home
RSS
Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'
Up for auction: An original 1954 stamped envelope and letter, shedding light on Albert Einstein's religious beliefs.
October 4th, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist - Albert Einstein - was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

Dubbed Einstein’s “God Letter” by the Los Angeles-based auction agency that's posting it online,  the original document will be up for grabs starting Monday. The opening bid: $3 million.

The letter provides a window into the famed genius's religious beliefs. Einstein wrote it to Jewish philosopher Eric Gutkind, one year before Einstein died, in reaction to Gutkind’s book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.”

“I’ve been managing high profile auctions since 2005, and this is the most historically significant item to come up ... since I’ve been doing auctions,” said Eric Gazin, president of Auction Cause, the group that's organizing the eBay auction.

Einstein was “one of the most brilliant minds to ever live, but so much of what we know is scientific. … As related to God and Judaism, this is so significant. It really lends itself to further study,” Gazin told CNN. “No one even knew this letter existed till recently.”

But Diana Kormos Buchwald, a history professor at the California Institute of Technology and the director of the Einstein Papers Project, says that's not true.

She said copies of this letter, not to mention numerous additional writings reflecting similar sentiments, have been known to researchers and available for decades, both in the Pasadena-based Einstein Papers Project and The Albert Einstein Archives at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The Einstein Papers Project recently published its 13th volume of Einstein’s collected papers.

Einstein, who was raised a secular Jew, was open about his religious views starting in the 1920s, when he became a public figure after winning the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics, Buchwald said. And biographers, including Walter Isaacson, have documented Einstein’s faith journey.

“There are no revelations here,” Buchwald said of the so-called God letter. “But it is frank in the sense that there are other writings where he says he understands a need for religion and is not derogatory. … Here he makes his own position very clear.”

In the letter about to be offered on eBay, Einstein drove home his strong opposition to the idea that Jews, or any people, may be “chosen.”

Here’s part of what he wrote, according to the Auction Cause translation:

For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong and with whose mentality I have a deep affinity have no different quality for me than all other people. As far as my experience goes, they are also no better than other human groups … I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.

Buchwald, who has dedicated her life to making Einstein’s works available, believes any discussion of historic documents has value, but she is critical of how this letter is being presented.

There are word choices in the translation that she, as a German speaker, would tweak. She also doesn’t get why it’s said to be written on Princeton University letterhead, when a blown-up image shows it wasn't. Einstein wasn’t even employed there, she pointed out; he was with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, not at Princeton.

Though she views such incongruities as "a bit muddy," she said she wishes the auction agency and seller luck. "It's just hype. ... I don't have a horse in this race."

The letter first became fodder for public discussion and mass fascination when the original sold at a London auction in May 2008 and “poured gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion,” The New York Times reported. Back then, it fetched a mere $404,000. Among the bidders who reportedly lost out that time around: big-name atheist and author Richard Dawkins.

Gazin of Auction Cause, which pairs marketing with charities, said the 2008 anonymous buyer sought his group out for the Einstein letter's sale after noting the agency's other successes. Topping the list: the $2.1 million raked in for an October 2007 letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and signed by 41 other Democrat leaders, demanding an apology from Rush Limbaugh.

"More than a few” potential buyers have gotten prequalified to enter this upcoming Einstein letter bidding war, Gazin said. He described those expressing interest so far as people in the technology and atheist communities, as well as university and public museums.

At the current owner’s request, Gazin said, an unspecified portion of the letter's proceeds will go to cancer research.

For those not interested in such heady materials, Auction Cause is offering some less profound items on eBay this month: the dress Maria Menounos wore to the Emmys; shoes from Kourtney Kardashian's closet and time with Howard Stern in the shock-jock's studio.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Atheism • Charity • Culture & Science • History • Judaism • Science

soundoff (6,703 Responses)
  1. buy tea online

    Einstein was “one of the most brilliant minds to ever live, but so much of what we know is scientific. … As related to God and Judaism, this is so significant. It really lends itself to further study,” Gazin told CNN. “No one even knew this letter existed till recently.” – that is a really interesting fact. Now off to buy tea online and relax!

    March 12, 2014 at 3:30 pm |
  2. mouse click the up coming webpage

    If you are still unsure, get a second opinion from another inspector, and then determine whether you want to proceed with
    the purchase. If the room is large enough I make a sitting area
    for 2 people. If the association has a stable financial position and a good level
    of reserves, those fees should stay somewhat stable.

