But if history has taught us one thing about intelligent people, it is that they do not necessarily have the most intelligent values. Paul Johnson's 1990 book, “Intellectuals,” demonstrated just how warped the values of some intellectuals--including Rousseau, Marx, and Tolstoy--could be.
The principal purpose of the Bible is to impart values of right and wrong, to teach us of the infinite sanctity of human life, and to lend human existence a spiritual purpose. This is something that is counterintuitive and often lost on intellectuals.
Einstein’s criticism of the Bible presupposes that he had wonderful personal values and did not need to receive them from this childish book. Sadly, while he was the smartest man of the 20th century, his values set was severely lacking. Readers of Walter Isaacson’s masterful biography, "Einstein," will discover some of the dirty laundry of Einstein’s personal life that we already knew: Einstein was unfaithful to his wife Mileva and later left her wife to marry his cousin Elsa. What they will be shocked to discover, however, is a man who had seriously questionable values.
In 1917, when Einstein's son, Eduard, got sick with lung inflammation, Einstein wrote to his best friend, Michelle Besso, “My little boy’s condition depresses me greatly. It is impossible that he will become a fully developed person. Who knows if it wouldn’t be better for him if he could depart before coming to know life properly.” As if this statement weren’t shocking enough, he then ruminated about employing “the Spartan method”--leaving sickly children out on a mountain to die. One cowers in disbelief to witness a once-in-a-millennium intellect deliberating whether to discard his own child and allow him to be slowly devoured by the elements.
If Einstein had instead looked to the values of the Bible, he would have discovered that every human life, whether healthy or diseased, beautiful or disfigured, is of infinite value and may never be discarded. Indeed, the Bible attacks the ancient pagan practice of child sacrifice, in which children were seen as nothing but the means by which to appease the angry gods--as an, “abomination to the Eternal, which He hateth.” [Deuteronomy 12:30-31]
Of course, for long periods of his life, Einstein was essentially a dead-beat dad. His son, Hans Albert, felt so neglected by his father, who when teaching in Berlin during the First World War visited only every few months, that in November 1917, the boy took to writing his father nasty letters telling him not to visit. Einstein, seemingly insensitive to the wounds harbored by a neglected 11-year-old, followed the advice and stayed away. “The unkind tone of your letter dismays me very much. I see that my visit would bring you little joy. Therefore, I think it is wrong to sit in a train for two hours and twenty minutes,” which was the train duration between Berlin and Zurich, where the boy lived with his mother. (Of course, Einstein, after getting his future wife Mileva pregnant, seems to have had his baby, Lieserl, given up for adoption without ever having met her, a fact that did not come to light until approximately 30 years after his death.)
But personal life aside, the even greater indictment of Einstein was his pacifism which he championed through most of his life until Hitler rose to power and it became clear to him that something had to be done to combat the beast, at which point Einstein not only dismissed his previous pacifism but actually wrote his famous letter to President Roosevelt in August 1939, encouraging him to beat the Germans in building an atomic weapon.
Consequently, the silly book, which Einstein dismisses, made it mandatory for all to fight evil and protect the innocent and oppressed. To be a pacifist when victims are slaughtered is to become passively complicit in the evil itself.
Now, none of this means that Einstein wasn’t a good person. On the contrary, the world Jewish community is tremendously in debt to Einstein for his life-long support of the Zionist cause without which Israel might not have come into existence. What it does mean is that even Einstein would have to concede that his morals were in need of serious realignment. You can be the smartest man alive but that does not mean that you will not do incredibly silly things based on seriously misguided ideas. Which is why the Jews, however smart or learned, have always turned to the Bible as the source of their morality. Even Albert Einstein would be wise to remember the words of King David: “Never rely solely on your own understanding.”