Why Richard Feynman was an avowed atheist

Nobel Prize winning American physicist was against the dogmas of faith
richard feynman science religion atheist physics nobel prize

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize winning American physicist who made fundamental contributions to quantum electrodynamics, a theory which explains the interaction between light and matter.

Feynman was more famous as a beloved teacher whose lectures helped a many graduate and undergraduate students discover their love for physics.

Throughout his life, Feynman was openly against the dogmas of faith. Richard asked difficult and sometimes provocative questions in the search of truth. Once Feynman was interrogated if he preferred being called an agnostic instead?

Feynman replied candidly: Agnostic for me would be trying to weasel out and sound a little nicer than I am about this. I call myself an atheist.

Despite being an atheist, Feynman would use the following analogy: One way to understand physics is to think that the gods are playing a great game, let's say a chess game, while we observe from the sidelines.

We do not know what the rules are of the game. But if we watch long enough, we may eventually catch on to a few of the rules. The rules are what we mean by fundamental physics.

Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was born to Lucille Feynman, a homemaker and Melville Feynman, a uniform sales manager. Feynman's parents were both from Jewish families but not religious in the slightest. By youth, Feynman described religion as a culture of faith and science as a culture of doubt. The two were incompatible.

In 1959, Feynman explained why he was an atheist. He said:

It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage...

...so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil — which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.

Feynman always looked forward to science and religion dialogues. He was all for advocating an atheistic worldview. Following is an excerpt from 1964 lecture at Galileo symposium in Italy:

"The remark which I (Feynman) read somewhere, that science is all right as long as it doesn't attack religion. As long as it doesn't attack religion it need not be paid attention to and nobody has to learn anything. So it can be cut off from society except for its applications, and thus be isolated."

People love science for its results. While ignoring the process of careful reasoning, persistent questioning and investigating. The lack of courage and curiosity create a people who have no reason to want to know. To this, Feynman adds: I suggest, maybe correctly and perhaps wrongly, that we (scientists) are too polite.

Some people wrongly say, according to Feynman, that the laws of physics are God-like. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. When you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from God and you don't need him anymore.

But you need God for the other mysteries, the question of life and death, for instance. God is associated with those things that you do not yet understand. Therefore I (Feynman) don't think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.

If the path of science is that of doubt, uncertainty and not knowing, how can one be clear of one's purpose in life?

Feynman says: Fall in love with some activity, and do it! Nobody ever figures out what life is all about and it doesn't matter. Explore the world. Nearly everything is really interesting if you go into it deeply enough.

There are many things I (Feynman) don't know anything about, such as whether it means anything to ask "Why are we here?" I might think about it a little bit, and if I can't figure it out then I go on to something else.

But I don't feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose — which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell. Possibly. It doesn't frighten me. Thus, Richard Feynman was a lifelong atheist.

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