Introduction to Theology of the Modern Era That Has Had Great Meaning for Me

We will now discuss theologians and theologies of the modern era that have had great significance to me.  This review will not necessarily be systematic.   Over the years, as various books came to my attention while perusing libraries, bookstores, and used book stores, I was introduced to new ideas.    I don’t claim that I discovered these books, ideas, or experiences by the leading of God, whatever that means.  Nor do I deny it.  I recognize that we tend to read and discuss those things that are consistent with the views we hold, whether inherited or developed with experience and learning, or a mixture of each (which is most likely true of each of us..  I  believe that, despite differences, those which have meaning to me are consistent in that they generally reject a dualism of spirit and matter, embracing instead the divine as revealed in the marvelous mystery and miracle of humankind and nature.  I would not claim a mere pantheism, but neither do I believe that the divine suspends the laws of nature to satisfy a whim or to grant a prayer.  Whatever one may say about “God,” God is much more.

Throughout this blog, I have attempted to give a fairly balanced view of theology in the various periods.  However, I am having difficulty in organizing theology in the modern era.  For example, Karl Barth is considered by many to be the greatest theologian since Augustine. His  voluminous Church Dogmatics is considered to be a monumental work examining the entire body of Christian dogma for logical coherence, and restating it in contemporary terms.  He  is considered by many to be the pastors’ greatest resource.

But, I have no interest in dogmatics.  The problem with a literal interpretation of the Bible is that it must begin with one of two premises: either that all of it is equally God-inspired, or that all of it came directly from the revelation of God through the hand of the original scribe.  With either assumption, the task of the Christian, then, is to put all of those parts together to reveal Truth, “rightly understood,” in the context of the whole.  As a result, many Christians attempt to put the four Gospels of the New Testament together into a meaningful whole, such as a picture puzzle.  If one examines those gospels carefully, each is distinctive in its own way, and at least parts of any one of them conflicts with at least parts of each other of them.

The difficulty is that many of the reports in the gospels of Jesus’ life are contradictory from one book to another, and sometimes inconsistent with been the book, itself.  Likewise, many concepts, such as” blood of the lamb,” may have been originally intended as metaphor, but when treated literally, as fact, those statements may lose both the author’s original intent, whatever that may have been, as well as any meaning for the reader today.  Moreover, many of the stories, such as Joshua’s successful petition that daylight of a single day be doubled so that the Israelites could slaughter “the enemy,” if taken literally,  would have had great consequences of scientific significance inconsistent with the story.

When growing up and as a young adult, when I expressed difficulty with some church doctrine that seemed inconsistent with my life experience, learning, logic, or intuition, I was often met with objections by a fundamentalist (usually one or more of my ten siblings) that  human understanding, logic, and reason are frail, but “the Word of God, as revealed in the Bible when rightly understood, is True and reliable, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.   I have been accused of building structures on the shifting sands of human understanding, when all we need to know is revealed in that Holy Book; I simply needed to believe.  Over the years, as I’ve reflected on those criticisms, I have come to understand that use of my human powers has never been to build structures of logic, but rather to remove obstacles presented by doctrine and imposed beliefs that have been declared to be “beyond man’s understanding.”  But, can I check my intellect and reason at the door of faith?  Can I ignore the inhumane consequences of that faith in action?  Some of the worst atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, perhaps never as egregious as that committed by Christians in the Crusades and in the Inquisition.  How does one choose , for example, between Karl Barth and Albert Schweitzer, between neo-orthodoxy and the revelations of Biblical criticism, i.e., historical analysis, textual analysis,  reason, and, as Joseph Campbell would describe it, the power of myth?

What we need is not dogmatics, but to be motivated and to learn to bear good fruits, to love our neighbor, and to live in right relationship with our world – all aspects of it, both physical and spiritual, human, other animal and plant.  Therefore, I will return to a principle to which I have consistently (I hope) harkened throughout this blog: “By their fruits you will know them. ”  I certainly do not know whether Karl Barth bore good fruits or not; but I do know that Albert Schweitzer bore many good fruits: fruits of the spirit, fruits of intellect, fruits of artistic expression, and fruits of medical care to those in Africa who “bore the mark of pain.”  I know that Dietrich Bonhoeffer neither shrank from his duty to act in a difficult human situation, nor attempted to justify it by theological manipulation.  Rather, quoting Luther, as I understand it, he faced the duty to act in the real world, an act which did not fit theological precepts or standards: ” Sin and sin boldly, but love Christ more boldly still. ” I do not expect the latter theologians to agree in every respect, or even on very basic precepts; but I do know that while acting consistent with the principles that they held, they produced good fruits.

