UPDATE 2: It has emerged that, as per our prediction, Richard Dawkins did bid for the letter. “What surprises me is the extraordinarily low estimate the auction house originally gave,” he says (Guardian). “In a way, I’m delighted that such a thing should be so highly valued.”
Einstein’s often-debated views on religion look to have been made clearer by a document up for auction tomorrow.
“The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish,” he writes in the 1954 letter to philosopher Eric Gutkind.
Bloomsbury Auctions, which is selling the letter, expects it to go for between £6000 and £8000 (press release). If you don’t have that much spare change, you can always read Einstein’s 1940 Nature article ‘Science and Religion’ (subscription required).
In that piece he notes:
During the youthful period of mankind’s spiritual evolution, human fantasy created gods in man’s own image, who, by the operations of their will, were supposed to determine, or at any rate to influence, the phenomenal world. … The idea of God in the religions taught at present is a sublimation of that old conception of the gods.
Like other great scientists he does not fit the boxes in which popular polemicists like to pigeonhole him. It is clear for example that he had respect for the religious values enshrined within Judaic and Christian traditions … but what he understood by religion was something far more subtle than what is usually meant by the word in popular discussion.
Are we the only people who expect Richard Dawkins to bid?
Einstein letter shows disdain for religion – Daily Telegraph
Einstein describes religion as ‘childish’ in letter now up for auction – Canadian Press
Image: Bloomsbury Auctions