youthful period of mankind's spiritual evolution human fantasy created
gods in man's own image, who, by the operations of their will were supposed
to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. Man sought
to alter the disposition of these gods in his own favor by means of magic and
prayer. The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that
old concept of the gods. Its anthropomorphic character is shown, for instance,
by the fact that men appeal to the Divine Being in prayers and plead for the
fulfillment of their wishes.
"Nobody, certainly, will
deny that the idea of the existence of an omnipotent, just,
and omnibeneficent personal God is able to accord man solace, help, and guidance; also, by virtue of
its simplicity it is accessible to the most undeveloped mind. But, on the other hand, there are decisive weaknesses attached to
this idea in itself, which have been
painfully felt since the beginning of history. That is, if this being is
omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling
and aspiration is also His work; 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
to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and
righteousness ascribed to Him?
"The main source of the
present-day conflicts between the spheres of religion and of
science lies in this concept of a personal God. It is the aim of science to establish
general rules which determine the reciprocal connection of objects and
events in time and space. For these rules, or laws of nature, absolutely general
validity is required-not proven. It is mainly a program, and faith in the possibility
of its accomplishment in principle is only founded on partial successes. But
hardly anyone could be found who would deny these partial successes and ascribe
them to human self-deception. The fact that on the basis of such laws we are
able to predict the temporal behavior of phenomena in certain domains with
great precision and certainty is deeply embedded in the consciousness of the
modern man, even though he may have grasped very little of the contents of
those laws. He need only consider that planetary courses within the solar
system may be calculated in advance with great exactitude on the
basis of a limited number of simple laws. In a similar way, though not
with the same precision, it is possible to calculate in advance the mode of
operation of an electric motor, a transmission system, or of a
wireless apparatus, even when dealing with a novel development.
"To be sure, when the number of factors coming into
play in a phenomenological complex is too large, scientific method in most cases fails us.
One need only think of the weather, in which
case prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Nevertheless no one doubts that we are confronted with a
causal connection whose causal
components are in the main known to us. Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact prediction because
of the variety of factors in
operation, not because of any lack of order in nature.
penetrated far less deeply into the regularities obtaining within the realm of
living things, but deeply enough nevertheless to sense at least the rule of
fixed necessity. One need only think of the systematic order in heredity, and in the
effect of poisons, as for instance alcohol, on the behavior of organic beings.
What is still lacking here is a grasp of connections of profound generality, but not a knowledge of order
"The more a man is imbued
with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his
conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered
regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human
nor the rule of divine will exists as an independent cause of natural events.
To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with natural events
could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can
always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet
been able to set foot.
I am persuaded that such behavior on the part of the representatives of religion
would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to
maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose
its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress. In their
struggle for the ethical good, teachers of religion must have the
stature to give up the doctrine of a personal God, that is, give up that
source of fear and hope which in the past placed such vast power in the hands of
priests. In their labors they will have to avail themselves of those forces which are capable of
cultivating the Good, the True, and the
Beautiful in humanity itself. This is, to be sure, a more difficult but an
incomparably more worthy task."
-Albert Einstein, Science, Philosophy, and Religion; from Einstein's
Out of my Later Years, pp 26-29.