Faced with a choice to make as to which path to follow, I choose to follow the advice of Shakespeare’s Polonius to his son, Laertes in Hamlet:

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!

My presentation of theology in the modern era will therefore  depart from academically and popularly recognized paths, and I will follow the theological bent of modern theologians who I know bore good fruits.

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Religion, Science and the Attack of the Angry Atheists

In a recent post, I asserted that Christian fundamentalism and atheism are the opposite sides of the same coin. Each claims the truth, but ”truth” without humility is not only dogmatic, but, when joined with power, risks all of the evils of authoritarianism and despotism.

However, I do not see all claims of atheism to be dogmatic. For some, it is merely a response to a fundamentalist or exclusive claim on God.  For such claims of atheism, it may mean nothing more than, in effect, saying, ” I reject this notion of God that you are trying to ram down my throat.”  Then there is the fundamentalist atheist who rejects all notions of religion and truth and throws it in the face of others, especially those who dare to boldly declare their faith in some transcendent power or experience.  In my past series of posts entitled Cry, “Justice!” I approached notions of God from the perspective of meaning in life which transcends physical circumstances and limits.

To be fair, I should also acknowledge that there are Christians who take the Bible literally and yet do not push their fundamentalist Christian beliefs upon others, and many respect those of other faiths, even atheists.  They embrace those who bear good fruits, without regard to any label that may become attached to that person.

I have suggested to the reader the Huffington Post as an excellent resource on religion, science, and their interface.  I will repost here an excellent article from that site that articulately expresses a similar viewpoint: we share the view that not all atheists are” angry atheists,” and, I would say, that not all Christians are angry Christians.  It is the exclusive fundamentalism of each to which I object.  The Huffington article may be accessed at :

Religion, Science and the Attack of the Angry Atheists  

I’d been warned. A friend cautioned me that if we went ahead and posted our MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins, I’d get inundated with hate-mail from religious fundamentalists who believe our universe to be less than 10,000 years old. We posted it anyway, and the vitriolic responses poured in as predicted. But to my amazement, most of them didn’t come from religious people, but from angry atheists! I found this particularly remarkable since I’m not religious myself. I have three criticisms of these angry atheists:

1) They help religious fundamentalists:
A key point I wanted to make with our survey is that there are two interesting science-religion controversies: a) Between religion & atheism b) Between religious groups who do & don’t attack science

Some forces pushing for creationism in US schools try to conflate the two so that they can pretend to represent the majority, and taunting religious groups that don’t attack science can play into their hands. In contrast, I think that drawing attention to b) is the most effective way to weaken the anti-scientific fringe and improve the prospects for future generations.

Although 46% of Americans believe that humans were created less than 10,000 years ago according to a Gallup poll, our survey showed that merely 11% of Americans belong to a religion openly rejecting evolution or Big Bang cosmology, so the mainstream religions representing the majority can be a powerful ally against the anti-scientific fundamentalists.

2) They could use more modesty:
If I’ve learned anything as a physicist, it’s how little we know with certainty. In terms of the ultimate nature of reality, we scientists are ontologically ignorant. For example, many respected physicists believe in the so-called Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, according to which a fundamentally random process called “wavefunction collapse” occurs whenever you observe something. This interpretation has been criticized both for being anthropocentric (quantum godfather Niels Bohr famously argued that there’s no reality without observation) and for being vague (there’s no equation specifying when the purported collapse is supposed to happen, and there’s arguably no experimental evidence for it).

Let’s compare the ontological views of Niels Bohr to those of a moderate and tolerant religious person. At least one of them is incorrect, since Bohr was an atheist. Perhaps neither is correct. But who’s to say that the former is clearly superior to the latter, which should be ridiculed and taunted? Personally, I’d bet good money against the Copenhagen Interpretation, but it would be absurd if I couldn’t be friends with those believing its ontology and unite with them in the quest to make our planet a better place.

3) They should practice what they preach:
Most atheists advocate for replacing fundamentalism, superstition and intolerance by careful and thoughtful scientific discourse. Yet after we posted our survey report, ad hominem attacks abounded, and most of the caustic comments I got (including one from a fellow physics professor) revealed that their authors hadn’t even bothered reading the report they were criticizing.

