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Einstein Quotes on Ethics & Morality: Humans, not Gods, Define Morality

Albert Einstein Denied any Supernatural, Divine Aspect to Morality, Moral Acts

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An important principle of most theistic religions is that morality originates with their god: there is no morality apart from their god and, in particular, apart from obedience to their god. This leads many to say non-believers cannot behave morally and/or cannot be moral. Albert Einstein denied that morality required or even could have a divine source. According to Einstein, morality is a purely natural and human creation - it's a part of being human, not a part of some supernatural realm.

1. Albert Einstein: Morality is Purely a Human Matter

The religious feeling engendered by experiencing the logical comprehensibility of profound interrelations is of a somewhat different sort from the feeling that one usually calls religious. It is more a feeling of awe at the scheme that is manifested in the material universe. It does not lead us to take the step of fashioning a god-like being in our own image - a personage who makes demands of us and who takes an interest in us as individuals. There is in this neither a will nor a goal, nor a must, but only sheer being. For this reason, people of our type see in morality a purely human matter, albeit the most important in the human sphere.

- Albert Einstein, Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

2. Albert Einstein: Morality Concerns Humanity, Not Gods

I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. My religiosity consists in a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God.

- Albert Einstein, from Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

3. Albert Einstein: Ethics is Exclusively Human with No Superhuman Authority

I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it.

- Albert Einstein, Albert Einstein: The Human Side, edited by Helen Dukas & Banesh Hoffman

4. Albert Einstein: Ethics Based on Sympathy, Education, Social Ties, Needs

A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.

- Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science," New York Times Magazine, November 9, 1930

5. Albert Einstein: Fear of Punishment & Hope for Reward No Basis for Morality

If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed. The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge. ...

- Albert Einstein, quoted in: All the Questions You Ever Wanted to Ask American Atheists, by Madalyn Murray O'Hair

6. Albert Einstein: Autocratic, Coercive Systems Inevitably Degenerate

An autocratic system of coercion, in my opinion, soon degenerates. For force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels. For this reason I have always been passionately opposed to systems such as we see in Italy and Russia to-day.

- Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1949)

7. Albert Einstein: Nothing Divine About Morality; Morality is a Human Affair

[T]he scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation... There is nothing divine about morality; it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection... It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

- Albert Einstein, The World As I See It (1949)

8. Albert Einstein: Ethical Behavior Should be Based on Sympathy, Education

[A scientist] has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion. A God who rewards and punishes is inconceivable to him for the simple reason that a man's actions are determined by necessity, external and internal, so that in God's eyes he cannot be responsible, any more than an inanimate object is responsible for the motions it undergoes. Science has therefore been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hopes of reward after death.

- New York Times, 11/9/30

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