Was Einstein an atheist as Richard Dawkins claimed?

Chapter number one of Richard Dawkins is titled “As a deeply religious non-believer”. It is primarily about Albert Einstein, whether Albert Einstein believed in a God or not. Richard Dawkins in this chapter argues like this: While Albert Einstein has spoken the word “God” and he has used those theistic words, he was not a theist at all. Albert Einstein was a pantheist and pantheism as for Richard Dawkins is sexed up atheism. So if Albert Einstein was a pantheist and pantheism is sexed up atheism, Albert Einstein in turn was an atheist. So this is how the argument goes. In fact he goes on to say the metaphorical or pantheistic God of the physicist is light years away from the God of the bible and it will be a deliberate intellectual treason to confuse the both. So his argument is while Albert Einstein has used the theistic words, he was not a theist, he was a pantheist and pantheism is nothing but sexed up atheism.

 It is very interesting that in the book God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says Max Jammer’s book Einstein and religion was the main source of the quotation from Einstein himself on the religious matters in Richard Dawkins book. In other words Richard Dawkins have taken heavily from Max Jammer’s book. Professor Dr Max Jammer, who lived from 1915 to 2010, was a close colleague of Albert Einstein. Professor Max Jammer himself was an accomplished person. In fact for one of the books of Professor Max Jammer, it was Albert Einstein who wrote the forward. So by all means Professor Jammer is the best person to write about Albert Einstein. He was in that same network so he would know many of the close friends of Albert Einstein. He himself knew Albert Einstein, he was a close colleague of Albert Einstein and he himself was a scientist and a kind of science historian as well. But the irony is while Richard Dawkins claims that he has used Max Jammer, he has cherry picked Max Jammer. Max Jammer’s argument is totally different from Richard Dawkins’ argument. In fact you will see that Richard Dawkins is a highly intellectually dishonest person if you look at only chapter one of Richard Dawkins book God Delusion.

Now let us look at the argument itself. Generally it was believed that Albert Einstein was a pantheist but it was under Max Jammer’s book. Generally people consider Albert Einstein as a pantheist because Albert Einstein said he is a follower of Baruch Spinoza. Now there is a dispute whether Baruch Spinoza himself was a pantheist or not. However for this episode we will take the general argument that Baruch Spinoza was a pantheist. 

In 1929 Albert Einstein was given a copy of the book called There is no God. Albert Einstein disagreed with that title. Albert Einstein was responding to the book and in response to that book he said “We followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and the lawfulness of all that exists and it’s so.” So Albert Einstein was in turn saying you should have changed the title to “There is no personal God rather than there is no God” because we followers of Spinoza see our God in the wonderful order and the lawfulness of all that exists in its soul. So here you have the argument Albert Einstein claims himself to be the follower of Spinoza. Spinoza was a pantheist therefore Albert Einstein is a pantist now. Before we look at what Albert Einstein really meant by this, let me continue reading the same letter that Albert Einstein wrote. In the same letter Albert Einstein went on to say it is a different question whether the belief in a personal God should be contested at all. So Albert Einstein is saying that you should change the title to “There is no personal God” and then he goes on to add that it is a different question whether belief in a personal God should be contested. 

So that is a different question, whether you should write such a book itself is also a different question. Because personally Albert Einstein says “I myself would never engage in such a task to prove that like it is there is no personal God or there is no God.” Albert Einstein will never engage in such a task. Why? The reason is he says for such a belief seems to me preferable to the lack of any transcendental outlook of life. So he says he prefers personal God compared to atheism. Now remember this is the same book Richard Dawkins is reading when he wrote the book God Delusion. The main source for his Albert Einstein chapter was Max Jammer’s book and in the same Max Jammer’s book you have this explicit statement of Albert Einstein saying that he prefers personal God compared to atheism. But our friend Richard Dawkins has never read that. And let me go on to read the next one again. In the same book Max Jammer’s book Einstein and Religion chapter 1 Max Jammer quotes Albert Einstein where he explicitly says “I am not an atheist and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist.” So Albert Einstein disagreed with anyone calling him as a atheist and he did not consider himself as a pantheist. Now in the same letter Albert Einstein went on to say that “I am fascinated by Spinoza  pantheism” So while he called himself as Spinoza’s follower in one letter, in another letter he made a distinguishing between him and Spinoza. He said “I am fascinated by the Spinoza pantheism but I don’t think I can call myself as a pantheist.” Therefore Albert Einstein is not speaking about Spinoza’s pantheism at all when he says i am a follower of Spinoza. He is not referring to Spinoza’s pantheism, he is referring to something else. 

In fact Albert Einstein did not consider himself to be an expert of Spinoza. In 1932 when he was asked to write about Spinoza, Albert Einstein refused. And he said unfortunately to love Spinoza does not suffice to be allowed to write about him; this one must leave to those who have gone into the further historical background.” So he never considered himself to be a Spinoza expert. Now this is also a point we must keep in mind because of the statement that I am a follower of Spinoza we should not start thinking that Albert Einstein believed everything that Spinoza believed. In fact Albert Einstein went on to clarify that he likes Spinoza’s determinism. Like Spinoza who never believed in the free will of man, Albert Einstein also did not believe in the free will of man. So that was one commonality between Albert Einstein and Spinoza. And it must be borne in mind in Albert Einstein’s autobiographical notes, which details about the influence of his intellectual life, he never quoted Spinoza once. So you can understand how much influence Spinoza would have had on Albert Einstein. It is very minimal as far as the concept of God is concerned. So we should not be taking statements of Albert Einstein in where he says that I am a follower of Spinoza and then jump into conclusion saying that since Spinoza was a pantheist, Albert Einstein also should have been a pantheist. No not at all. In fact anybody who has read Max Jammer’s book will never conclude that.