Just as it would be unfair to blame all religious people for what some fundamentalists do, I’m obviously not implying that all anti-religious people are mean-spirited or intolerant. However, I can’t help being struck by how some people on both the religious and anti-religious extremes of the spectrum share disturbing similarities in debating style.

All my ideas may be wrong, including those I’ve expressed here, and I don’t mind if you criticize me. All I ask is that, before you do, you please read carefully what I’ve written, make an honest attempt to understand my point of view, and articulate your criticism carefully and thoughtfully. Otherwise you may be undermining your own ideals.

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Religious Leaders on Science

The reader who has followed this blog from the beginning will recognize that I embrace religion and science.  Humankind cannot live without some sort of faith; each one of us needs both anchors and adventure, we need both activity and repose.  I reject, however, dualism of spirit and matter.  As to Christian faith, indeed, any religious faith, I have consistently quoted Jesus: “By their fruits you will know them.”  I note with appreciation that recently our new pope, Francis, has embraced even those who claim atheism, not in the theological sense of “going to heaven, ” or “being saved,” but with the theological notion of redemption.  I particularly like that notion of redemption because,  not only can it be used in the biblical sense as a necessary condition for “being saved,” or “going to heaven,” but it also can have concrete relational significance.

In our transition from science and philosophy to faith and theology, I have quoted extensively others who have examined the great scientists of our era concerning religion, God, and spirituality.  I find the same to be true concerning religious leaders’ views of  science and of the relationship between science and religion.  We will later examine in greater depth modern theology; but, as a bridge from science to religion, I will repost a significant part of the article by David H.  Bailey posted at :

David H. Bailey
31 Mar 2013 (c) 2013

Just as the public broadly perceives scientists as completely opposed to religion, many also believe that major religious leaders and movements are utterly opposed to science in general and to evolution in particular. Indeed, many believe that major religions are pitched in battle with the world of science. There is some truth to this assertion. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, the evangelical organization that operates the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky (a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio), declared, “[M]illions of years of evolution not only contradicts the clear teaching of Genesis and the rest of Scripture but also impugns the character of God.” [Ham2009]. In a similar vein, John G. West of the Discovery Institute, the organization behind the intelligent design movement, declared that Darwinian evolution fundamentally cannot be reconciled with Judeo-Christian theism [West2007].

However, numerous other theologians, religious officials and religious organizations have stated that they see no fundamental conflict with science in general, or with evolution and the creation scriptures in particular. Here are some statements from several large religious organizations (listed in alphabetical order):

  1. Catholic Church [Pope1996] (Pope John Paul II): “In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points. … Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact, it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies — which was neither planned nor sought — constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory.”

  2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“LDS” or “Mormon”) [Evenson1992]: “The scriptures tell why man was created, but they do not tell how, though the Lord has promised that he will tell that when he comes again (D&C 101:32-33). In 1931, when there was intense discussion on the issue of organic evolution, the First Presidency of the Church, then consisting of Presidents Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and Charles W. Nibley, addressed all of the General Authorities of the Church on the matter, and concluded, ‘Upon the fundamental doctrines of the Church we are all agreed. Our mission is to bear the message of the restored gospel to the world. Leave geology, biology, archaeology, and anthropology, no one of which has to do with the salvation of the souls of mankind, to scientific research, while we magnify our calling in the realm of the Church.'”

  3. Episcopal Church [Episcopal2009]: “Episcopalians believe that the Bible “contains all things necessary to salvation” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 868): it is the inspired and authoritative source of truth about God, Christ, and the Christian life. But physicist and priest John Polkinghorne, following sixteenth-century Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, reminds us Anglicans and Episcopalians that the Bible does not contain all necessary truths about everything else. The Bible, including Genesis, is not a divinely dictated scientific textbook. We discover scientific knowledge about God’s universe in nature not Scripture.”

  4. Presbyterian Church in the USA [Presbyterian1969]: “We conclude that the true relation between the evolutionary theory and the Bible is that of non-contradiction. … We re-affirm our belief in the uniqueness of man as a creature whom God has made in His own image.”

  5. Rabbinical Council of America [Rabbinical2005]: “[The Rabbinical Council of America] notes that significant Jewish authorities have maintained that evolutionary theory, properly understood, is not incompatible with belief in a Divine Creator, nor with the first 2 chapters of Genesis.”

