Einstein's views on science and religion

Einstein's Enlightenment

Creation Science

 Evolution and Religion

A number of researchers featured on this site, Richard Dawkins, Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett have been fearless champions of scientific integrity against aggressive attempts by religious fundamentalists to influence social policies and legislation around the teaching of Evolutionary science. These fundamentalists seem to confuse scientific evidence with psychological states experienced during claimed divine communications: revelation, prayer etc. These well organized and well financed religious extremists insist that what is taught as Science must give their delusions equal weight to scientific evidence.

This site takes a slightly different approach to the competing claims of evolution and religion. We follow Einstein in viewing science as providing a doorway to what he called the 'cosmic religious experience'; a worldview firmly based on science but granting the awe and understanding of truth usually associated with religion. We champion the idea that the unification of scientific understanding provided by Universal Darwinism may provide a means of increasing, by some small amount, those that Einstein described as receptive to the cosmic religious experience.

We further follow Einstein in viewing this substitution of science for the core of what has previously been religious belief as a natural evolutionary process. As Einstein said:

With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death. Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connections is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates illusory beings more or less analogous to itself on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. Thus, one tries to secure the favor of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make them well disposed towards a mortal.

The social impulses are another source of the crystallization of religion. Fathers and mothers and the leaders of larger human communities are mortal and fallible. The desire for guidance, love, and support prompts men to form the social or moral conception of God. This is the God of Providence, Who protects, disposes, rewards, and punishes; the God who, according to the limits of the believerís outlook, loves and cherishes the life of the tribe or of the human race, or even of life itself; the comforter in sorrow and unsatisfied longing; he who preserves the souls of the dead. This is the social or moral conception of God.

Common to all these types is the anthropomorphic character of their conception of God. In general, only individuals of exceptional endowments and exceptionally high-minded communities, rise to any considerable extent above this level. But there is a third stage of religious experience which belongs to all of them, even though it is rarely found in a pure form: I shall call it cosmic religious feeling. It is very difficult to elucidate this feeling to anyone who is entirely without it, especially as there is no anthropomorphic conception of God corresponding to it.

The individual feels the futility of human desires and aims at the sublimity and marvelous order which reveal themselves both in nature and in the world of thought. Individual existence impresses him as a sort of prison and he wants to experience the universe as a single significant whole. The beginnings of cosmic religious feeling already appear at an early stage of development, e.g., in many of the Psalms of David and in some of the Prophets. Buddhism, as we have learned especially from the wonderful writings of Schopenhauer, contains a much stronger element of this.

 The religious geniuses of all ages have been distinguished by this kind of religious feeling, which knows no dogma and no God conceived in manís image; so that there can be no church whose central teachings are based on it. Hence, it is precisely among the heretics of every age that we find men who were filled with this highest kind of religious feeling and were in many cases regarded by their contemporaries as atheists, sometimes also as saints. Looked at in this light, men like Democritus, Francis of Assisi and Spinoza are closely akin to one another.

 How can the cosmic religious feeling be communicated from one person to another, if it can give rise to no definite notion of a God and no theology? In my view, it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and to keep it alive in those who are receptive to it.1

1  Einstein Albert, (November 9, 1930), Science and Religion, New York Times Magazine