Good Without God: Einstein’s “God Letter” Goes on the Auction Block

Albert Einstein didn’t believe in God.  At least, he didn’t believe in the trinitarian God revealed in the Scriptures.  And he didn’t regard the Jewish people as God’s “chosen people.”

On January 3, 1954, a year before his death, Einstein tried to explain his belief system in a letter to Jewish philosopher Eric B. Gutkind.  Einstein was responding to Gutkind’s book, Choose Life:  The Biblical Call to Revolt.  Writing candidly about his denial of the Jews’ chosen status, Einstein said:

“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, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power.  Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

And speaking of God, Einstein wrote to Gutkind, God is:

“nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

On October 8, the famed letter handwritten by Albert Einstein went on the auction block—and within ten minutes, an anonymous bidder had placed the first offer at the opening price of $3 million.  Auction Cause, the agency which listed the letter on eBay, hailed the letter as “the nexus of science, theology, reason and culture.”

But wait a minute!  Einstein was NOT, as some have claimed, an atheist.  Rather, he described himself as “agnostic”—insisting that “an attitude of humility” was preferable to positive atheism.  Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson explained that the scientist spoke more harshly about disbelievers than about the faithful.  He wrote in a letter:

The fanatical atheists…are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle.  They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium of the people’—cannot bear the music of the spheres.

In a 1930 interview which was published in G. S. Viereck’s book Glimpses of the Great, Einstein acknowledged the limits of human understanding, and held out the possibility that he may not understand everything:

Your question [about God] is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist.  I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist.  The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.  May I not reply with a parable?  The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe.  We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues.  The child knows that someone must have written those books.  It does not know who or how.  It does not understand the languages in which they are written.  The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.  That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God.  We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly.  Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.

For more information on the Einstein letter, go here.

And if you’d like your own copy of an original Einstein letter (not the “God letter”) for only, say, $20,000—check out the eBay page!  There are plenty of letters for sale.

 


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