  6. United Methodist Church [Methodist2004]: “Science and theology are complementary rather than mutually incompatible. We therefore encourage dialogue between the scientific and theological communities and seek the kind of participation that will enable humanity to sustain life on earth and, by God’s grace, increase the quality of our common lives together.”

See the above site for a more comprehensive review of major Christian denominations , its clergy, its people, and leaders of other religions.  The site has other precious resources concerning religion as well as its relationship with science.

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Famous Scientists in Our Modern Era on Spirituality

Surveys of the religious views of great scientists in our modern era tend to reflect the bias of the person inquiring.  As a former lawyer, I am aware that the form of the question often times suggests or determines the answer given.

It reminds me of a story concerning travelers to a city, at the gates of which they meet an old man, a resident of that city.  One traveler approaches the old man and asks him what kind of city it is.  Was it friendly and welcoming of others, or was it defensive and suspicious of others?  The old man asks, “What kind of place are you coming from?  The traveler answers, “Defensive and suspicious.” The old man responds, “You will find that kind of people here.” Another traveler approaches the same city and asks of the old man, “What kind of city is this?”  The old man asks the traveler what kind of place is he coming from.  The traveler responds, “Friendly and welcoming.”  The old man answers, “You will find that kind of people here.

The most balanced approach I have seen concerning science and religion is that of the Huffingtonpost website, Religion and Science, .  It clearly states its intentions and purposes:

About Religion and Science

Religion and Science features blog posts and news reports that address the ongoing conversation and tension between religion and science. The page has a pro-science and pro-faith point of view and highlights smart, sophisticated perspectives from all religious traditions on how to best improve relationships between these two fields of inquiry.

That site has a wonderful slide show of famous scientists in our modern era with a quote from each concerning spirituality, religion, theism or atheism.  The following quotes are taken from their website, .  It seems to me to be representative of the scientific community in our modern era.  As I read in these quotes, it seems to me that the vast majority of great scientists see religion and spiritual matters naturally occurring within the physical universe but beyond name or description.  I see these views as consistent with Eric Fromm’s view of Moses and of the burning bush, as expressed in his book, You Shall Be As Gods:  I am being, itself;  I was, I am, and am yet becoming; I am the nameless God.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

The impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for 
the existence of God.

Clarification: The full quote, from one of Darwin’s letters, carries a different sentiment.   A young admirer asked Darwin about his religious views (the original inquiry is lost), and the great naturalist answered: “It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length. But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe, with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson (1958-    ) –American astrophysicist and science commentator

So you’re made of detritus [from exploded stars]. Get over it. Or better yet, celebrate it. After all, what nobler thought can one cherish than that the universe lives within us all?

Stephen Hawking (1942-2013) –English physicist and cosmologist

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary.

Carl Sagan (1934-1996) –American astrophysicist

“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual…The notion that science and spirituality are somehow mutually exclusive does a disservice to both.”

Francis Collins (1950-) –American physician-geneticist and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute

“Science is…a powerful way, indeed – to study the natural world. Science is not particularly effective…in making commentary about the supernatural world. Both worlds, for me, are quite real and quite important. They are investigated in different ways. They coexist. They illuminate each other.”

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) –American biochemist and science fiction writer

“Emotionally, I am an atheist. I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time”

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) –German physicist, created theory of general relativity

While the New York Times noted that “Einstein consistently characterized the idea of a personal God who answers prayers as naïve, and life after death as wishful thinking,” he also “described himself as an ‘agnostic’ and ‘not an atheist.'” One ambiguous quote, from Einstein’s response to a letter from a sixth-grade student named Phyllis Wright, reads “Everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is indeed quite different from the religiosity of someone more naïve.”

Max Planck (1858-1947) –German physicist, noted for work on quantum theory

It was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.

Erwin Schroedinger (1887-1961) –Austrian physicist, awarded Nobel prize in 1933

I am very astonished that the scientific picture of the real world around me is very deficient. It gives a lot of factual information, puts all our experiences in a magnificently consistent order, but is ghastly silent about all and sundry that is really near to our heart, that really matters to us. It cannot tell us a word about red and blue, bitter and sweet, physical pain and physical delight; it knows nothing of beautiful and ugly, good or bad, god and eternity.

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958) –British biophysicist renowned for her work on X-ray diffraction.

In my view, all that is necessary for faith is the belief that by doing our best we shall come nearer to success and that success in our aims (the improvement of the lot of mankind, present and future) is worth attaining…I maintain that faith in this world is perfectly possible without faith in another world.

William H. Bragg (1862-1942) –British physicist, chemist, and mathematician. Awarded Nobel Prize in 1915

From religion comes a man’s purpose; from science, his power to achieve it. Sometimes people ask if religion and science are not opposed to one another. They are: in the sense that the thumb and fingers of my hands are opposed to one another. It is an opposition by means of which anything can be grasped.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) –American physicist, awarded Nobel Prize in 1965

God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand.

Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977) –German-American rocket scientist

I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.

Richard Dawkins (1941-) –British evolutionary biologist

The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.

Nevill Mott (1905-1996) –English physicist, awarded Nobel Prize in 1977

Science can have a purifying effect on religion, freeing it from beliefs of a pre-scientific age and helping us to a truer conception of God. At the same time, I am far from believing that science will ever give us the answers to all our questions.

Fred Hoyle (1915-2001) –English mathematician and astronomer

A commonsense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.

Sir Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) –British science fiction author and inventor

Science can destroy religion by ignoring it as well as by disproving its tenets. No one ever demonstrated, so far as I am aware, the nonexistence of Zeus or Thor – but they have few followers now.

Walter Kohn (1923-) –American theoretical physicist, awarded Nobel Prize in 1998

I am very much a scientist, and so I naturally have thought about religion also through the eyes of a scientist. When I do that, I see religion not denominationally, but in a more, let us say, deistic sense. I have been influence in my thinking by the writing of Einstein who has made remarks to the effect that when he contemplated the world he sensed an underlying Force much greater than any human force. I feel very much the same. There is a sense of awe, a sense of reverence, and a sense of great mystery.

Sam Harris (1967-) –American neuroscientist

Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious.

Victor J. Stenger (1935-) –American physicist

With pantheism…the deity is associated with the order of nature or the universe itself…when modern scientists such as Einstein and Stephen Hawking mention ‘God’ in their writing, this is what they seem to mean: that God is Nature.

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Einstein on God and Dice

Whereas Darwin has been popularly misconceived as being atheistic, Albert Einstein has been misconceived as being deistic.  Three factors contribute to the latter view.  First, unlike Galileo, the theories of relativity did not challenge popular or Christian assumptions about the physical world.  Second, the concepts of relativity and its consequences were little understood by nonscientists.  Third, Einstein is popularly associated with the statement : “God does not play dice with the universe.”  The religious and scientific communities of his time associated other statements by him as affirming their own theistic beliefs.  See as the source of these:

Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht.


Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.

Remark made during Einstein’s first visit to Princeton University. (April 1921)] as quoted in Einstein (1973) by R.W. Clark, Ch. 14.

God is slick, but he ain’t mean.

is a 1946 variant of that statement.

Later, upon further reflection, he reconsidered,

I have second thoughts. Maybe God is malicious.

Einstein in America (1985) by Jamie Sayen in which he suggests that the statement indicated that God leads people to believe they understand things that they are actually far from understanding,  See, also, The Yale Book of Quotations (2006), ed. Fred R. Shapiro.

He has been quoted to make a number of statements associated with his Jewish inheritance, but ambiguous regarding his own religious beliefs, orientation, or practice:

Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.

In a letter to Josh Winteler (1901), quoted in The Private Lives of Albert Einstein by Roger Highfield and Paul Carter (1993), p. 79. Einstein admits to being annoyed that Paul Drude, editor of Annalen der Physik, had dismissed out of hand some of his criticisms of Drude’s electron theory of metals.

Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension.

Letter to H. Zangger (10 March 1914), quoted in The Curious History of Relativity by Jean Eisenstaedt (2006), p. 126.


Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But I do not doubt that the lion belongs to it even though he cannot at once reveal himself because of his enormous size.

As quoted by Abraham Pais in Subtle is the Lord: The Science and Life of Albert Einstein (1982), p. 235.

As President Eisenhower warned the nation in his farewell speech of the danger to American ideals posed by the industrial – military complex, so Einstein warned of advances in science and technology without the temper of human values:

Our entire much-praised technological progress, and civilization generally, could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.

Letter to H. Zangger (1917), quoted in A Sense of the Mysterious: Science and the Human Spirit by Alan Lightman (2005), p. 110, and in Albert Einstein: A Biography by Albrecht Fölsing (1997), p. 399.  The statement is sometimes paraphrased as

Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.

