Random Stuff #016: Einsteinian Religion

We all fear what we do not understand (Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol).

The great physicist (and philosopher) Albert Einstein transformed the world with some of the most mind-bending scientific discoveries of modern times. He was heralded as one of the pioneers of modern physics and is widely regarded as one of the most intelligent and most influential scientists of all time. Even though he was arguably the smartest person at that time, he had his faults. No one is perfect. Like he dismissed quantum physics in an analogy of God playing dice. He endorsed a book based on pseudoscientific geology albeit unknowingly. 

Like all students of the cosmos, Einstein couldn’t help but watch the depths of space with awe and a sense of enlightenment. When you study the cosmos, you are engulfed in this loop where you start to ask questions about our existence, the seemingly  infinite universe, the possible existence of aliens, what looms in the vast darkness, etc. These kinds of big questions make you become poetic and/or philosophical about the infinite cosmos in a way that whenever you speak about the cosmos, you sound like a religious theist. Yet in actual sense, you are just sounding religious. Being religious doesn’t mean worshipping a deity or acknowledging an invincible supernatural being as your creator. Its about that special connection you have with things that transcend the normal world. If I feel overcome with emotion when listening to Mozart’s concerto as performed by the NY symphony, it doesn’t mean that I worship Mozart as a god, I’m just religious towards his music. Quoting Einstein himself on what he thought religion was:

To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our minds cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, that’s religiousness. In this sense I’m religious.

Einstein’s passion for the infinite cosmos clearly turned him poetic, philosophical and utterly religious (if we are to consider this passion as such). He is almost describing his fascination with the infinite cosmos as a religion. Indeed if that’s a religion, I’m a deeply religious nonbeliever in this sense, just as Richard Dawkins describes in The God Delusion (which was also derived from one of Einstein’s quotes). Referring to my earlier posts, I wrote about the ABC of organized religion. Clearly the absence of all 3 identifiers means Einsteinian religion isn’t actually a religion at all. There is no conversion of nonbelievers, no promise of salvation or life after death or believing in a supernatural deity. Its just plain religiousness stemming from the poetic infinite cosmos triggered by the human mind’s ability to process aesthetics. 

Quoting the great physicist once more:

I don’t try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.

It seems pretty obvious that Einstein thought a personal God restricted him from enjoying his fascination with the cosmos. He thought a deity was the stumbling block to appreciating the “structure of the world”. I think its because God was thought of, at the time, as the infinite unknown super creator of this earth as something special. Yet Einstein had realised God wasn’t special, the cosmos was something truly way more extraordinary and coaxed religion out of him in the process. Conclusively, to Einstein, the cosmos was more infinite, more mysterious than a highly improbable hypothetical God. And there was evidence to support it too. So why be religious with a God when you can be religious with the infinite cosmos (that your God never predicted)? Why be religious about anything anyway?


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