No 👣 tracking social sharing

Christianity and Einstein

AFTER three years of reading The Truth Seeker, Mr. George B. Frost has made a discovery: its associate editor does not like Christianity. Accordingly, he now offers to set matters straight by explaining his religion. It is time, he thinks, that something be done to clarify the subject and correct my errors.


In pledging himself "to prove that the religion of Jesus Christ rests upon as sure a foundation as any demonstrated fact of science," Mr. Frost is assuming a heavy obligation. Most Christians are satisfied to accept Christianity as a matter of faith; he himself is ready to prove it true by the rigid standards of scientific procedure.


Can Mr. Frost do this? Can anything be said in defense of Christianity that has not been said hundreds of times before, either during the Middle Ages or from the Reformation on? What new argument for example, can he present for the claim that Jesus walked on waves or rose fron the dead? What can he do with the gospel story of the feeding of 5,000 persons on a few leaves of bread and a few fishes? Does he think that the readers of The Truth Seeker are really so gullible that a little more explaining will convince them that these stories are true ?


Anyone who has reached the venerable age of 87 should be interested in more edifying literature than the mildewed legends of the Bible. With thousands of good books to choose from, with scientific journals to be scanned, with government reports to read, Mr. Frost fritters away his time on Jewish folklore. What have its gods, its devils, its ghosts, its witches, its demons, its angels, its unicorns, its talking serpents and conversational jackasses to do with culture? What have its delirium tremens monsters in the Book of Revelation to do with imparting wisdom? What, in sum, has the whole swindle of Jesus Christ mythology to do with modern civilization and the acquisition of knowledge?


"The value of culture," says a distinguished English writer, "is its effect on character. It avails nothing unless it ennobles and strengthens that." What of cultural significance, then, has Christianity contributed to the world ? Are its devotees, as a whole, any wiser, any nobler, any finer in their conduct than those who reject its doctrines?


Was Calvin (who burned Servetus at the stake) a happier man with his religion than Luther Burbank with his science? Was Torquemada, the Christian, of finer.grain than Tyndall, the scientist? Were any of the sewer rats of the Inquisition better for their belief in a future life? Did their vision of Paradise stern the tide of priestly persecutions or reduce the agonies of the dungeon and the rack?


Mr. Frost is grateful to science for many things, but is disappointed, it seems, because it, cannot offer him a future life. "What has science to offer me," he asks, "but a yawning grave?"


A man who thinks that science furnishes nothing more stimulating than a glimpse of a "yawning grave" ahead is bordering on morbidity; he has not experienced the joys and exhilarating moments that come from the pursuit of knowledge. Certainly Darwin, Huxley, and Haeckel got more out: of science than an atmosphere of depression, and, though the grave may have yawned while they worked, they were too deeply absorbed in their intellectual activities to give it notice. They were satisfied to carry on to the end, in spite of trials and the increasing weight of years. So, too, was Humboldt, who, to crown his career wrote his "Cosmos" at the age of 76. These men, by their devotion to science, were, in turn, sustained by it through long and useful lives.


On the other hand, what has Christianity to offer? Jesus promised heaven to some and "a furnace of fire" and a "wailing and gnashing of teeth" to others. Hell, in Christian theology, is as real as heaven. How, then, can a Christian be sure on which side he stands ? "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter, into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." For centuries Christians have been squabbling among themselves as to what constitutes the "will" of God, and they are no nearer agreeing today than when they began. Yet Mr. Frost would establish the Christian religion on a basis of "certitude".


As for Professor Einstein, I never claimed that "any statement" of his is necessarily "drivel". I specifically named "curved space" as coming under that classification - and I repeat the charge. The term is a verbal monstrosity, a distortion of words. Space is an abstraction, not a physical object, and, as such, can no more be twisted or bent than it can be tied in a knot; it is as absurd to speak of curved space as of circular years, square months, or rectangular days. "Curved" space is as much moonshine as "curved" time.


Astronomers are not misled by this language.''This curved space is not, it is true," says Jeans, "the ordinary space of the astronomer. It is a purely mathematical and probably wholly fictitious space" or, as he adds, "a convenient fiction of the mathematician." And a fiction-- whether "convenient" or otherwise--- is always a fiction.


Mr. Frost considers Einstein "the profoundest thinker of all time." There are others who share this view, but whether he is or is not our greatest thinker (and I, for one, think he is not), Einstein is not a Christian. He rejects every doctrine in Christian theology which Mr. Frost accepts, and, in his more lucid moments or when writing coherently, is a fine rationalist. He can even be brilliant at times, as in the following passage:-


"The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education, and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man's plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.


It is, therefore, quite natural that the churches have always fought against science and have persecuted its supporters,"


Here is a criticism of religion not apt to please Mr. Frost, and I venture to believe that if I, who "take a fling at Christians" in each issue of The Truth Seeker, had written it myself, it would have been condemned by Mr. Frost. He would have probably censured me severely for not thinking in the logical manner of Einstein.


What else has the Professor rejected in Christian theology?


"A Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible." Here is repudiation of miracles.


And again: "A God who rewards and punishes is ... unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for the movements which it makes," This dispenses with the Christian doctrines of heaven and hell, of future rewards and punishments, and of free will.


There you have Einstein at his best. If, on the other hand, you prefer relativity jargon, try this:
"If a person were hurled at the velocity of light away from the earth and from a certain point allowed to return at the same speed, he would not become a second older in the interim even though the time of the earth had elapsed a thousand years while he was on his journey."


Now all this, coming from Professor Einstein, may sound very profound, but anyone not bereft of his reason might tell him to tell it to the marines. It is, on the face of it, a silly enough remark, since any lapse of time, no matter how short the interval, leaves a person that much, older than he was before. You cannot be of the same age you were the day before yesterday. And going away on a cosmic journey won't prevent you from getting old.


The trouble with Einstein is that he is not a laboratory physicist. As Dr. Read Bain remarks in the November number of the Scientific Monthly, Einstein is "not particularly noted for empirical research." He is, by all odds, a dreamer-mystic, who, in his own words, thinks that "imagination is more important than knowledge." That, of course, is not the language of science, and may account for the additional statement: "I believe in intuition and inspiration."


Professor Einstein is primarily a blackboard physicist, who has built up a titanic world out of mathematical symbols. It is, at best, a gossamer world, which sometimes falls apart and has to be assembled again with a new set of symbols. It is, in short, a fanciful and shadowy realm, in which space bends back upon itself, parallel lines meet, and yardsticks shrink to the vanishing point if they travel too fast. And it is a world which has no visible counterpart in space.


Mr. Frost, in naming Einstein, has picked the wrong man, for whatever his vagaries may be in the field of relativity, his views on religion give no support to the doctrine of Christianity.

Friends and Colleagues