He acknowledged his Jewish heritage without being limited by it:

I am by heritage a Jew, by citizenship a Swiss, and by makeup a human being, and only a human being, without any special attachment to any state or national entity whatsoever.

Letter to Alfred Kneser (7 June 1918); Doc. 560 in The Collected Papers of Albert Einstein Vol. 8

He paid poetic tribute to Spinoza, acknowledging a pantheistic kinship with the philosopher:

How much do I love that noble man
More than I could tell with words
I fear though he’ll remain alone
With a holy halo of his own.

See, with the following attribution: Poem by Einstein on Spinoza (1920), as quoted in Einstein and Religion by Max Jammer, Princeton UP 1999, p. 43; Original German manuscript “Zu Spinozas EthikEinstein Archives 31-18.00.

When specifically asked concerning his religious ideals, he was unambiguous on several occasions:

A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.

I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.

I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.

See, also, some excellent discussions concerning his spirituality and religious convictions:

Albert Einstein: God vs Science at

Albert Einstein’s Faith: Was the Great Physicist Spiritual? at

Speaking of Faith: Einstein and the Mind of God (Part II: Einstein’s Ethics)

Religious views of Albert Einstein at

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Charles Darwin on Faith and Chance

In a prior post, I mentioned Darwin as a marker in our modern era of life in process, consistent with the notion of our Living God, Nameless God, our God that is, with the world, becoming.  As Copernicus and Galileo challenged the Church’s assumption that the earth, the locus of humankind’s domain, was the center of the universe, so Darwin challenged the notion that humankind was specially created to have dominion over the earth and life upon it.  Early in the 20th century the latter conflict was formalized in the Scopes Monkey Trial.  Thereafter, Christian fundamentalists have dismissed the dialog concerning the actual science of the phenomenon of evolution by framing it as a conflict between science and religion, in which case biblically literal religious faith trumps pretentious scientific knowledge.  To the other extreme, atheists also pose the issue as a conflict between religion and science, in which objective science trumps subjective religious faith.

As I see it, Christian fundamentalists and radical atheists merely represent two sides of the same coin: each would strip physical life of mystery and sacred value, but for different reasons.  Darwin is neither a threat to Christian faith, nor the friend of atheism.

A young admirer asked Darwin about his religious views (the original inquiry is lost), and the great naturalist answered:

It is impossible to answer your question briefly; and I am not sure that I could do so, even if I wrote at some length.  But I may say that the impossibility of conceiving that this grand and wondrous universe with our conscious selves, arose through chance, seems to me the chief argument for the existence of God; but whether this is an argument of real value, I have never been able to decide.

Although Henri Bergson has not been the focus of bad press, as has Darwin, yet he recognized that evolution by mere chance is not a necessary conclusion of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Rather, the procession of life from a simpler form to a more complex and advanced form is possible only through a coordination of many changes, none of which, without the other, bears any advantage over the earlier life form.  Henri Bergson gave that coordinating principle a non-descriptive and non-limiting name: vital elan, or “vital principle.”  Such a notion of biological encoding had long been recognized in the function of genetics.  The fact that such coordination was necessary for biological advantage invites an exploration of the mechanics of that function. addresses What Darwin Said About God:

No figure in modern history has received as much religiously based criticism as Charles Darwin.  He is seen as worse than an atheist; his work has been attacked as a threat to the belief that the universe and mankind are God’s creations.

Charles Darwin was not the first person to write about evolution.  In his book Origin of Species he gives credit to 24 naturalists who discussed the idea before he did.  Since Darwin did the most work to research and promulgate the topic, the concept of evolution has been identified with him.

Many who are angrily anti-Darwin have not read the Origin or examined Darwin’s personal life.  At Cambridge University he studied to be a minister.  However, he felt that science should be objective in nature, and was careful to keep any reference to God or a creator out of his work, particularly in his two major works On the Origin of Species and The Descent of Man.  For example, he states in the Origin, “They [creationists] believe that many structures have been created for the sake of beauty, to delight man or the Creator (but this latter point is beyond the scope of scientific discussion)”

Toward the end of his life Darwin’s reluctance to discuss God diminished.  It is in the sixth edition of the Origin where this shift is most noticeable.  The sixth edition was the last edition edited by Darwin.  It was released in 1872 — some thirteen years after the first edition was published.  The word “evolution” appears for the first time in the last edition.

