Einstein From the Other Side (A radio theater presentation) written by Craig Gosling
You can listen to this radio-theater show on FreethoughtRadio.com. Another radio-theater show you will enjoy listening to is Galileo’s Dilemma also on FreethoughtRadio.com.
Readers: Einstein – Matt Barron, Interviewer – Craig Gosling
Interviewer – Did Albert Einstein believe in a personal God and what did he think of religion? To what extent did his scientific mind and his life’s experience influence his beliefs concerning these subjects? Few of us can answer these questions with any authority. We hope this program will stimulate your own inquiry into the subject.
The following fanciful interview with Albert Einstein is based upon his own words. In an attempt to make his convictions more meaningful to the listener, the author has taken the literary license of bringing him back from “another dimension” and fabricating a one on one interview with him. There was a popular TV game show that provides contestants with answers to which they must supply questions. This is the format chosen in order to breathe life into Dr. Einstein’s words. All of Dr. Einstein’s words, herein, are actual quotations or careful paraphrasing of his writings and interviews so as not to change their meaning. Care has been given to avoid out of context bits and pieces of his thoughts as well. The author has simply supplied the questions that might have stimulated his answers. Occasionally, short statements have been added for clarity.
The theologies of many great men, such as Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, as well as Einstein and recently Carl Sagan, have been debated because everyone and every group wishes to claim these celebrities as “their own.” People naturally wish to consider great men and women as belonging to their tribe, their party, sharing their beliefs, following their convictions, and believing in their deity. Contradictory interpretations of the writings of these men are as abundant as the contradictory interpretations of religion’s holy books. No doubt there will be those who will have a need to disagree with this use of Einstein’s words and theology. Disagreement leads to discussion, and hopefully to reality, as Dr. Einstein would gladly embrace. Several years ago, a visiting guest speaker spoke at CFI’s Darwin Days. He was a pastor who sincerely expressed his belief that both Darwin and Einstein believed in God. He was duly corrected by actual quotations from both great men. We expect this performance will dispel any lingering doubts about their beliefs.
Interviewer – Thank to our radio audience for joining us today for this unusual interview with the renowned Dr. Albert Einstein whose research has changed our understanding of the universe.
“Thank you Dr. Einstein, for agreeing to be interviewed and for making the long trip back from the “other side” of the fringe. You are well known for your theory of relativity but few people know anything about your theology. I have a feeling that your many admirers will be very interested in your views about morality, religion and God.”
Einstein – Thank you for inviting me. I am pleased to be here with you.
Interviewer – “From your experience, Dr. Einstein, what is it that drives the moral acts of all humans? Why do we think and act the way we do?”
Einstein – “We all try to escape pain and death while we seek what is pleasant. We are ruled by our primary instincts; our actions serve our self-preservation and that of the race.
There are some instincts, such as the emotions of love, pity and friendship that are too weak, in themselves, to counter other stronger instincts of survival such as the desire for power, sex and nourishment.”
Interviewer – “That is so true Dr. Einstein. So, what do you believe we can do about it?” How do we control these stronger survival instincts you talk about and give love, pity and friendship a chance?”
Einstein – “That problem was addressed by early humans, who invented imaginary personal beings with supernatural power. It was claimed that these imaginary beings controlled the natural world, the sun, the rain, the movement of animals, the seasons and life and death.
According to those, who we now commonly call shamans and priests, these imaginary beings were sometimes in the image of man or animals and were claimed to have the power to protect or punish man… During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual evolution, human fantasy created Gods in man’s own image.”
Interviewer – “In your opinion Dr. Einstein, was this the origin of what some call the God concept?”
Einstein – “Yes, of course. Those primitive precursors, of the God concept, sprang from the fears and feelings of helplessness that filled the lives of early man. It was the only answer they had to the unknown, and it proved to be very successful in comforting them. In fact, the God concept was so successful that it was used to control human behavior. Certain standards and taboos, so derived, were eventually formalized into religion.”
