I picked up Ideas and Opinions (a collection of assorted essays, letters, etc. by Albert Einstein) this morning and I found that this particular passage fit in well with my “Why do we believe?” post from yesterday;
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery-even if mixed with fear-that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds-it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or absurd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
from “The World As I See It”, 1931
Indeed, much troubles me about the concept that God favors some and not others (because no matter who you ask, God favors them over everyone else. This, of course, leads to the “If God be for us, who can be against us?” mentality). I also sometimes wonder, if we are indeed the product of some form of intervention, large or small, by God, why exactly did He go through all the trouble in the first place? Some have told me “God likes stories,” and others have said “God was lonely,” but I hardly think this are satisfactory answers at all. In fact, I find them a bit disturbing, the preceding logic saying that I am either an amusement to God or that I was made primarily to give God an ego-boost. If God indeed knew all that would happen, all the death, hate, violence, and injustice that would plague the world, why start it to begin with? It’s easy for the righteous to say that they’re for God while the majority of people on the planet are far worse off. Perhaps this is where the idea of a Christian America comes from, my own country being so fat and comfortable that we can afford to decry others as sinners rather than do anything constructive to help the rest of the world. The more I look at the world and my own interpretation of it (I was tempted to say to look at the world objectively, but I know I cannot do that), the harder it is for me to believe in a personal God who would condemn to eternal suffering people who have suffered their entire earthly lives, self-righteous bigots being the ones who will end up in paradise. So what can we conclude? There are a number of possibilities, but for my own part, I have to echo something that Richard Dawkins said in a TIME magazine interview/debate with Francis Collins
If there is a God, it’s going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed.