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Einstein’s Religious Philosophy

January 17, 2015 Leave a comment

Here is a short, sweet, and quick summary of some of Albert Einstein’s philosophy and religious views which I thought were interesting enough to jot down while I have that material fresh in mind. (I thought it’s good to read all these various views of Einstein’s in one fell swoop to get a good mental image of his views.) These can be found in most biographies on Einstein, but I included references [1] and [2] below for definiteness. (Throughout this note, ‘he’ refers, of course, to Einstein.) Let’s begin!

  1. Einstein began to appreciate and identify more with his Jewish heritage in later life (as he approached 50).
  2. He had profound faith in the order and discernible laws in the universe, which he said was the extent to which he calls himself ‘religious.’
  3. God had no choice but to create the universe in the way He did.
  4. He believed in something larger than himself, in a greater mind.
  5. He called nationalism an infantile disease.
  6. He received instruction in the Bible and Talmud. He is a Jew, but one who is also enthralled by “the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
  7. He believed Jesus was a real historical figure and that Jesus’ personality pulsates in every word in the Gospels.
  8. He was not an atheist, but a kind of “deist.”
  9. He did not like atheists quoting him in support of atheism.
  10. He believed in an impersonal God, who is not concerned with human action.
  11. His belief in an impersonal God was not disingenuous in order to cover up an underlying ‘atheism’.
  12. He was neither theist nor atheist.
  13. He did not believe in free will. He was a causal determinist. (Not even God has free will! 🙂 )
  14. Though he did not believe in free will, nevertheless he said “I am compelled to act as if free will existed.”
  15. He liked Baruch Spinoza’s treatment of the soul and body as one.
  16. He did not believe in immortality.
  17. He believed that the imagination was more important than knowledge.
  18. He believed in a superior mind that reveals itself in world of experience, which he says represents his conception of God.
  19. He believed in a “cosmic religious feeling” which he says “is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.”
  20. “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

There you have it, without commentary! 😉

References.

[1] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions.

[2] Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe. (See especially chapter 17.)

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Einstein and Pantheism

January 3, 2015 Leave a comment

Albert Einstein’s views on religion and on the nature and existence of God has always generated interest, and they continue to. In this short note I point out that he expressed different views on whether he subscribed to “pantheism.” It is well-known that he said, for instance, that he does not believe in a personal God that one prays to, and that he rather believes in “Spinoza’s God” (in some “pantheistic” form). Here are two passages from Albert Einstein where he expressed contrary views on whether he is a “pantheist”.

I’m not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages.…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.” (Quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica article on Einstein.)

Here, Einstein says that he does not think he can call himself a pantheist. However, in his book Ideas and Opinions he said that his conception of God may be described as “pantheistic” (in the sense of Spinoza’s):

This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. In common parlance this may be described as “pantheistic” (Spinoza)” (Ideas and Opinions, section titled ‘On Scientific Truth’ – also quoted in Wikipedia with references)

It is true that Einsteins expressed his views on religion and God in various ways, but I thought that the fact that he appeared to identify and not identify with “pantheism” at various stages of his life is interesting. Setting aside that label, however, I think that his general conceptions of God in both these quotes — the mysterious order in the books, a universe already written in given languages, a superior mind that reveals itself in such ways — are fairly consistent, and also consistent with other sentiments he expressed elsewhere.

How I see prayer

August 28, 2012 2 comments

This is a brief outline of my many approaches / perspectives on prayer. I do not simply see it as making demands of a higher power and expecting a response according to your timetable.

I may pray out of a desire or wish for something, but I do not look nor expect it to occur – and in the way that I may expect. If things work out as I wished, that’s great, and I’m happy; and if they don’t, that’s ok too – I’m modest enough to take a No!

1. prayer has the effect of cleaning one’s heart and soul. It’s like when your very confused about a very troubling personal issue, but then you find a solution that settles it – no confusion. It’s like your house is dirty and now it’s clear and clean.


2. prayer as a way for organizing your life. Similar to meditation.

3. prayer reflects and affirms to yourself how you think about something (or maybe that you should rethink it!). Nurturing a healthy attitude by means of prayer (or meditation) could have a positive impact on how you relate to your circumstances. It could make a difference in your life.

4. when someone is told that I’m praying for them, it is a kindly act and affects how they feel in their hearts and how you feel for them. It is a human way of caring for others.

