Friday, October 06, 2006

God Delusion #2 - Einstein was a atheist

Dawkins, in GD, co-opts Albert Einstein as an atheist. Dawkins writes: "Einstein sometimes invoked the name of God (and he is not the only atheistic scientist to do so)."

But Einstein was not an atheist. He was once asked, "Do you believe in the God of Spinoza?" Einstein responded: "I can't answer with a simple yes or no. I'm not an atheist and I don't think I can call myself a pantheist."

I believe Dawkins is correct when he says that Einstein did not believe God was a "personal" being. But it is an intellectual leap to then infer that Einstein was a "naturalist" just like Dawkins.

One must study most specifically what Einstein meant when he said he did not believe in a personal God. Part of what he means here is that he is against anthropomorphism. And, despite his protests, it seems accurate to associate his ideas about God with Spinoza's pantheism.

Einstein once said, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings." Spinoza, strictly speaking, did not identify "God" with "Nature." Here see his distinction re. the two sides of Nature: Natura naturans and Natura naturata ("Nature naturing" and "Nature natured"). See also here.

Spinoza believed in God. And, it must be pointed out, his belief was in a nonanthropomorphic, thus in his mind radically Jewish, God. Einstein "believ[ed] in Spinoza's God." Thus Dawkins errs in conflating Einstein's views about God with his own naturalistic atheism.

But why does Dawkins even need Einstein in his atheistic camp? Why does he work so hard (but not hard enough) to call Einstein one of his own? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in its article "Pantheism," says: "With some exceptions, pantheism is non-theistic, but it is not atheistic. It is a form of non-theistic monotheism, or even non-personal theism." Since Dawkins refers to himself as an atheist, he is not a non-theistic monotheist, nor is he a non-personal theist. Einstein was.