Ramanujan, Einstein, Tolstoy, Napoleon, Richard Muller, and Michael Jackson on God

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Over the years, I’ve noticed how many of the people I admire the most — scientists and artists, in particular — have a very deep feeling of God, despite this feeling usually being looked down upon in their circles.

Below are a few quotes I’ve been returning to over the years. I hope you enjoy them and, perhaps, become just a bit closer to God — or at least less dismissive of the feeling of God — as a result.

— Alexey

Ramanujan (mathematician):

“Immensely devout,” R. Radhakrishna Iyer, a classmate of his, would later term him. “A true mystic . . . intensely religious,” recalled R. Srinivasan, a former professor of mathematics. …

for him, numbers and their mathematical relationships fairly threw off clues to how the universe fit together. Each new theorem was one more piece of the Infinite unfathomed. So he wasn’t being silly, or sly, or cute when later he told a friend, “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” (Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity)

Einstein (physicist):

Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality and intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order. […] This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God. In common parlance this may be described as “pantheistic” (Spinoza). (source)

Tolstoy (writer & educator):

Then as now, the public profession and confession of orthodoxy was chiefly met with among people who were dull and cruel and who considered themselves very important. Ability, honesty, reliability, good-nature and moral conduct, were often met with among unbelievers. …

I remember that it was in early spring: I was alone in the wood listening to its sounds. I listened and thought ever of the same thing, as I had constantly done during those last three years. I was again seeking God. …

What is this animation and dying? I do not live when I lose belief in the existence of God. I should long ago have killed myself had I not had a dim hope of finding Him. I live, really live, only when I feel Him and seek Him. “What more do you seek?” exclaimed a voice within me. “This is He. He is that without which one cannot live. To know God and to live is one and the same thing. God is life.” (Leo Tolstoy, Confession)

Napoleon (statesman):

He readily yielded up all that was proved against religion as the work of men and time; but he would not hear of materialism. I recollect that, one fine night, when he was on deck with some persons who were arguing in favour of materialism, Bonaparte raised his hand to heaven, and pointing to the stars, said, ‘You may talk as long as you please, gentlemen, but who made all that?’ (source)

Richard Muller (physicist):

I think my recognition of God is made easier by my understanding of physics. People new to physics can fool themselves into thinking that it can “explain” all of reality. They do this despite the oft stated pronouncements of physicists that physics doesn’t “explain” anything; it merely allows predictions of the future to be made based on knowledge of the past.

Confusion about God results, in my experience, by people who conflate God with science. They think of God as a great Santa Claus who can break the rules of physics in answer to prayer. Such people mistake the power of physics. They mistakenly think that the past determines the future, when in fact, it does so only a little bit. The future is determined in large part by our own free will, and by the will of God, not by the increase in entropy. God does not have to alter any laws of physics. Those laws of physics are so fundamentally indeterminate that they are responsible for very little of what really matters in the future.

That I exist is self evident. Similarly for the existence of God. We are talking about the meaning of reality. You can fail to understand me, but you can’t dispute me. (source)

Michael Jackson (artist):

There is no real explanation. It’s nothing to do with personal experience. My singing is just – I’ll say it simple as possible – it’s just Godly really. It’s no real personal experience or anything that make it come across, just feeling and God; I’ll say, mainly God. (source)


it is important to never forget that everyone who makes major contributions to society, and especially those who make academic and engineering contributions, are all insane and at some point wrote “i was chosen by god to solve all of physics” in their notebook (deleted tweet)

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