May 30, 2008
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May 15, 2008
Einstein letter shows disdain for religion
Albert Einstein regarded religions as "childish" and "primitive legends", a private letter he wrote a year before his death has revealed.
The great scientist's views on religion have long been debated, with many seizing upon phrases such as "He [God] does not throw dice" as evidence that he believed in a creator.
But the newly-unveiled letter, a response to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, has cast doubt on the theory that Einstein had any belief in God at all towards to the end of his life.
In the letter, dated January 3 1954, he wrote: "The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weakness, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.
"No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this."
Einstein, who died the following year aged 76, did not spare Judaism from his criticism, believing Jewish people were in no way "chosen" by God.
He wrote: "For me the Jewish religion like all others 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 no better than other human groups, although they are better protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."
The letter, which for decades has been in private hands, has come to light as it is to go on sale at Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair on Thursday. It is expected to sell for up to £8,000.
Educated at a Catholic primary school but given private tuition in Judaism, Einstein later wrote that the "religious paradise of youth" - when he believed what he was told - was quickly crushed when he started questioning religion at the age of 12.
He wrote: "The consequence was a positively fanatic freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression."
But many of his pronouncements appear to support a belief in a divine being, or at least a wish to believe in one. The same year he wrote the letter he also said he wanted to "experience the universe as a single cosmic whole".