Dear Einstein, Do Scientists Pray?

 


Image: Life

In 1936, sixth grader Phyllis wrote a letter to Albert Einstein on behalf
of her Sunday school class. She asked the famous scientists whether scientists
pray:
My dear Dr. Einstein,

We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? in our Sunday
school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science
and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men,
to try and have our own question answered.


We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do
scientists pray, and what do they pray for?


We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class.

Respectfully yours,

Phyllis

 

Read Einstein's reply over at Letters of Note: Link

 

Previously on Neatorama: 10 Strange Facts About Einstein

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He kept that short. Interestingly, Einstein identified with Spinoza's God, which is the superior spirit who manifests itself in nature. This is interesting because Spinoza was a Jew and he reworked Judaism into Secularism. Read this Spinoza quote for example:

"My opinion concerning God differs widely from that which is ordinarily defended by modern Christians. For I hold that God is of all things the cause immanent, as the phrase is, not transient. I say that all things are in God and move in God, thus agreeing with Paul, and, perhaps, with all the ancient philosophers, though the phraseology may be different; I will even venture to affirm that I agree with all the ancient Hebrews, in so far as one may judge from their traditions, though these are in many ways corrupted. " - Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)

So Spinoza thinks that he is in agreement with "Paul (aka Saul) "and, perhaps with all the ancient philosophers." His viewpoint was not therefor any different from Judaism or Christianity, rather he believed that these philosophies had been corrupted from within.

"The eternal wisdom of God ... has shown itself forth in all things, but chiefly in the mind of man, and most of all in Jesus Christ." - Letter 21 (73) to Henry Oldenburg , November (1675)

So Baruch Spinoza (Benedict de Spinoza) - commonly credited as a father of modern secularism - and Albert Einstein, where neither opposed to Judaism or Christianity but saw Spinoza's God as the purified interpretation of the philosophy of the Jews and Christians. They regarded worship of a Man-like God as a form of Idolatry.

"Men have not so clear a knowledge of God as they have of general notions, because they are unable to imagine God as they do bodies, and also because they have associated the name God with images of things that they are in the habit of seeing, as indeed they can hardly avoid doing, being, as they are, men, and continually affected by external bodies. ...Very many controversies have arisen from the fact, that men do not rightly explain their meaning, or do not rightly interpret the meaning of others." - Spinoza

Along the lines of Anselm's Ontological Argument, Spinoza argued that God was that from which all form originates, that within which it's form is sustained, and that unto which it terminates, equating "God" with the essential existence, primal force, etc.. and not any particular thing.

"Individual things are nothing but modifications of the attributes of God, or modes by which the attributes of God are expressed in a fixed and definite manner." - Spinoza

I'm showing this because there is a false dichotomy in popular culture regarding Secularism and the Abrahamic Faiths. Many do not realize that the naturalists share a viewpoint with certain interpretations of ancient philosophies. Within this perspective the Big Bang could not be the first cause of existence, and believing that it is would be similar in folly to believing that a Man-like God floating around on a nimbus cloud snapped his fingers and created existence. All of these things must already "exist" in order to the cause of anything, whereas existence itself does not, and cannot, by definition, have a prior cause. Any cause which might "exist" necessarily already has the quality of "existing" and therefor could not be the cause of existence itself. Existence = God.

But there are forms of prayer which do not amount to selfish pleas to an imaginary God. There is something called "Contemplative Prayer" which is also called "Contemplative Meditation" and is the primary format of "prayer" endorsed by the Trappists and probably very similar to the "Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola" and the Jesuits.

Sorry if this is slightly off-topic or wordy, but it amazes me, it's like the old argument about how people say "Tom-ate-oh" or "Tom-aht-oh".
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