Darwin used the word “Creator” nine times, and the word “God” twice in the sixth edition. Of greater importance is what he said about life and the Creator’s role in it.  Darwin never said that evolution was Godless or directionless.  In fact, a reading of the sixth edition of Origin proves that both of these assertions are factually incorrect.  The second page of the Origin prominently displays this quote:

To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavour an endless progress or proficience in both.  – Bacon: “Advancement of Learning.”

Darwin addressed several objections to evolution in the sixth edition of his Origen of Species.  (He added a Chapter Seven titled “Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection.”)  One of best-known criticisms of natural selection was that nothing as complicated as an eye could have evolved purely by chance.  Darwin’s response was that we can observe many examples of the evolution of light-sensitive cells in nature.  The most intriguing thought Darwin had on this subject was that just because we don’t understand how something can evolve does not mean that the Creator wasn’t behind it.  His exact words in the sixth edition of Origin were “Have we any right to assume that the Creator works by intellectual powers like those of man?”  Using the telescope as an example of a man-made optical instrument, he added: “May we not believe that a living optical instrument might thus be formed as superior to one of glass, as the works of the Creator are to man?”

For a more detailed discussion, see Myth 5: Darwin thought evolution relied on accidents and chance at

 See, also, Why Do We Care About Human Evolution Today?  at

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“Extrasensory” and Out-of-Body Experiences

In the last post, I mentioned human experiences of the physical world which are not limited to the five physical senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.  Before proceeding with a discussion of science and religion, we will examine some documented extrasensory experiences.   I will begin with my Mother’s account of her own near-death experience.

Sabbath morning I did begin having occasional cramps and pain so Edgar did not go to church.  I pretty much rested and walked or read through the day.  By late afternoon, pains were regular and much harder so Mom called the doctor and he said to come into the hospital, which we did.  Mom went with us and I was so very glad, for they would not let Edgar, or anyone, come into the Labor Room after they took me in there.  At least Mom was with him, I thought.  He never did well not knowing what was going on when I was not well or when our babies arrived.  Maybe because of this experience.

There were other women in the Labor Room.  The nurse who did my prep and examined me said I would probably deliver within an hour.  The doctor would come when they called and told him that I was ready, she said.  The Doctor ordered “something” put in the IV they had going in my arm.  Before the nurse went off duty she had me pushing down with each contraction “to help the baby along,” she said.  Women came and went and I was still there.  The night passed and I slept some between pains.  Pains were not regular as they had been.  A nurse observed me bearing down on a pain and scolded me saying that was harmful and not helpful for sure.  I stopped gladly for I was very sore from trying to bear down on contractions anyway.  The morning passed and on into mid-afternoon nothing had changed.  I was really thankful Mom was with Edgar to be sure he was eating meals.  I had had nothing to eat all day, of course.

Mom watched for the nurse to leave and she sneaked into my room and said, “Xenia Lee, you have to bear down on each pain as if you were having a difficult bowel movement.”  I said, “I cannot do that,” and she quickly and softly said, “I do not care what they tell you, you do as I say and you will have this baby,” and she was gone.  By now the nurse was not paying any attention to me anyway.  I did as Mom said and soon the nurse observed me and became very excited saying, “I see the head.  Get her into the delivery room quick.”  “You go call the doctor,” she said to another nurse.  Soon I was on the table with my legs strapped together against the table and being rolled to the Delivery Room.  Once in there I was put on the delivery table and again my legs were together on the sheet and strapped down awaiting the doctor.  A nurse popped her head in the door saying that the doctor’s line is busy and she could not get him.  Someone snapped, “Call the operator and tell her this is an emergency and have her break in to the doctor.”

My pains were almost continual now and severe.  I said, “Unstrap me and I am not afraid to have this baby with your help”.  More compassionate now, the nurse said, “I am really sorry but there is a rule here that no baby can be born without a doctor present.”  So we waited an eternity longer.  I had read articles, “war stories,” about women during the Second World War being mistreated by the “Powers that be” by strapping their legs together during labor letting the mother and baby die.  Then into my mind I thought of friends of ours in college who were expecting a baby in January and the wife and mother died during delivery.  The baby lived.  The husband could not find out from anyone what caused her death.  I wondered!

