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Einstein Letter Criticizes Belief in God, Bible

DW staff (th)May 14, 2008

Albert Einstein called belief in God a "childish superstition" and rejected the idea that Jews were chosen people. The letter containing the surprising remarks will come up for sale in London this week.

Albert Einstein
Einstein saw the Bible as a collection of "primitive legends"

A private letter from Einstein to a philosopher seems likely to add fuel to an ongoing debate about Einstein's ambivalent views on religion.

In the letter, the German-born scientist expresses little regard for God or the Bible. As a Jew himself, Einstein said he had a great affinity with Jewish people but said they "have no different quality for me than all other people."

"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 which are nevertheless pretty childish," Einstein said in a letter he wrote on Jan. 3, 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind.

"No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this," The Guardian newspaper cited the letter as saying.

The German-language letter is being sold Thursday, May 15, by Bloomsbury Auctions in Mayfair after being in a private collection for more than 50 years, according to the auction house's managing director Rupert Powell.

Jewish religious beliefs also questioned

The renowned scientist, who declined an invitation to become Israel's second president, also rejected the idea that the Jews are God's chosen people.

"For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions," he said. "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."

And he added: "As far as my experience goes, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power, they are no better than other human groups. Otherwise I cannot see anything 'chosen' about them."

Private criticism, public defense

Einstein's religious beliefs have long been a topic of discussion since he made numerous public statements that seem supportive of religion.

Einstein famously remarked that "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."

Powell said the letter being sold this week gave a clear reflection of Einstein's private views.

"He's fairly unequivocal as to what he's saying. There's no beating about the bush," he told the AFP news agency.