    January 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm |
  3. yaramallasunil

    1)hindu god shiva says study this number we must tell any thing that will be done immediately? numbers or 1or 2 or 3 or4

    December 29, 2013 at 2:11 am |
  4. ジーンズ 裾

    ラルフ セール ジーンズ 裾 http://xinkaiwagh.celinebyhollowjp.org/

    December 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm |
  5. qtarigo

    canada goose parka cheap nfl jerseys china nfl football jerseys nfl jerseys for women The foodstuff you try to eat use a immediate effects with your health and wellness and very well really being. If you should have an interest in enhancing your wellbeing, or protecting a strong way of living, verify out the subsequent tips on how nourishment can vastly change the point out within your nicely currently being. They're effortless and straightforward details to abide by.

    womens black ugg boots mulberry bags sale Reading the reviews provided by the author is one of the best ways to gain necessary information on .

    バッグ http://www.komediabath.co.uk/ugg-boots-for-women-on-sale/
    http://www.homeworkhelp4u.com/vintage.html
    http://www.beechwood-surgery.co.uk/volleyball.html
    http://www.komediabath.co.uk/cheap-uggs-for-women/
    http://www.80yc.co.uk/sporting.html

    http://www.komediabath.co.uk/

    http://www.ocwatersummit.com/Source/style.html

    http://www.bathgped.co.uk/minute.html

    http://www.chemiseperfection.com/travaux.html

    http://www.isleofmullholidays.com/laber-ny.asp

    mulberry710bagsS

    November 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm |
  6. maryam

    Hey would you mind letting me know which hosting company you're using? I've loaded your blog in 3 different internet browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you suggest a good hosting provider at a honest price? Thanks, I appreciate it! maryam http://3g-brazil.net/?p=2793

    June 2, 2013 at 11:14 am |
  7. Danial Schuh

    Knitting is a craft in which two needles along with thread or yarn are used to create fabric pieces or garments by creating loops in the yarn. Knitting can be used to create many types of fabric, from framed knitting artwork to sweaters, afghan quilts, throws, blankets, mittens, or even bedroom slippers.-"*..

    http://calaguas.orgOur internet page

    May 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  8. tea pigs

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it or something.

    I think that you could do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than
    that, this is excellent blog. An excellent read.

    I will certainly be back.

    May 14, 2013 at 6:57 am |
  9. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/12/where-do-morals-come-from/#comments

    Gravity is not up for debate !

    BY the way ...................Splat goes a fairy in the sky !...............bye bye tinker bell !

    Einstein's Gravity Theory Passes Toughest Test Yet..............................E = mc2..........(U–Pb).................two math formulas.

    Apr. 25, 2013 — A strange stellar pair nearly 7,000 light-years from Earth has provided physicists with a unique cosmic laboratory for studying the nature of gravity. The extremely strong gravity of a massive neutron star in orbit with a companion white dwarf star puts competing theories of gravity to a test more stringent than any available before

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130425142250.htm

    Hey James Madison................religion has none it looks like.............with the comments on this blog.

    The Big question is ETHICS ! does religion have any ?

    The Ethics of Resurrecting Extinct Species

    Apr. 8, 2013 — At some point, scientists may be able to bring back extinct animals, and perhaps early humans, raising questions of ethics and environmental disruption.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130408165955.htm

    April 30, 2013 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |

    May 1, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |

    Dinosaur Egg Study Supports Evolutionary Link Between Birds and Dinosaurs: How Troodon Likely Hatched Its Young

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418104324.htm

    And NO ANGELS the pope KICKED them OFF the TEAM last year !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    the wrong path is Adam and Eve !

    Human Y Chromosome Much Older Than Previously Thought

    Mar. 4, 2013 — The discovery and analysis of an extremely rare African American Y chromosome pushes back the time of the most recent common ancestor for the Y chromosome lineage tree to 338,000 years ago. This time predates the age of the oldest known anatomically modern human fossils.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130305145821.htm

    No god(s) needed or required to graduate from public schools in the US

    Remember : Adam had to POKE himself hard with his OWN BONE to create Eve.

    No god(s) needed................... Old. DNA works..................also catches crooks !

    Ancient DNA Reveals Europe's Dynamic Genetic History

    Apr. 23, 2013 — Ancient DNA recovered from a series of skeletons in central Germany up to 7,500 years old has been used to reconstruct the first detailed genetic history of modern Europe.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130423134037.htm

    Ca-nabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®) – National Cancer Insti-tute

    http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/cannabis/.../page4

    Mar 21, 2013 – [1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. ... have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors. ... In lung cancer cell lines, CBD upregulated ICAM-1, leading to ...

