Albert Einstein

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What does Albert Einstein's quote mean: "The cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest reason for scientific research?"

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Albert Einstein is often misrepresented as being anti-religion or pro-religion by selectively editing his quotations. Each position has the same goal: to use the generally-respected authority figure of Einstein to push a specific agenda. In fact, Einstein's religious beliefs, such as they were, cannot be typified or summed up in a single pithy quote. His views evolved and changed as he grew older and as he reached new heights of scientific understanding. The above quote is paraphrased from Einstein's 1954 essay "Cosmic Religion," in which he explained that he felt a strong connection to some unknowable force that operates beyond human understanding; not a personal God that watches and reacts to human activity, but something outside of religion, science, and all human knowledge.

...I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research. Only those who realize the immense efforts and, above all, the devotion which pioneer work in theoretical science demands, can grasp the strength of the emotion out of which alone such work, remote as it is from the immediate realities of life, can issue.
(Einstein, "Cosmic Religion")

Simply put, Einstein is putting forth the theory that organized religion is man-made, not spiritual, and that neither blind faith or blind rejection are intellectually honest responses. Instead, he believed that the universe was a unified whole, dictated by natural laws (science) and organized at some level outside of human capability to understand. This is not a belief in a "man magnified," or a God with explicitly human motivations, thoughts, and reactions, but something so far outside of human thought that it cannot be quantified. This "cosmic religious feeling," the idea that scientific study can be assisted (not hampered) by knowledge of a higher force (not necessarily self-aware) was Einstein's idea of spirituality.

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