What separates me from most atheists is a feeling of utter humility toward the unattainable secrets of the harmony of the cosmos. The fanatical atheists are like the slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who — in their grudge against traditional religion as the “opium of the masses” — cannot hear the music of the spheres. I prefer the attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and our own being. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) German-American physicist
(Spurious / Synthetic)

This quotation is actually a synthesis of several Einstein quotes. It is sometimes attributed as a whole to "Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium" (1941), but only a part is found there. Nor is it found at all  in the also sometimes cited "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1930)

The "utter humility" portion is attributed as a letter from Einstein to Joseph Lewis (18 Apr 1953).  It was quoted in Walter Isaacson, Einstein (2007).The “fanatical” through “spheres” portion is in a letter (7 Aug 1941) discussing responses to his essay “Science and Religion” (1941) per Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999)

The “weakness of our intellectual understanding” phrase is attributed to a letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 Sep 1949), quoted in the Isaacson work as well as by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2.

The lame/blind phrase is attributed to a letter to Eric Gutkind (3 Jan 1954). It was earlier used by Einstein (1941) at the Symposium cited above.

This synthetic quotation is a good example of the difficulties in quoting Einstein, who is used as a polemical bludgeon by a variety of groups, and is often poorly or incorrectly cited online, compounded by his re-use the same turns of phrase multiple times in his correspondence and papers.
Added on 31-Jul-09 | Last updated 16-Mar-17
Link to this post
Topics: , , , , , ,
More quotes by Einstein, Albert

5 Responses to (Spurious / Synthetic)

  1. Pingback: Popular quotations I have known | ***Dave Does the Blog

  2. Pingback: ~~Admin - Doing the Numbers: 2/2012 | WIST Quotations

  3. Beachbum says:

    I have looked at a few sources for “Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium” (1941) and I can’t find this passage in any of them. I would be interested in your source. Thanks

  4. Dave says:

    Hmmmm. I can’t seem to locate it there, either, so I’m not sure if I misattributed it or got it from a source that misattributed it.

    The quote (or the “utter humility” extract) can be found in Walter Isaacson, Einstein (2007). I also find in passing the “utter humility” portion attributed a letter from Einstein to Joseph Lewis (18 Apr 1953).

    The “weakness of our intellectual understanding” phrase is also footnoted to the Isaacson work, but with different surrounding phrases, which is attributed elsewhere to a letter to Guy H. Raner Jr. (28 Sep 1949), quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2

    The music of the spheres portion is also attributed to The Expanded Quotable Einstein, Princeton University Press (2000).

    The lame/blind portion is also attributed to a letter to Eric Gutkind (3 Jan 1954). Another site attributes it to the Symposium above, but without any source material, and, in fact, http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm shows that turn of phrase, but not any of the rest.

    The “fanatical” through “spheres” portion is cited in Wikiquote as a letter (7 Aug 1941) discussing responses to his essay “Science and Religion” (1941) per Max Jammer, Einstein and Religion: Physics and Theology (1999)

    I find reference to the quote as a whole as being from his “Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine (9 Nov 1930), which was revised in his Ideas and Opinions (1954), but it is not in reprint of that article here: http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm#TIMES

    One problem — aside from the fact that Einstein is too easily quoted and misquoted and used to a variety of polemical purposes — is that he tended use the same turns of phrase multiple times in his correspondence and papers.

    My conclusion: the above quote is a pastiche of Einstein phrases from different sources (including from the symposium, but also elsewhere), not an actual quotation as a whole.

    Thanks for pointing this out, Beachbum!

  5. Pingback: ~~Admin - Doing the Numbers: 3/2014 | WIST

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.