Albert Einstein on:

Prayer; Purpose in Nature;
Meaning of Life; the Soul;
a Personal God

The following excerpts are taken from
Albert Einstein: The Human Side,
Selected and Edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman,
Princeton University Press, 1979.


Einstein on Prayer (pp. 32-33)

A child in the sixth grade in a Sunday School in New York City, with the encouragement of her teacher, wrote to Einstein in Princeton on 19 January I936 asking him whether scientists pray, and if so what they pray for. Einstein replied as follows on 24 January 1936:


Einstein on Purpose in Nature (p. 39)

In 1954 or 1955 Einstein received a letter citing a statement of his and a seemingly contradictory statement by a noted evolutionist concerning the place of intelligence in the Universe. Here is a translation of the German draft of a reply. It is not known whether a reply was actually sent:


Einstein on the Meaning of Life (pp. 26-27)

The next excerpt is a letter written by Einstein in response to a 19-year-old Rutger's University student, who had written to Einstein of his despair at seeing no visible purpose to life and no help from religion.

In responding to this poignant cry for help, Einstein offered no easy solace, and this very fact must have heartened the student and lightened the lonely burden of his doubts. Here is Einstein's response. It was written in English and sent from Princeton on 3 December 1950, within days of receiving the letter:


Einstein on the Soul

From p. 39

On 17 July I953 a woman who was a licensed Baptist pastor sent Einstein in Princeton a warmly appreciative evangelical letter. Quoting several passages from the scriptures, she asked him whether he had considered the relationship of his immortal soul to its Creator, and asked whether he felt assurance of ever lasting life with God after death. It is not known whether a reply was sent, but the letter is in the Einstein Archives, and on it, in Einstein's hand writing, is the following sentence, written in English:

From p. 40

In Berlin in February 1921 Einstein received from a woman in Vienna a letter imploring him to tell her if he had formed an opinion as to whether the soul exists and with it personal, individual development after death. There were other questions of a similar sort. On 5 February 1921 Einstein answered at some length. Here in part is what he said:


Einstein on a Personal God

On 22 March 1954 a self-made man sent Einstein in Princeton a long handwritten letter-four closely packed pages in English. The correspondent despaired that there were so few people like Einstein who had the courage to speak out, and he wondered if it would not be best to return the world to the animals. Saying "I presume you would like to know who I am," he went on to tell in detail how he had come from Italy to the United States at the age of nine, arriving in bitter cold weather, as a result of which his sisters died while he barely survived; how after six months of schooling he went to work at age ten; how at age seventeen he went to Evening School; and so on, so that now he had a regular job as an experimental machinist, had a spare-time business of his own, and had some patents to his credit. He declared himself an atheist. He said that real education came from reading books. He cited an article about Einstein's religious beliefs and expressed doubts as to the article's accuracy. He was irreverent about various aspects of formal religion, speaking about the millions of people who prayed to God in many languages, and remarking that God must have an enormous clerical staff to keep track of all their sins. And he ended with a long discussion of the social and political systems of Italy and the United States that it would take too long to describe here. He also enclosed a check for Einstein to give to charity.

On 24 March 1954 Einstein answered in English as follows:

From p. 66

There is in the Einstein Archives a letter dated 5 August 1927 from a banker in Colorado to Einstein in Berlin. Since it begins "Several months ago I wrote you as follows," one may assume that Einstein had not yet answered. The banker remarked that most scientists and the like had given up the idea of God as a bearded, benevolent father figure surrounded by angels, although many sincere people worship and revere such a God. The question of God had arisen in the course of a discussion in a literary group, and some of the members decided to ask eminent men to send their views in a form that would be suitable for publication. He added that some twenty-four Nobel Prize winners had already responded, and he hoped that Einstein would too. On the letter, Einstein wrote the following in German. It may or may not have been sent:

From pp. 69-70

A Chicago Rabbi, preparing a lecture on "The Religious Implications of the Theory of Relativity," wrote to Einstein in Princeton on zo December 1939 to ask some questions on the topic. Einstein replied as follows: