Becoming a Freethinker and a Scientist

Religious Concepts


The Meaning of Life

Purpose in Nature

The Soul

On Ego, Consciousness, and “Eternal Life”


No Personal God

Short Comments on God


Science and Religion

The Mysterious

The Religiousness of Science

The Development of Religion

Science and Religion

Religion and Science: Irreconcilable?

A Conversation with Gustav Bucky

Short Comments on Religion


Morals and Emotions

On Good and Evil


The World As I See It

My Credo

Einstein's Faith

Short Comments on Einstein's Faith

Spinoza and Einstein

Einstein's Last Thoughts


Belief Breeds Intolerance

Miscellaneous Comments


Web einsteinandreligion.com

The Development of Religion

The following article by Albert Einstein appeared in the New York Times Magazine on November 9, 1930 pp 1-4 under the title "Religion and Science." It has been reprinted in Ideas and Opinions, Crown Publishers, Inc. 1954, pp 36 - 40. It also appears in Einstein's book The World as I See It, pp. 24 - 28.

Everything that the human race has done and thought is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain. One has to keep this constantly in mind if one wishes to understand spiritual movements and their development. Feeling and longing are the motive force behind all human endeavor and human creation, in however exalted a guise the latter may present themselves to us.

Now what are the feelings and needs that have led men to religious thought and belief in the widest sense of the words? A little consideration will suffice to show us that the most varying emotions preside over the birth of religious thought and experience. With primitive man it is above all fear that evokes religious notions - fear of hunger, wild beasts, sickness, death.

Einstein at Home in 1946

Since at this stage of existence understanding of causal connections is usually poorly developed, the human mind creates illusory beings more or less analogous to itself on whose wills and actions these fearful happenings depend. Thus one tries to secure the favor of these beings by carrying out actions and offering sacrifices which, according to the tradition handed down from generation to generation, propitiate them or make them well disposed toward a mortal.

In this sense I am speaking of a religion of fear. This, though not created, is in an important degree stabilized by the formation of a special priestly caste which sets itself up as a mediator between the people and the beings they fear, and erects a hegemony on this basis. In many cases a leader or ruler or a privileged class whose position rests on other factors combines priestly functions with its secular authority in order to make the latter more secure; or the political rulers and the priestly caste make common cause in their own interests.

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The 1946 photograph of Einstein at home in Princeton, New Jersey comes from Louie de Broglie et al.