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Albert Einstein on Power of Prayer: 'Belief in Existence of Final Spirit Rests on a Kind of Faith'

Albert Einstein may best be remembered for his theories and scientific explanations, but the world-renown scientist also had a faithful side and once tried to explain the power of prayer in regards to science. The letter explaining his views was written to a young girl named Phyllis, who was a member of a Sunday school class that wanted to know his views.

Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein |

"My dear Mr. Einstein, We have brought up the question: Do scientists pray? In our Sunday school class. It began by asking whether we could believe in both science and religion. We are writing to scientists and other important men to try and have our own question answered. We will feel greatly honored if you will answer our question: Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for? We are in the sixth grade, Miss Ellis's class. Respectfully yours, Phyllis," the young girl wrote.

Einstein replied with a letter of his own just five days later.

"Dear Phyllis, I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can," he wrote. "Here is my answer: Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish."

"However," he continued, "we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science. But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naïve."

Einstein was never vocal about his personal beliefs, although he labeled himself an agnostic. He was raised by secular Jewish parents but did not follow their traditions or beliefs.

Letters from Einstein to inquisitive kids can be read in the newly released "Dear Professor Einstein: Albert Einstein's Letters to and from Children" by Alice Calaprice.

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