The God of Spinoza, Einstein

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Have you experienced a faith crisis or transition? What has the experience taught you about God or your belief in God? Has it transformed how you view God or what you mean when you refer to God? Do your current thoughts still align with the mormon teachings about a godhead? Do your thoughts reflect your own personal experiences and insights, do you listen to religious leaders, to scientists? Do you judge someone on their beliefs in God aligning with your own?

In 1929, a debate swirled around the beliefs of the famous jewish scientist, Albert Einstein. The man whose very name is synonymous today with extreme intelligence. A Rabbi asked Einstein via telegraph, “Do you believe in God? Answer paid 50 words”. Einstein replied, famously:

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.

Albert Einstein

Einstein claims the same partiality to the views and the God of Spinoza nearly 20 years later in this letter:

Copy of a letter from Einstein praising views of Spinoza in 1949.
“It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropomorphic 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 to those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order and harmony 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.”

So who is Spinoza? And what is is about his views that Einstein so closely aligned?

Spinoza wyklêty (Spinoza, Excommunicated) 1907 by Samuel Hirszenberg

Baruch de Spinoza was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. He was raised in the Portuguese-Jewish community in Amsterdam. One of the early thinkers of the Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism, including modern conceptions of the self and the universe, he came to be considered one of the great rationalists of 17th-century philosophy. Inspired by the groundbreaking ideas of René Descartes, Spinoza became a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age. He developed highly controversial ideas regarding the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible and the nature of the Divine. At 23, he was excommunicated from his Jewish community. His books were later added to the Catholic Church’s Index of Forbidden Books. He was frequently called an “atheist” by contemporaries, although nowhere in his work does Spinoza argue against the existence of a God, though maybe not the specific God his accusers wanted him to define.

Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived. – Baruch Spinoza

Here is a summary of what Spinoza may portray a traditional God figure saying to his believers. The non referenced quote has gone semi-viral though as usual without a source cited so likely not actually anything Spinoza said, but in essence is true to Spinozism. Not a perfect representation but one that resonates with many who are seeking. For the those who are not familiar with Spinoza’s God, this may give them an idea:

I don’t know if God actually spoke, but if he did, here’s what I think he would say to the believer:

Stop praying. What I want you to do is go out into the world and enjoy your life. I want you to sing, have fun and enjoy everything I’ve made for you.

Stop going into those dark, cold temples that you built yourself and saying they are my house. My house is in the mountains, in the woods, rivers, lakes, beaches. That’s where I live and there I express my love for you.

Stop blaming me for your miserable life; I never told you there was anything wrong with you or that you were a sinner, or that your sexuality was a bad thing. Sex is a gift I have given you and with which you can express your love, your ecstasy, your joy. So don’t blame me for everything they made you believe.

Stop reading alleged sacred scriptures that have nothing to do with me. If you can’t read me in a sunrise, in a landscape, in the look of your friends, in your son’s eyes… you will find me in no book!

Stop asking me “will you tell me how to do my job?” Stop being so scared of me. I do not judge you or criticize you, nor get angry, or bothered. I am pure love.

Stop asking for forgiveness, there’s nothing to forgive. If I made you… I filled you with passions, limitations, pleasures, feelings, needs, inconsistencies… free will. How can I blame you if you respond to something I put in you? How can I punish you for being the way you are, if I’m the one who made you?

Do you think I could create a place to burn all my children who behave badly for the rest of eternity? What kind of god would do that?

Respect your peers and don’t do what you don’t want for yourself. All I ask is that you pay attention in your life, that alertness is your guide.

My beloved, this life is not a test, not a step on the way, not a rehearsal, nor a prelude to paradise. This life is the only thing here and now and it is all you need.

I have set you absolutely free, no prizes or punishments, no sins or virtues, no one carries a marker, no one keeps a record.

You are absolutely free to create in your life. Heaven or hell.

I can’t tell you if there’s anything after this life but I can give you a tip. Live as if there is not. As if this is your only chance to enjoy, to love, to exist.

So, if there’s nothing after, then you will have enjoyed the opportunity I gave you. And if there is, rest assured that I won’t ask if you behaved right or wrong, I’ll ask. Did you like it? Did you have fun? What did you enjoy the most? What did you learn?

Stop believing in me; believing is assuming, guessing, imagining. I don’t want you to believe in me, I want you to believe in you. I want you to feel me in you when you kiss your beloved, when you tuck in your little girl, when you caress your dog, when you bathe in the sea.

Stop praising me, what kind of egomaniac God do you think I am?

I’m bored being praised. I’m tired of being thanked. Feeling grateful? Prove it by taking care of yourself, your health, your relationships, the world. Express your joy! That’s the way to praise me. Stop complicating things and repeating as a parakeet what you’ve been taught about me.

What do you need more miracles for? So many explanations?

The only thing for sure is that you are here, that you are alive, that this world is full of wonders.

Don’t look for me outside, you won’t find me. Find me inside… there I’m beating in you.

Allegedly Spinoza, Citation Needed
God is not He who is, but That which is. – Baruch Spinoza

Spinozism is the monist philosophical system of Baruch Spinoza that defines “God” as a singular self-subsistent Substance, with both matter and thought being attributes of such. “There is nothing except God… Everything is God”

Many lead scientists today share this view too. When interviewed Neil DeGrasse Tyson was asked “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the universe?” His response does not mention God, but does speak beautifully to this omni-presence we all share in.

The Most Astounding Fact

The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth, the atoms that make up the human body, are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures.

These stars, the high mass ones among them, went unstable in their later years. They collapsed and then exploded, scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy. Guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself.

These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems, stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself.

So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up—many people feel small because they’re small and the universe is big—but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity.

That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings-on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Again, what are your own thoughts on God? Do they align with the teaching of the mormon church of a polygamous man as our God? Do they align with Einstein or Spinoza? Must they align? or dare you claim freedom to ponder that deep mystery as an individual and have your own conclusions or even absence of conclusion? Has your own faith transition redefined your own thoughts or interpretation of God? Who is God to you?

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  1. Einstein’s views on religion, in his own words:

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

    Ya think ya know a guy, right? He also said:

    “You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    And also, for good measure,

    “”the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development”
    His essay on the topic, called “Why Socialism?”, can be found on [SLASH] Why-Socialism. They are the original publishers- he wrote it in ’59.

    Also Einstein:

    “Striving for social justice is the most valuable thing to do in life.”

    Pretty neat, huh? =))

    Neil skipped mentioning how iron is necessary for human metabolism, and iron & heavier elements are necessarily the result of supernova, which are almost like mini-big-bangs. In any case, life on our planet is “merely” a chemical reaction consisting of the residue from supernova.

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