Albert Einstein Called God the 'Product of Human Weakness' and the Bible 'Primitive Legends'

Circa 1955: Mathematical physicist Albert Einstein delivers one of his recorded lectures. Keystone/Getty Images

A letter from Albert Einstein, in which the physicist said God was just an expression of human weakness, and that the Bible was just a collection of "primitive legends," is due to be auctioned by Christie's in New York. The letter, written just a year before his death in 1955, is estimated to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.

"The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends," the letter reads. "No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change anything about this."

Einstein wrote the letter to Eric Gutkind in response to the philosopher's book Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. It is the believed to be the most revealing insight into Einstein's religious beliefs. Einstein, whose theory of general relativity is still one of the pillars of modern physics, had a Jewish background. He did not believe in God but also did not describe himself as an atheist. He served on the advisory board of the First Humanist Society of New York.

Einstein Letter - IMAGE
Letter written to the philosopher Eric Gutkind. Christie's

In a different letter, written around a decade earlier, he wrote: "I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist. ... I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being."

In Einstein's letter to Gutkind, he tells the philosopher how alike they are in their thinking—especially in what he calls their "un-American attitude."

He talks of the Jewish religion being "like all other religions" in that it is "an incarnation of primitive superstition." However, he goes on: "And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me do not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples. As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot perceive anything 'chosen' about them."

The letter ends with an expression of understanding and appreciation for Gutkind, and is signed off "with friendly thanks and best wishes, yours, A. Einstein."

The Christie's auction will take place on December 4. Peter Klarnet, Senior Specialist Books & Manuscripts at Christie's, said in a statement: "Christie's is honored to present this important Albert Einstein letter at auction as it concerns themes that have been central to human enquiry since the dawn of human consciousness, and it is one of the definitive statements in the Religion vs Science debate."