Chosen by Time magazine to be their ‘Person of the Century’,Albert Einstein2 is famous for many things (apart from his shaggy visage). His theories of special and general relativity and his formula for the equivalence of mass and energy, E = mc2, changed forever our views on time and space, light and gravity, matter and energy. He is somewhat less well-known for his remark ‘God does not play dice with the universe.’ But what did Einstein really mean by ‘God’? Was his ‘God’ anything like the God of the Bible?

Childhood influences

Although born in 1879 of German-Jewish parents, Albert was not brought up in the Jewish faith. He attended a nearby Catholic elementary school in Munich and then the local high school. A rather slow and dreamy student, Albert was bored with non-scientific subjects,3 and learned little under the harsh military-style 19th century German education system. He grew up with an aversion to discipline, and a life-long suspicion of all authority.

At age 11 he went through an intense religious phase during which he ate no pork and composed songs to God, which he sang to himself on the way to school.4

From age 12 Albert read popular books on science, taught himself algebra, geometry and calculus, and studied Immanuel Kant’s anti-theistic Critique of Pure Reason. Concerning this time in his life, Albert later wrote, ‘Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic (orgy of) [sic] freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. … It is quite clear to me that the religious paradise of youth, which was thus lost, was a first attempt to free myself from the chains of … an existence which is dominated by wishes, hopes, and primitive feelings.’4

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