Albert Einstein held some complex views about religion in his time. That hasn’t stopped the religious from trying to use favorable quotes of his to bolster their arguments. Maybe that talking point will go away now:
The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.
Sounds a bit like Richard Dawkins, doesn’t he?
The contents of the letter aren’t that surprising, as they don’t really conflict with other quotes of his. He was a pretty vague pantheist, who believed there was a spiritual force of some sort in the universe, which is what drove him to be a scientist: discovering the workings of the universe meant discovering that force. Theism and its incarnations are primitive human inventions. That’s my interpretation, anyway.
What does this all mean? Largely nothing. Quote wars are a sad part of arguments about religion. You shouldn’t believe anything because one smart person said so, nor should you assume an intelligent person holds intelligent views about all subjects. Einstein himself said some pretty stupid things about communism and the Soviet Union. Religion in particular lends itself to compartmentalization; people can require rigorous standards in everyday life and then proudly abandon them when thinking about a higher power. It’s curious, but it’s why our society isn’t overrun to the point of collapse by superstitious nonsense. Religion probably won’t ever go away, but we can make its compartment smaller and smaller.