Albert Einstein: March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955


When I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being.

As the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus 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.

[source: Becoming a Freethinker and a Scientist]

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2 thoughts on “Albert Einstein: March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955

  1. 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.

    Definitely not as comfortable! Even if I wanted to go back to the other road, I can’t do it.

    Decades ago, my folks were kicked out of a very fundamentalist church (even by fundie standards) for believing people in other churches were also saved. They were later asked by some people in the church to come back (after the pastor and other extremists were sent packing in disgrace). My dad said (paraphrased), “Coming to that church was like opening a door and coming in from the dark to a lighted room, and I enjoyed it. Then I saw another door and I opened that and walked into an even bigger and more well lit room. I can’t go back to the small dimmer room now”.

    They’re still happy members of a more liberal church, but a few years later I saw another door and like my folks, I walked through that one and found a much greater room than any of the rooms I’d seen thus far. It is not as comfortable, it many ways it is harsh, but there are things in that room that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. I can’t go back now…there are still doors I have yet to open.

  2. Wouldn’t it be grand if the difference between religionism and atheism was merely how agoraphobic a person is? Maybe a main-stream religionist finds comfort in a large room and a fundamentalist in a very small one and as for atheists, maybe any room is too small for them…that seems quite correct, in a way, that religion should be confining and limiting when it purports to explain everything and atheism opens doors to all of the universe.

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