Interviewer – “Hmmm, your theology is even more controversial than I had supposed. It is, in fact, not common knowledge to many of your admirers. Dr. Einstein, what exactly are your views concerning organized religion?”
Einstein – “Personally, my religiosity found an abrupt ending at age twelve through the reading of popular science books…
But, before I proceed I should differentiate between organized religion and the state of being religious. A religious person, whether or not he believes in a divine being, is one who has liberated himself from the fetters of selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations because of their super-personal value to mankind…Otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza, among many others, as religious personalities, which I believe they are.
Religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become conscious of the methodology and goals that better mankind, and to constantly strengthen and extend their effect. It is the unbounded admiration of the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. I consider myself a deeply religious man by this definition. A conflict between religion and science is not really possible according to this definition.”
Interviewer – How interesting. Many listeners will be heartened by your words. To your mind, Dr. Einstein, is there ever a conflict between science and religion?”
Einstein – “Oh yes! For example, when a certain religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the bible, there is a conflict.
Religion should not intervene into the sphere of science as it did against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin. Conversely, science should not interfere into the sphere of religion. There is room, however, for a reciprocal relationship between religion and science. Religion can determine worthy goals and create the inspiration to achieve those goals. Science can make it possible to achieve those goals. Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Interviewer – “What other strengths and weaknesses do you see in organized religion Dr. Einstein?”
Einstein – “I don’t deny that the personal God concept has been able to accord man solace, help, and guidance for his personal benefit. Man has used the God concept to justify all his actions, both good and bad, and to fulfill all his wishes. The concept of the existence of an omnipotent, just, and omni-beneficient personal God, by virtue of its simplicity, is readily acceptable and accessible to the most undeveloped mind.”
Interviewer – “And the weaknesses of religion, Dr. Einstein?”
Einstein – “There are decisive weaknesses, which unfortunately have been painfully felt since the beginning of history. Through fear or ridiculous egotism, feeble souls harbor the belief that they will survive the death of their bodies. They accept evil with a promise of future salvation. Another weakness is, if this supernatural being is omnipotent then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought and every human feeling and inspiration is also His work… And, if that is so, how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty being? In giving out punishment and rewards He would be, to a certain extent, passing judgment on Himself…How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Interviewer – “Nor to me and many others, Dr. Einstein.”
Einstein – “Another point I should touch on is the claim of religions’ that prayer can influence natural events. I find the idea of a supernatural being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world to be absolutely impossible.”
Interviewer – “Those very points are still being debated to this very day Dr. Einstein. Prayer studies are still being conducted with the hope of proving God’s existence. None have had positive results other than by chance and due to poor study design.
Overall, how do you think religion has effected our world Dr. Einstein?”
Einstein – “I am very concerned that religions, which encourage overpopulation and are against birth control, are detrimental and even dangerous for the community, here and everywhere. Over population in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle in any attempt to organize peace on this planet. I understand that problem has continued to worsen to this very day.”
Interviewer – “That is very true Dr. Einstein. Most scientists believe it to be the underlying cause of most all the world’s problems today, including climate change, starvation, and war.
Speaking of war Dr. Einstein, how has religion promoted peace in the world?”
Einstein – “Simply put my boy, it has not done so up to now. Religion evolved just like life itself, into many thousands of varieties. Although some of the differences between them were slight, they nevertheless led to conflict and enmity. They fostered innumerable wars, conquests and persecutions such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the inaction of the Catholic and Protestant German Churches when faced with the horrors of the holocaust, and many, many more. I expect that religious fervor continues to play a major role in human suffering today as it did in my time.”
Interviewer – “Yes it still does Dr. Einstein, but religion often plays a positive role in the world, does it not?”
Einstein – “Although I am glad that religion strives to work for the good of mankind, it is not often successful. I firmly believe the moral imperative is not a matter for religion alone. Morality exists on its own and does not rely on the fickle whims of organized religion. It is the most precious traditional possession of all mankind!”
