A little girl’s letter to Einstein: Do scientists pray?

The Riverside Church

January 19, 1936

My dear Dr. 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,



January 24, 1936

Dear Phyllis,

I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. 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, 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 naive.

With cordial greetings,

your A. Einstein


source: brain pickings

21 thoughts on “A little girl’s letter to Einstein: Do scientists pray?

  1. What a wonderful letter from Einstein: kind, compassionate, and honest.
    Reading it one way, he’s expressing an openness & humility. After all, scientists know their work rests on axioms & assumptions. Aren’t these a different word for faith?
    Reading this letter way, since he’s writing to sixth graders on a Sunday school, they may not realize he’s questioning their naive, blind religious belief. I wonder how many kids understood what he really meant? I wonder how many understood it later in life and opened to curiosity and wonder and awe?
    Vincent Paz

    • Hi Vincent. It would be very interesting to find out the effect of Einstein response to Phyllis. As for a scientist and a great thinker, in the end, I suppose, they will wonder that there is far great “force” out there that one cannot answer. From a scientist point of view, apparently “Argon” remains on earth for a long time. Meaning, I could be inhaling and exhaling the “argons” of Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, etc. Pax. Perpetua

  2. Interesting!
    Questions lead to findings and findings to more conviction that there is much more that is beyond mere human comprehension.
    Lovely letters, awesome post!

Please share your reflection. Thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s