I recently saw a video purporting to be a true story about Albert Einstein confronting an atheist professor on the existence of God:
In doing a little research on the internet, snopes.com claims this is a fabricated exchange. (http://www.snopes.com/religion/einstein.asp). The more I searched articles on the subject, the more articles I found by atheists vehemently denying that Einstein could’ve been religious of accepting of deity. It seemed that too many atheists were very disturbed by the thought that Einstein could have been anything but atheist like themselves.
But why? What is so important about Einstein’s beliefs about deity? Does that have any relevance to science or theology? After all, Einstein was a theoretical physicist. His major contributions to science do not deny or confirm God in anyway.
But this follows an all too common trend. In recent years, the popular former host of the PBS show Nova ScienceNOW, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, has been on a very vocal campaign to stamp out any notion that God could have anything to do with the creation of the universe and that belief in God is a foolish concept. Many other celebrities frequently try to convince the masses of the nonsense they believe deity is.
What I wonder is, why does it bother them so much? What does it matter to a person who does not believe in God that another person believes? Is the believer harming them in anyway?
In some ways, yes. Violent extremists who use terrorism to promote their version of Islam are the most commonly cited example of where religion has run amuck and is causing real suffering. But, by in large, the same people who vehemently deny God in the United States of America and claim religion causes much of the evil and suffering are the same people who say nothing about the terrorists and their abuse of women. They instead complain of Christians and claim that Christians the ones persecuting others.
From my perspective, many atheists are bothered by the existence of any scientist who may also be a believer in God. Especially in the case of Albert Einstein, the idea that Einstein could have harbored any level of faith in a supernatural being is that Einstein has himself become one of the gods of the atheistic pantheon. Yes, I am saying that atheists have a religion too. The religion is the religion of science. A belief that if you adhere to any traditional religion, you are stupid because in their mind, “science” has proven that no gods can possibly exist and that we are all animals. They believe in their patron saint, Charles Darwin, who they claim proved man evolved from apes. Their belief in global warming as the apocalyptic ending of the world is the bookend to the story that begins with an Eden like pre-human world where there was natural perfection that was spoiled by the sins of humanity. The only redemption is for mankind to disappear and allow nature to return to dominance.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m creating a scarecrow out of atheists. I’m doing this to make a point.
Religion and science need not conflict. There is nothing anti-science about Christianity or Judaism. Hinduism and Buddhism also complement science. Jesus of Nazareth told Pontius Pilate that his kingdom is “not of this world”. His point was that he was teaching about spirituality, not political control. Religion, if not hijacked, is supposed to be a means to explore ones spirituality– a side of humanity that helps us balance our intellect and emotions in a framework that promotes good behavior. In this regard, I will point out, there are many good atheists! So long as their belief system leads them to doing good, meaning they treat others with love and tolerance, then what does it matter what their belief system is?
Albert Einstein truly was a magnificent thinker. He did say many things that suggested he may be mildly religious. Years ago, I read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Einstein. In it, I found Einstein to be curiously focused on a “unifying theory”. I think we all seek that. We all want to be able to circumscribe the universe into a comprehensive whole that we can understand with our frail minds. But the eternities are not so easily understood.
For myself, I believe in God, the same God of Abraham who led the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land. But I also have a love of science and even accept 4.5 billion years as the geological age of the planet. I accept the possibility that God could have used evolution as a means of creating mankind from lower animal lifeforms, but I also accept the possibility that mankind was placed separately. For me, science is simply “knowing”. Coming from the Greek word for knowledge, science is simply that: knowledge. Last I checked, gravity is still called “the theory of gravity.” Yet we “know” that gravity exists and we can accurately calculate its effects. If gravity is still a theory, how can we claim that we know that God does not exist or that He does?
What we need more of in society is more religious tolerance. Those who are hyper-religious need to be more accepting of those who are not and those who are hyper-atheist need to be more accepting of those who believe in God.