Einstein referred to "God" as a metaphor for the laws of physics. He was pretty clear about not believing in the god of the bible. Wikipedia says he was a pantheist and agnostic (not wanting a label so 100% certain as "atheist.")
Here's a quote:
. I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve.
Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression.
Mistrust of every kind of authority grew out of this experience, a skeptical attitude toward the convictions that were alive in any specific social environment—an attitude that has never again left me, even though, later on, it has been tempered by a better insight into the causal connections.
It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the 'merely personal,' from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings.
Out yonder there was this huge world, which exists independently of us human beings and which stands before us like a great, eternal riddle, at least partially accessible to our inspection and thinking.
The contemplation of this world beckoned as a liberation, and I soon noticed that many a man whom I had learned to esteem and to admire had found inner freedom and security in its pursuit. The mental grasp of this extra-personal world within the frame of our capabilities presented itself to my mind, half consciously, half unconsciously, as a supreme goal.
Similarly motivated men of the present and of the past, as well as the insights they had achieved, were the friends who could not be lost. The road to this paradise was not as comfortable and alluring as the road to the religious paradise; but it has shown itself reliable, and I have never regretted having chosen it.
Wow. That is a profoundly elegant, insightful and eloquent quote. Thank you for posting it here!
I especially like this: "It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of the 'merely personal,' from an existence dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings."
I also like the "positively fanatic orgy of freethinking" ;) I definitely went through a period of that after becoming an atheist xD
Regarding the quote, I just wasn't sure whether it was meant to be sarcastic, or an earnest admiration of the beauty/functionality/structure of the universe.
As for the specific quote, Wikipedia seems to have an explanation:
Einstein expressed his skepticism regarding an anthropomorphic deity, often describing it as "naïve" and "childlike".
He stated, "It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere.
My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly.
I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems."
Christine hits this one pretty well. If you study the work of Einstein you find he worked very hard on his theories and ideas. What he could have meant is that real solutions are not so simple. By todays logic we would hear the theist claim god answered and it was all so simple. I don't think anything was simple in Einstein's world. Agnostic at best, he did not believe in a personal god.
Yeah, that's along the lines of what I was thinking. I don't know if he exactly intended it, but I can't help but see it as him being a little contrary/sarcastic--criticizing the goddidit solution.
Then again, it could also be him personifying inspiration.
Probably he meant that the simplest answer is probably right.
Has anyone heard xians using Einstein's quote for their nefarious purposes?
If so, Einstein made it possible.
We can excuse him; many people of science are naive about politics.