5. you know the expression “what goes around, comes around.” Maybe by praying and showing goodwill to others, those good things may come back to you. Just as when you care for others, others will show care for you.

6. prayer is also a form of love. When you pray sometimes you express love and affection for the people you think of when you pray for them. What you build in your heart and in your attitude toward people reflects in the way you become a person and how others perceive you and how you perceive them.

7. prayer is a time for ‘divine’ guidance. Or, a time for personal devotion to your thoughts about something and on which you are seeking wisdom and guidance. A way for your thinking to rethink itself, possibly by the help of a Higher source. (That’s what I think the Bible means by “not leaning on your own understanding” – a phrase that might seem confusing.)

8. prayer is also a time for seeking inner (or divine) strength and peace. Life is full of challenges. If prayer can be a tool or weapon for dealing with these challenges, even when we are down and weak, then it can’t be such a bad thing. Many people have been invigorated thru prayer when they were at their lowest moments.

9. why do some people pray when they’re facing a crisis or a stressful situation? Because it can be a life stabilizer; a ‘tool’ to get your mind around personal issues in depth, seeking foresight, and maybe seeking the proper perspective on it.

They say “perspective is everything”. If you’re facing a daunting perspective, you might find another perspective.

10. prayer can shape a person. You can shape yourself from the inside out. How you are on the inside reflects on how you are on the outside. (Jesus said something like this.)

11. you don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to pray. Prayer is a very human activity. It’s a mode of self-communication. A reflection of an evolved mind that knows to seek venues in its mind or outside Source from which it can glean solutions.

I’m sure there are many other ways to express prayer, but these are probably enough to give a flavor of my philosophy on prayer.

Memorial Day

https://i0.wp.com/i.i.com.com/cnwk.1d/i/tim/2012/05/28/MDay_AP120528026731_370x278.jpgIn Honor of all American men & women in uniform on this blessed Memorial Day. From those who fought in the Revolutionary War days that created the United States of America, to those who fought and are still fighting today, we owe them our lives and our freedom. Thank you and God bless them.

Positive impact of religiously active Americans

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Interesting statistics from PEW Internet comparing religious and non-religious Americans in various activities. There is a PDF file available of other related stats as well. Here is a sample:

Some 40% of Americans say they are active in a church, religious, or spiritual organization. Compared with those who are not involved with such organizations, religiously active Americans are more trusting of others, are more optimistic about their impact on their community, think more highly of their community, are more involved in more organizations of all kinds, and devote more time to the groups to which they are active.

– 53% of religiously active Americans believe that other people are generally trustworthy, compared with 43% of those not involved with religious groups

– 45% of religiously active view their community as an excellent place to live, compared with 34% of those not active with religious groups

– 38% of religiously active Americans believe that they can have a major impact on their communities, compared with 27% of those not active with religious groups

– 35% are active in sports or recreation leagues for themselves or for their children (versus 17% for the non-religious).

– 34% are active in charitable or volunteer organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Humane Society (versus 15% for the non-religious).

– 30% are active in community groups or neighborhood associations (versus 11% for the non-religious).

– 68% of Americans who are active in religious groups (internet users and non-users alike) said the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to communicate with members.

– 58% of Americans who are active in religious groups said the internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to impact society at large.
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Tidbits on Christmas

December 26, 2011 Leave a comment

In WWI, Allied and German troops took a break Christmas eve, sang carols and called out “Merry Christmas” to one another. The Christmas Truce of 1914.

In the second half of the 1600s, Christmas was illegal (where the Puritans settled in America). After the American Revolutionary war, the US Congress didn’t take the day off. It was only in the late 1800s that Congress called Christmas a federal holiday.

Every Christmas I read articles on who Christians ‘stole’ it from, and every year I read a different story. Here’s a very short Britannica article that cites three ways it may have come about (I think there are more such speculations by other authors.) In the end it’s a matter of opinion and faith. I think that Christmas was instituted to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.

Christian Art – Piero della Francesca

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment
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Resurrection

If the spirit is the 6th sense, then my 7th sense would have to be one that can ‘see’ Christian Art.  I have a love for it.  Here are a few by the 15th century painter Piero della Francesca that illustrate the inspiration that I glean from them.

The first one “Resurrection” has been on the news today — about a British Officer who saved this painting during wartime Italy. (Right clicking the image will produce an enlarged image.)

Have a Happy Hannukah and a Merry Christmas.

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Exaltation

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Baptism of Christ