Albert Einstein has become a folk hero in today's world.  You see his image on T-shirts and hear him quoted by virtually every special interest group around--from environmentalists to politicians to religionists.  Much of what is attributed to Einstein is myth, and many claims about him that you hear are stories with no factual base.  Recently a book titled Einstein was released by Walter Isaacson (Simon & Schuster, © 2007, ISBN-13:  978-0-7432-6473-0).  Isaacson is known for biographical works on Benjamin Franklin, Kissinger, and other works where his accuracy has been praised.  Since atheists and religionists alike claim Einstein, and since many erroneous stories circulate about him we feel our readers would be benefited by noting a few things about Einstein revealed in this book.


Einstein was born into a Jewish family, but his parents and most of his near family were totally irreligious.  His father referred to Jewish rituals as "ancient superstitions."  Because his parents had no faith in Judaism, they sent their son to a Catholic school in the neighborhood.  Einstein experienced some anti-Semitism, and as he grew older he became deeply religious, obeying all of the Jewish ordinances including dietary restrictions.  He even composed hymns for the glorification of God which he sang to himself as he walked home from school.

When he was twelve years old, Einstein was exposed to David Hume's atheistic philosophy, and to a view of science that opposed religion and taught that the state and the Church intentionally deceive young people through lies.  This caused Einstein to avoid religious rituals and to have an aversion to Jewish dogma and authority.  He said that he had a profound reverence for the harmony and beauty of what he called the mind of God as it was expressed in the creation of the universe and its laws, but he rejected all forms of dogma and authority.


A prevailing myth repeated even by "Ripley's Believe it or Not" is that Einstein failed math as a child.  This is simply not true.  Before Einstein was 15 he had mastered differential and integral calculus.  Einstein's grades were always at the top of his class.  As a twelve-year-old, Einstein was deriving geometric theorems on his own including a previously unknown proof of the Pythagorean theorem.  Those of us who attempt to justify poor showing in mathematics on the basis of Einstein, are picking a bad choice to justify our struggles.


Shortly after his 50th birthday, Einstein was interviewed by George Sylvester Viereck.  Viereck asked Einstein if he was an atheist to which Einstein said "I'm not an atheist.  The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.  We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages.  The child knows someone must have written those books.  It does not know how.  It does not understand the languages in which they are written.  The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is.  That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.  We see the universe marvelously arranged and obeying certain laws but only dimly understand these laws."

One of the most interesting answers Einstein gave to Viereck was his response to how Christianity had influenced him.  Einstein said "I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.  I accept the historical Jesus.  No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.  His personality pulsates in every word.  No myth is filled with such life."


In spite of his strong statement about Christ, Einstein said he "could not conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation."  He went on to say that he believed "in Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind."

Atheists and believers are equally wrong in attempting to claim Einstein as a supporter of their position.  Einstein was not a moral person, and his opinions on many issues are shaded by his immorality.  His family history is not a good one, and there are many undesirable things that happened in his life.  It is interesting that his great intellect led him to have great understandings of the way the universe is constructed, and to see the hand of God in that construction.  It is also a concern that he did not see the destructive nature of his choices in life and how they affected others.  Those who have an interest in the specifics of Einstein's life will find Isaacson's book to be easy to read and informative.  Our position is that while he was a man of great intellectual ability in one area of man's studies, he is not a role model and in fact demonstrates the futility of trying to do things your own way in defiance of God's system of living.

--John N. Clayton

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, NovDec08.