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Albert Einstein's Surprising Thoughts on the Meaning of Life

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Albert Einstein was one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers, influencing scientific thought immeasurably. He was also not shy about sharing his wisdom about other topics, writing essays, articles, letters, giving interviews and speeches. His opinions on social and intellectual issues that do not come from the world of physics give an insight into the spiritual and moral vision of the scientist, offering much to take to heart.
The collection of essays and ideas “The World As I See It” gathers Einstein’s thoughts from before 1935, when he was as the preface says “at the height of his scientific powers but not yet known as the sage of the atomic age”.
In the book, Einstein comes back to the question of the purpose of life on several occasions. In one passage, he links it to a sense of religiosity.
“What is the meaning of human life, or, for that matter, of the life of any creature? To know an answer to this question means to be religious. You ask: Does it many any sense, then, to pose this question? I answer: The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life,” wrote Einstein.
Was Einstein himself religious? Raised by secular Jewish parents, he had complex and evolving spiritual thoughts. He generally seemed to be open to the possibility of the scientific impulse and religious thoughts coexisting.
"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind," said Einstein in his 1954 essay on science and religion.
Some (including the scientist himself) have called Einstein’s spiritual views as pantheism, largely influenced by the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza. Pantheists see God as existing but abstract, equating all of reality with divinity. They also reject a specific personal God or a god that is somehow endowed with human attributes.
Himself a famous atheist, Richard Dawkins calls Einstein's pantheism a “sexed-up atheism,” but other scholars point to the fact that Einstein did seem to believe in a supernatural intelligence that’s beyond the physical world. He referred to it in his writings as “a superior spirit,” “a superior mind” and a “spirit vastly superior to men”. Einstein was possibly a deist, although he was quite familiar with various religious teachings, including a strong knowledge of Jewish religious texts.
In another passage from 1934, Einstein talks about the value of a human being, reflecting a Buddhist-like approach:
“The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self”.
This theme of liberating the self is also echoed by Einstein later in life, in a 1950 letter to console a grieving father Robert S. Marcus:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish it but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.”

In case you are wondering whether Einstein saw value in material pursuits, here’s him talking about accumulating wealth in 1934, as part of the “The World As I See It”:
“I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can lead us to noble thoughts and deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and irresistibly invites abuse. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?”


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Albert Einstein On The Spirituality That Comes From Scientific Inquiry

Here is an article from Huffington post

The part bolded below (by me) is in alignment with the teachings of our scriptures.



The reference is to the Brahma Sutra citation in that post

ॐ वैष्यम्यनैर्घृण्ये न सापेक्षत्वात्तथा हि दर्शयति ॐ ॥ २.१.३५॥

Meaning: Partiality and cruelty cannot be ascribed to Isvara on account of considering reasons (such as Dharma/Karma etc)
It also means wish cannot be granted by praying. Even if if one does not believe in the sutras, one can logically understand that if the Lord were to grant favors based on asking, there will be flaws in the creation itself which is what Einstein has arrived at.


Although Albert Einstein is best known for his scientific achievements, his personal writings also reveal a good deal of wonder about the possibility of a higher power.

Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 to a secular Jewish family in Germany. Although he experienced a short burst of religiosity when he was 12 — composing songs in praise of God and keeping kosher — for much of his life, Einstein tried his best to avoid religious labels.

Like a growing number of Americans today, Einstein didn’t fit neatly into any organized religion. He felt an attachment to his Jewish heritage and culture, but he believed the idea of a personal God who was involved in human affairs was “childlike.”

At the same time, Einstein separated himself from “fanatical atheists” who he believed could not “hear the music of the spheres.”

“I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist,” he wrote in a letter from the 1940s. “I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

Based on his writings, Einstein’s views on religion seem to have been influenced by Benedict de Spinoza, an Enlightenment-era thinker who rejected the idea that the Bible was a divine document. Instead, Spinoza believed in a God of “harmony and beauty.”

Like Spinoza, Einstein didn’t believe that prayer had any influence on the course of events in a person’s life.

In 1936, a young girl in New York named Phyllis sent Einstein a letter asking him whether scientists prayed. In the letter, posted by Brain Pickings from a larger volume of Einstein’s letters answering children’s’ questions, he replied that since scientists believe that everything in the world must fall under the laws of nature, they don’t believe that a wish can be granted by a supernatural force.

However, he admitted that science itself bears evidence that there is some spirit in the world that shows itself through the laws of nature.

“Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man,” Einstein wrote. “In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”

In an essay broadcast as part of the “This I Believe” series in the 1950s, Einstein gave a succinct and beautiful explanation of his views on the possibility of this higher power:

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the Mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basics of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.

“I believe in Spinoza’s God,” Einstein wrote to a New York rabbi in 1929, “Who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God Who concerns Himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”


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Post 2: If Einsten's comments are true, why should anyone offer prayers to God?
Short answer is that sincere prayer helps one to acquire mental strength to deal with a situation. Detailed response could be a thread in its own right.
People pray for all kinds of reasons - some want things, some are afraid of certain situations. Even atheists may pray when they run into a situation that is totally out of their control and they cannot think of a possible response.

Prayer allows one to remain calm and composed during times one feel totally helpless. Thereby one is able to do all they can to withstand the situation with least amount of suffering.
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