A Thinking Trio and Their Vision of Truth

By Novar Caine
Two Jewish men who rejected their religion as fanciful fairytales and may have found the meaning of life remain a foil to today’s brusque disputes over evolution and intelligent design. One was Baruch Spinoza, born in Amsterdam in 1632, and the other was Germany’s Albert Einstein, who arrived 247 years later. Their messages should not be lost.

Spinoza’s view of the world that gave rise to the Spinozism philosophy was so radical and such an affront to delicate minds that he was effectively excommunicated, cast out of Jewish society.

Like-minded Einstein, in a fashion extrapolated by Charles Darwin, could only see creationism in every aspect of the world and into the universe of celestial objects.

Using reason, the demur Dutchman and the curious German who would become American saw themselves eminently as integral parts of the entirety of creation. They had no time for religion and the hold it places on people. “I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one,” Einstein wrote in a letter. He later expounded: “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

Einstein’s belief was an intertwined mesh of nature and creator – pantheism – and therefore he refused to be branded an atheist, who he said were rebelling from early years of religious instruction: “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervour is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

Startlingly, for his time and indeed ours, Spinoza attempted to answer the body-mind problem by putting forward his notion that they are one and the same and that “the human mind is a part of the infinite intellect of God.” In essence, he wrote in The Ethics, everything – nature and ourselves – is one collective supreme being.

The soft voices of these gentle giants are forgotten in today’s belief wars. They have been replaced by the grating din of activist atheists who may well be shouldering the hefty chip Einstein spoke of. Following on from a poster campaign in 2008 in which the public was told “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life,” the British Humanist Association’s latest ploy was almost derailed last week when rail firms banned the use of station ads bearing the wording “If You’re Not Religious for God’s Sake Say So” because it could be offensive to the faithful, for a census later this month. Instead it’s been toned down to read “Not religious? In this year’s census say so.”

Meanwhile, speaking in February to Spiegel Online as his latest God-bashing book, The Greatest Show on Earth, was launched in Germany – but titled The Creation Lie: Why Darwin Is Right, which does not amuse the author because he says it has negative connotations when he wanted to be “exulting,” Richard Dawkins, an association funder, was asked about the put-downs he heaps on believers: “Holocaust-deniers,” “ignorant,” “ridiculous,” “deluded to the point of perversity.” He said: “If I read an author who is ridiculing some idiot, I myself am rather amused.”

Dawkins also abhors New Agers, people who seek to live according to a set of spiritual beliefs outside of the normal parameters of religion. What, you may ask, is wrong with that? Dawkins seeks to rein them in from their deity-less delusions, too, you see. He churlishly reduces people such as Deepak Chopra to believers in “hocos pocus.”  The Indian guru said last month of the slur, “I am an enemy of reason to him.” The barbs make for brisk book sales, for sure, but behind the Dawkins hype there appears a zealous yearning – nay, admiration – in him for people who are able to believe in something that, his scientific facts tell him, is just not there. He is the little boy who woke up on Christmas morning and got nothing.

The humble Einstein – who splendidly on his death bed said “I have done my share; it is time to go” – would not, we can assume, be enamoured by any of this.

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