The following story attempts to prove the existence of God. It allegedly
records a conversation between a humble, God-believing student and an arrogant Atheistic
university professor. The text appears in hundreds of Christian web sites on the
Internet. It is doubtful whether the conversation ever took place. But one can
be certain that if the story describes a real event, Albert Einstein was not the
university student involved.
It seems that the story had been circulating for some time before the
summer of 2004 when it was first attributed to Einstein. It is probable that
Einstein's name was chosen simply in order to lend credibility to the argument.
The story can be found in text form on many hundreds of locations on the
Internet. One remarkable portrayal is by photographer Macel Cohen and is in a
PowerPoint presentation. It combines the text with some incredibly beautiful
photographs. It is well worth taking the effort to download a free PowerPoint
viewer just to see the photographs. 5
Did God create everything that exists? Does evil exist? Did God create evil?
A University professor at a well known institution of higher learning
challenged his students with this question. "Did God create everything that
A student bravely replied, "Yes he did!"
"God created everything?" The professor asked.
"Yes sir, he certainly did," the student replied.
The professor answered, "If God created everything; then God created evil. And,
since evil exists, and according to the principle that our works define who we
are, then we can assume God is evil."
The student became quiet and did not answer the professor's hypothetical
definition. The professor, quite pleased with himself, boasted to the students
that he had proven once more that the Christian faith was a myth.
Another student raised his hand and said, "May I ask you a question, professor?"
"Of course", replied the professor.
The student stood up and asked, "Professor, does cold exist?"
"What kind of question is this? Of course it exists. Have you never been cold?"
The other students snickered at the young man's question.
The young man replied, "In fact sir, cold does not exist. According to the laws
of physics, what we consider cold is in reality the absence of heat. Every body
or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy, and heat is
what makes a body or matter have or transmit energy. Absolute zero (-460 F) is
the total absence of heat; and all matter becomes inert and incapable of
reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to
describe how we feel if we have no heat."
The student continued, "Professor, does darkness exist?"
The professor responded, "Of course it does."
The student replied, "Once again you are wrong sir, darkness does not exist
either. Darkness is in reality the absence of light. Light we can study, but not
darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many
colors and study the various wavelengths of each color.
You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of
darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You
measure the amount of light present. Isn't this correct? Darkness is a term used
by man to describe what happens when there is no light present."
Finally the young man asked the professor, "Sir, does evil exist?"
Now uncertain, the professor responded, "Of course, as I have already said. We
see it everyday. It is in the daily examples of man's Inhumanity to man. It is
in the multitude of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These
manifestations are nothing else but evil.
To this the student replied, "Evil does not exist, sir, or at least it does not
exist unto itself. Evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness
and cold, a word that man has created to describe the absence of God. God did
not create evil. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's
love present in his heart. It's like the cold that comes when there is no heat,
or the darkness that comes when there is no light."
The professor sat down.
The young man's name - Albert Einstein 7
Indicators that Albert Einstein was not involved:
In his Autobiographical Notes, Einstein states that his "deep
religiosity" as a Jewish child ended at the age of 12 when he developed
a skeptical attitude towards a personal God that he continued throughout his
On 1954-MAR-24, Einstein answered a letter from a stranger stating:
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious
convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not
believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have
expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called
religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the
world so far as our science can reveal it." 2
The Urban Legends Reference Pages comments that Einstein's name:
"... gets used in legends whose plots call for a smart person, one whom
the audience will immediately recognize as such (e.g. modern tellings of
an ancient legend about a learned rabbi who switches places with his
servant feature Albert Einstein in the role of esteemed scholar). This
venerated cultural icon has, at least in the world of contemporary lore,
become a stock character to be tossed into the fray wherever the script
calls for a genius. ..."
Likewise, "the atheist professor" is a figure common to a number of
urban legends and anecdotes of the faithful — he gets flung into the mix
where there's a need for someone to play the role of Science Vanquished
in Science-versus-Religion tales. ...
He's a stereotype, not an actual person. He exists to be knocked over by
the persuasive arguments of the faithful in yarns about theology
successfully defended. 3
Comments on the "Einstein and the professor" story from Christian web
The legend has received glowing reviews on many Christian
web sites. Examples are:
has shown unquestionable intelligence, I admired him."
this is a really great story. I'm going to copy this and put it on my space
"There is no debate. God has to exist in some form or another. There has
to be a point where science has no place and only a divine cause is logical.
The real debate is what form does God take?"
"This is wonderful! This provides me with another in a long list of
reasons why I adore Einstein!"
"Where DID you find this? Awesome."
"This is one of the most influential statements I have ever heard."
"I was deeply moved by the fact that truth is right there in front of
our faces all the time... too often we don't see it...."
Does the "Einstein and the professor" story prove that God
The story is basically an attempt to solve the problem of theodicy: the
coexistence of God and evil in the world. "Theodicy" comes from a Greek expression
meaning the "justification of God." It is an attempt to explain how an
omnipotent, omniscient, omnibeneficient, and omnipresent God could have created
a world with so much suffering and evil present.
One example of the conflict is the hypothetical case of a child running
onto a street into the path of an oncoming truck that is unable to stop in time
to prevent the child's death. If an adult observes the scene and does nothing to
try to stop the child, we would probably consider them profoundly evil, or at least lackin in compassion. But the
historical concept of God is that he is all powerful, all knowing, all loving,
and all present. Yet in this scenario involving a child, God would do nothing to prevent the death
of the child. He is either not all powerful, or not all present, or not all
loving, or not all knowing.
Rabbi Harold Kushner tackled this problem in his
very popular book: "When bad things happen to good people." 7 He concluded that God cannot possess all four attributes
simultaneously. He felt that we should drop God's omnipotence in order to retain
the other three attributes. That is, God didn't save the life of the child because he
cannot do so.
Theologians and philosophers have attempted to harmonize the presence of evil
and the historical attributes of God for centuries without success. So it is
doubtful that this story will accomplish that goal.
Analyzing the story:
In the third last paragraph, "Einstein" says: "Evil is simply the
absence of God." Note that "Einstein" first assumes the existence of
God in order to prove the existence of God. He is saying that God exists and
thus God exists. This is circular reasoning, and makes his analysis meaningless.
The story attempts to prove God's existence as follows:
"Einstein" asserts: "Evil is simply the
absence of God."
By implication, good is the presence of God.
Good and evil exist in the world.
Thus God must also exist.
However, an alternate initial statement would be that "Evil is simply the
absence of good." I suspect that if you asked many people what the
antonym of "evil" is, the vast majority would respond "good." Very few would
By substituting "good" for "God," the argument collapses.
Another approach would be to realize that no consensus exists over what is
good and evil in a given situation.
Some people believe that capital punishment is
evil because it terminates a person's life prematurely usually without the
person's consent. Other feel that it is good
because they believe that its use lowers the area's homicide rate.
The leaders of Nazi Germany felt that the Jewish Holocaust was a noble calling that would make a major
contribution to the betterment of European society by making the area
Juden-Frei (free of Jews). Essentially everyone
today condemns the Holocaust and all other forms of genocide as the most serious evil possible.
There are obviously very different views of good and evil in the world.
Most individuals probably believe that absolute truth exists for them, and perhaps even for their culture and religious denomination
or tradition. But when comparing the absolute truths as claimed by different
individuals, cultures, and denominations, we observe great diversity and much
mutual exclusivity. There is no agreement on what is good and what is evil.
If we equate goodness with God, as was done in this story, then it is obvious that a multiplicity of Gods
would have to exist. This would not be difficult during ancient times when
different Gods and Goddesses were assumed to be in charge of different cultures.
However, the argument collapses if one is trying to prove that only a single
A legend on top of a legend:
One blog added a second layer of urban legend to this legend. They wrote 26
"funny facts" including:
Item 1: "It is impossible to lick your elbow."
Item 26: "Over 75% of people who read this will try to lick their
elbow." This was followed by one version of the Einstein story.
I have personally verified item 1 by testing my tongue on my own elbow. But I
cannot prove that it is true for everyone.
Item 2 could not be verified without a large study. But I seriously doubt that it
is true. 4