I remember seeing the doctor finally enter the Delivery Room.  Suddenly I had an ether mask placed on my nose with orders to breath in it and it would ease the pain.  I was aware of my legs being unstrapped and the next thing I remember was someone saying, “She is dead.”  I vividly remember hovering above the table seeing people around the delivery table with heads looking down.  I knew we had had a baby girl and she had died.  I had to find Edgar so he was not alone finding out what had happened.  I remember traveling through the hospital to a room with a water fountain.  It was beautiful!  I kept saying “Edgar, I have to go back and find Edgar.  He needs to be told and I need to tell him.  Please let me go back”.  A gentle but authoritative voice said, “She wants to go back.  Let her go back.”

I awakened in my room calling for Edgar but he was not there.  Mom was there reassuring me all was well, but I only wanted Edgar, so she went to look for him.  Soon he came into the room and I told him we had a baby girl but she is dead.  He assured me she is alive and he has just seen her.  “She is perfect and beautiful,” he said.  I was very confused because I clearly heard them say, “She is dead.”  I even had Mom see if I remembered correctly about being in that beautiful water fountain area.  I explained carefully where it was and what I had seen on the way.  Mom said it was the ether playing tricks on me, but to appease me she went to “look” for the water fountain anyway.  She came back excited telling me it was exactly as I described it and she found it right where I told her to go look.  Then she said it was in a part of the hospital she had never been in.  If our baby is okay then who – were they talking about? Me?  I had a strong feeling that if we had another baby I would not live to deliver it.  This haunted me for we did want a large family, if we had our “wants.”

In my daily Bible readings, I came to 1 Timothy 2:15 in which God spoke clearly to my heart and I held tight to that verse.  “But women shall be preserved (saved) through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self restraint.”  God is good and faithful in keeping His word.  I bear testimony to that.

Edgar came daily to the hospital to see me and brought Bob in with him at least once.  That day the nurse brought the wrong “W…” baby to the window and Edgar insisted that was not his baby girl.  Sure enough it was another “W..” girl.  Edgar was so very proud of Annita and said the other baby was ugly and he knew it was not our baby girl.  Bob got a laugh out of that.

I was in the hospital seven days and still not up walking about.  I went home in an ambulance.  Fortunately we had Health Insurance that covered all the medical and hospital bills.  I had good care at home and Annita Marie did, also.  We thrived with Mom and Mae’s loving, faithful care and were soon able to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine.

I believe my mother had the experiences she described.  It was not an experience through the usual five senses.  Her “view” of a place in the hospital where she had never been physically, nor viewed physically, was confirmed by her mother.

I have stated previously, and maintain, that spirit is bound up with matter, not entirely distinct from it, and that science and religion do not inherently conflict.  Some have claimed that the “out-of-body experiences” or “near-death experiences” prove that there is a spiritual world apart from the physical.  For example, Kevin Williams claims to have done some research concerning such events.  He introduces that research and what he considers to be its implications with the following:

Imagine that you are a patient in a hospital and surgery is being performed on you. You are sound asleep. You were sound asleep long before they wheeled into the operating room. But while you are asleep something very strange happens. During the operation, you are suddenly awakened to find yourself floating near the ceiling! Down below are the doctors working on your body (as in the cartoon on the left). You see a strange sign hanging from the ceiling which says “You are dead.” You watch as the doctor puts the electric paddles on your chest. You have a wonderful peaceful feeling which you have never had before. The doctors give your body a shock and you are back in your body sound asleep again. Hours later, you awaken and tell the doctor about your out-of-body experience and the “You are dead” sign. The doctor smiles and tells you, “Your heart stopped during surgery and we had to revive you. You are part of a near-death study and you had a near-death experience. You are the first patient who has ever read that sign. That sign can only be read by someone reading it from the vantage point of the ceiling. And because you were able to read this sign and tell us about it, you have proven scientifically that the mind can function outside of the body. A great scientific discovery has just occurred. Congratulations. This is probably how researchers are going to prove scientifically that our consciousness can transcend our bodies.

That article  refers to such experiences as a “consciousness expansion.” I believe that is consistent with the position that I have taken.  However, he takes that experience in which the subject “sees” a specific sign, “You Are Dead” to confirm his further conclusion that it is evidence that the spirit survives the physical body after death.

Again, I do not see the “the hand of God” as violating or suspending the laws of nature.  I merely suggest that the laws of nature are likely greater than those which science and common experience have heretofore recognized.

In the following posts, we will explore various scientists’ recognition of spiritual aspects of physical being, and religious leader’s recognition the physical aspects of spiritual being.

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