a four-sided triangle, or a square circle. Once universal laws exist, omnipotence cannot.

    God: Not even for Rupert Murdoch?

    Teacher: No, not even for him. Now focus, we’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to start with Archimedes and get you up to quantum mechanics by the end of the day.

    God: But I’m omniscient. I already know everything.

    Teacher: Sorry kiddo, strike two. Omniscience is essentially a meaningless concept, too. Knowledge requires data to be input, stored and recalled in a useful manner. To be truly omniscient would require an infinitely large data storage unit with access to all parts of it at over light speed. Given the natural limitations of data recall, you are actually a bit of a dunce, by the standards of the gods.

    God: Why only light speed? What does that have to do with anything?

    Teacher: We’ll get to that, around 3:30 this afternoon. This is going to be a long day.

    God: That doesn’t matter, I’m immortal. I have all the time in the World.

    Teacher: Ok, so how do I break THIS news?....You’re not. To be a god means, at a minimum, that you must be a complex being at some level. Now that you are governed by the laws of physics, this means that you are subject to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy. Over the long term, you must decay. You can be sustained for a very, very long period, but ultimately it is a finite period.

    God: You mean…..I’m getting old?

    Teacher: Yep, I’m afraid so. Noticed that slaying the first born, sending plagues to kill thousands of innocent people and wiping out Canaanites has lost its allure? Nothing but a peaceful middle age, full of Viagra and memories ahead of you now. Look how fat Buddha’s become.

    God: So, if laws of physics exist, that means I’m not omnipotent, I’m not omniscient and I’m not immortal. Hell, I’m not even a god. Gods cannot exist. Jesus Christ, I don’t even exist!

    Teacher: You do the math.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • WASP

      @colin; XD ROFLMFAO!

      October 5, 2012 at 8:39 am |
    • The Justice

      @Colin
      Right on again. Well done.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • Realist

      Nice post.

      October 5, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Shane

      I love that one, I may have to steal it. Thank you.

      October 5, 2012 at 9:50 am |
    • the fool

      II'm a little confused about the part:"One cannot tell his servants to do one thing while he does another."
      What do you mean by that? Do you mean that the master has to obey all of his own laws too? Can there not be a law that doesn't apply to the master?

      October 5, 2012 at 10:38 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.