Einstein’s ‘God letter’ and religion’s missing link
Five days from today, a letter will go under an auctioneer’s hammer. No big deal about this except that this letter was written by one of the world’s most influential scientists to one of the world’s well-known philosophers. The content: views on god. The opening bid: $3 million, though it could fetch many times that amount.
“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 which are nevertheless pretty childish,” Albert Einstein wrote in this highly-prized January 3, 1954 letter to Eric Gutkind in response to his book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. “No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”
But even as Einstein dismisses religion, he acknowledges its function as a social institution. “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, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”
Written a year before the physics Nobel Prize winner died, the auction comes at a time when as a society we’re getting closer to bridging the gap between scientists and sages — an increasing number of scientists are exploring the frontiers of consciousness, while an equal number of spiritualists are excavating the psychological recesses of the mind to find answers.
While atheists would celebrate and perhaps bid for this letter, I resonate with Einstein’s contempt for religion. No other social institution has caused as much harm to society as religion. And it’s not merely Jews, Christians, Muslims or Hindus but across the board you will find very few religions that have not destroyed or held societies back. As we all know very well but which the faithful refuse to accept, religion is nothing but a political institution that once had a role in organising society.
That role has now been taken over by political institutions, not-for-profits, even corporations, leaving the putrefying carcass of religion in the hands of petty power seeking scavengers. There is nothing holy left in religion. All we have are ancient dogmas that have little relevance today. As an institution religion has failed to keep pace with an evolving society.
What I don’t understand is why society allows the shallow, the violent, the unholy to stoke the flames of destruction, discord, disharmony — all in the name of religion — and yet carry a mask of ‘nobility’ before which millions bow. As in the evolution of man, there seems to be a ‘missing link’ between religion and spirituality. Hope sages and scientists find it. Soon.