Morality can be nurtured outside the religious sphere and should lead all people to look upon social problems as so many opportunities for joyous service towards a better life for all.
Moral conduct does not mean a stern demand to renounce one’s desires, as some religions insist, but rather a sociable interest in a happier life for all mankind.”
Interviewer – “No doubt. Many religionists have overlooked that concept. They believe moral conduct to be a chore and something to put out the fires of man’s physical passions.”
Einstein – “If the representatives of a religious belief deny the validity of natural events, as established by science, it would not only be unworthy but also fatal. A doctrine which maintains itself in the dark will, of necessity, lose its effect on mankind and do incalculable harm to human progress.”
Interviewer – “So, is it fair to say you do not believe in a personal God?”
Einstein – “In their struggle for ethical good, teachers of religion must have the stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God. That is, give up the source of fear and hope which, in the past, placed such vast power in the hands of those who claim to be close to God.”
Interviewer – “History has numerous examples of that unfortunate circumstance. We find it as prevalent today as it was previous centuries.”
Einstein – “Religion’s teachers should instead concentrate on cultivating the good, the true, and the beautiful in humanity itself. This is a difficult but an incomparably more worthy task than what they teach now. After they do this they will most certainly recognize, with joy, that true religion has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge.”
Interviewer – “Our time is running out Dr. Einstein. We have time for only a few more questions. How has science played a role in your personal theology, Dr. Einstein?”
Einstein – “Ah, my boy, we don’t have enough time for that whole story, but I’ll try to explain it to you. Although it is true that the goal of science is to discover rules which permit the association of and foretelling of facts, that is not its only potential.
Whoever has undergone the intense experience of being part of a successful scientific advance cannot help but be moved by the profound reverence for rationality it manifests in our very existence. That person achieves an emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires and attains a humble attitude of mind concerning his relationship to mankind and nature.
This attitude appears to me to be religious in the highest sense of the word. And so, it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of dross anthropomorphism, but it also contributes to a religious spiritualization of our understanding of life itself. If one were to take the highest principals of the Jewish-Christian tradition out of its religious form and put it in purely human terms, it might be stated thus: free and responsible development of individuals so that they may place their powers freely and gladly in the service of humankind.
There is no room in this for the divination of a nation, a class, let alone of an individual. As is said in religious language, ‘Are we not all children of one father?’”
Interviewer – “Your time in this dimension is almost up Dr. Einstein. Do you have any closing words?”
Einstein – “We must not only tolerate differences between individuals and groups, but we should indeed welcome them and look upon them as an enrichment of our existence. Without tolerance there can be no true morality. Morality is a task never finished, ever changing, and always present to guide our judgment and inspire our conduct.”
Interviewer – “I’m sorry but our time is up Dr. Einstein.”
Einstein – “True morality has been ennobled and made more profound by scientific knowledge. The path to morality does not depend on the fear of death and hell, or on the promise of eternal life and heaven, or on blind faith. It depends upon our striving after rational knowledge”
Interviewer – “Thank you Dr. Einstein.
We have heard Dr. Einstein’s own words on his misgivings about religion and its radical proselytizers. We have heard about his disbelief in a Deity and his hope that religion and science can exist together without conflict. According to his hopes, we must encourage both science and religion to work with one goal in mind, to enhance human happiness.
And, above all, we cannot avoid the fact that Albert Einstein was much more than just a mere scientist. He was a freethinker, a secularist, and, above all,…a humanist.”
Thank you for listening.
Albert Einstein quotations are available from many sources. Excellent books containing his essays and letters: Albert Einstein – Out of My Later Years, Wings Books; Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Princeton University Press; Einstein, History, and Other Passions; Einstein, Ideas and Opinions. An excellent Internet source of Einstein’s writings on science and religion is: www.stcloud.msus.edu/~lesikar/einstein/index.html.
This reading, “Einstein From The Other Side” may be performed by interested groups with permission from the author.