April 16, 2007

Solitary Einstein looking out to see.

I spotted on Time online an article on one of the most widely recognised scientists of modern times, Albert Einstein. In particular, the article appears to be an excerpt from a book, and focuses on Einstein’s chosen religion, lack thereof, or whether it actually matters at all.

For the purposes of this post, I’m not a religious man. At home, I was brought up with no religion at all. At school, I was brought up protestant Christian, as were at least three quarters of the children around my area. I was not a religious child, and so I merely went along with these rituals; to do otherwise was seen as being disruptive. I am still not a religious person, but I do not like to condemn anybody for their personal choices and beliefs. I do believe that certain practices are archaic and not appropriate in the 21st century (example, the prayer or singing of religious songs at morning assembly I had to participate in), but I also believe that the study of a variety of religions should be compulsory (especially if we’re ever to have any hope of overcoming the religious prejudices inherent in our society).

Einstein, on the other hand, was apparently passionately Jewish as a child. Not through his parents though, neither of whom harboured any religious beliefs. Some years later, still a youth, he cast off his religious leanings. From that point on, he chose to rarely comment on the issue.

But why didn’t he comment on the issue? It wasn’t that he didn’t have anything to say. I’m sure he knew a hell of a lot more about various religions than most others. Nay, it seems he chose not to comment for the best reason possible: it was not his place to use the press as a conduit to suggest that one religion was better than any other. Nor was he about to suggest atheism was superior to any organised religion. Wise. Einstein was quick to make the distinction that spirituality, an inherently personal experience, is a very different thing to organised religion. Lots people don’t understand this their entire lifetime, and some even choose to vilify those who do not conform to their chosen religion.

Like most forms of discrimination, we’d be in a far better place if we all thought like this. This isn’t indifference, or ignorance. This is education followed by acceptance and a realisation that, at the end of the day, somebody else’s choices will seldom impact your own.