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Apr
23rd
Sat
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If a man would follow, today, the teachings of the Old Testament, he would be a criminal. If he would strictly follow the teachings of the New, he would be insane.
Robert G. Ingersoll, a Civil War veteran, American political leader, and orator (1833-1899)
Feb
8th
Tue
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And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
Dec
29th
Wed
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Albert Einstein on religion and skeptical attitude

“Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment — an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections." "
Albert Einstein, Autobiographical Notes (1979) Edited by Paul Arthur Schilpp
Dec
28th
Tue
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Albert Einstein on God


In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, 'Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt':

Dear Mr Gutkind,

Inspired by Brouwer’s repeated suggestion, I read a great deal in your book, and thank you very much for lending it to me … With regard to the factual attitude to life and to the human community we have a great deal in common. Your personal ideal with its striving for freedom from ego-oriented desires, for making life beautiful and noble, with an emphasis on the purely human element … unites us as having an “American Attitude.”

Still, without Brouwer’s suggestion I would never have gotten myself to engage intensively with your book because it is written in a language inaccessible to me. The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still purely primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. … For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstition. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong … 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.

In general I find it painful that you claim a privileged position and try to defend it by two walls of pride, an external one as a man and an internal one as a Jew. As a man you claim, so to speak, a dispensation from causality otherwise accepted, as a Jew of monotheism. But a limited causality is no longer a causality at all, as our wonderful Spinoza recognized with all incision…

Now that I have quite openly stated our differences in intellectual convictions it is still clear to me that we are quite close to each other in essential things, i.e. in our evaluation of human behavior … I think that we would understand each other quite well if we talked about concrete things.

With friendly thanks and best wishes,

Yours,

A. Einstein

See also:

☞ Albert Einstein, Becoming a Freethinker and a Scientist
Richard P. Feynman on the conflict between science and religion
Why people believe in strange things, Lapidarium notes
Religion tag on Lapidarium

Albert Einstein, German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, Nobel Prize laureate, (1879-1955), cited in Letters of Note. Picture source: Bloomsbury Auctions, Autograph Letter signed to Eric B. Gutkind, in German, 1½pp. & envelope, 4to, Princeton, 3rd January 1954. See also: Einstein letter fetches record amount at auction, Physics World
Dec
12th
Sun
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There is a celebrated story in the Western tradition like this, except that not quite everything was there for us. There was one particular tree of which we were not to partake, a tree of knowledge. Knowledge and understanding and wisdom were forbidden to us in this story. We were to be kept ignorant. But we couldn’t help ourselves. We were starving for knowledge - created hungry, you might say. This was the origin of all our troubles. In particular, it is why we no longer live in a garden: We found out too much. So long as we were incurious and obedient, I imagine, we could console ourselves with our importance and centrality, and tell ourselves that we were the reason the Universe was made.
Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, New York: Random House, 1994, p. 53.
Apr
1st
Thu
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Carl Sagan on the biblical God

“You see, the religious people — most of them — really think this planet is an experiment. That’s what their beliefs come down to. Some god or other is always fixing and poking, messing around with tradesmen’s wives, giving tablets on mountains, commanding you to mutilate your children, telling people what words they can say and what words they can’t say, making people feel guilty about enjoying themselves, and like that.

Why can’t the gods leave well enough alone? All this intervention speaks of incompetence. If God didn’t want Lot's wife to look back, why didn't he make her obedient, so she'd do what her husband told her? Or if he hadn't made Lot such a shithead, maybe she would've listened to him more. If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn't he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why's he constantly repairing and complaining?

No, there’s one thing the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He’s not good at design, he’s not good at execution. He’d be out of business if there was any competition. ” “
Carl Sagan, Contact, Simon & Schuster, 1985, Sol Hadden p. 285