    Good stuff !

    The fact...............the earth is to old for this nonsemse ! Time to EVOLVE !

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

    Where do morals come from?

    By Kelly Murray, CNN

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/

    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

    Atheist Prof. Peter Higgs: Stop calling Higgs boson the ‘God particle’

    Professor Peter Higgs said recently that there is no God and so people should stop referring to the theoretical partial that
    bears his name as the “God particle.”

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/08/atheist-prof-peter-higgs-stop-calling-higgs-bosen-the-god-particle/

    Pope praises science, but insists God created world updated Thur October 28, 2010
    Stephen Hawking is wrong, Pope Benedict XVI said Thursday – God did create the universe. The pope didn't actually mention the world-famous scientist, who argues in a book published last month that the laws of physics show there is no need for a supreme... \

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/28/pope-praises-science-but-insists-god-created-world/

    Science

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says updated Tue May 17, 2011
    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/05/17/heaven-is-a-fairy-story-scientist-stephen-hawking-says/

    April 7th, 2012

    08:32 PM ET

    The Jesus debate: Man vs. myth

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2012/04/07/the-jesus-debate-man-vs-myth/comment-page-137/#comment-2281915

    Make sure to read comments

    April 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |

    Breaking News

    NASA: Three planets found are some of best candidates so far for habitable worlds outside our solar system.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/18/us/planet-discovery/index.html

    NASA: Mars could have supported life

    Star Dust we are

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWdU_px9ApE&w=640&h=390]

    Holy Hallucinations 35

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XTCRdC8Dlo&w=640&h=390]

    The ORIGIN story is bullsh-it...............so is the bible............... nasty !

    From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml

    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.

    Human Evolution

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2cHumanevo.shtml

    BBC. Planet of the Apemen. Battle for Earth 1. Ho-mo Erectus

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUliLKSJ4bQ&w=640&h=390]

    BACKFILL on E =mc2.....

    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

    By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

    Decades before atheist scientist and author Richard Dawkins called God a "delusion," one world-renowned physicist – Albert Einstein – was weighing in on faith matters with his own strong words.

    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/category/culture-science/

    May 4, 2013 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420

    Cheech & Chong's History of 420 from CheechAndChong

    All cults...........creationists, ID believers and devil cults.................

    The fact...............the earth is to old ...........time to EVOLVE !.

    Ancient Earth Crust Stored in Deep Mantle

    Apr. 24, 2013 — Scientists have long believed that lava erupted from certain oceanic volcanoes contains materials from the early Earth's crust. But decisive evidence for this phenomenon has proven elusive. New research from a team including Carnegie's Erik Hauri demonstrates that oceanic volcanic rocks contain samples of recycled crust dating back to the Archean era 2.5 billion years ago. Their work is published in Nature.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424132705.htm

    Peace

    May 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm |
  10. Jonah Tafreshi

    In its earliest days, eBay was essentially unregulated. However, as the site grew, it became necessary to restrict or forbid auctions for various items. Note that some of the restrictions relate to eBay.com (the U.S. site), while other restrictions apply to specific European sites (such as Nazi paraphernalia). Regional laws and regulations may apply to the seller or the buyer. Generally, if the sale or ownership of an item is regulated or prohibited by one or more states, eBay will not permit its listing. ";

    Look at the most interesting blog post on our very own internet site
    <http://caramoantourpackage.com

    May 2, 2013 at 7:22 pm |
  11. Really

    Jesus has returned to break the code of the Catholic Church = Anonymous will lend a hand, as they fight from the good side 4 the good of ALL. Stocks will fall and the CC will lose everything. PeaceALL.

    April 3, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  12. Leif

    Einstein was a free thinker. There is no higher praise.

    December 13, 2012 at 7:28 am |
    • BeefStew4You

      Indeed.

      March 11, 2013 at 11:01 am |
  13. E101

    Scientists have unearthed the first direct signs of cheesemaking, at a site in Poland that dates back 7,500 years.
    Human Evolution (1 of 2)

    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2cHumanevo.shtml

    December 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  14. $$$$$$$$$$$$$

    Well it cannot be taught in public schools in USA accourding to the COURTS OK !!! FACT

    December 11, 2012 at 11:30 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68
Advertisement
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.