Tuesday, 6 March 2012

From the Rationalist archive: What Albert Einstein really believed

Dear reader, our blog has moved to a new address.

Do come on over (and change your bookmarks accordingly): rationalist.org.uk

Albert Einstein
I've been dipping to the Rationalist Association archives recently, including the Thinkers Library series published in the first part of last century (that's some of them there, on the right). The series was designed to bring knowledge to the masses, with cheap reprints of classic texts (Epicurus, Darwin) and new books by scientists and rationalists like Russell, HG Wells and Haldane. Here's a little something I stumbled upon yesterday, from a book we published in 1936 by RA member Albert Einstein. I have often heard him quoted as saying he was a religious man in some way, but never appreciated the full context until now. Inspiring words.
"The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude: in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who [c]ould survive his physical death is beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egotism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.”
From Albert Einstein The World As I See It, The Thinkers Library, No. 79, 1935 (RPA/Watts and Co) 

If you want more of this kind of stuff why not join us on March 21 at the lovely Bishopsgate Library in London, for a special evening of Rationalism Past and Present. Some of the Rationalist Association archives will be on display – I'll be talking a little about what's in them – and our special guest David Aaronovitch will be speaking on 'Why I Am A Rationalist'. Tickets are very limited and costs £20 (£15 for RA members). All proceeds will go to support our ongoing work of democratising knowledge. Be quick its almost sold out. Buy your tickets here.

Follow @NewHumanist on Twitter
blog comments powered by Disqus