Albert Einstein's Letter Calling God a 'Human Weakness' Netted $2.9 Million at Auction
Albert Einstein, a man of science, did not deny the existence of God. But he didn't let God off easy, either. In 1954 he wrote a letter to a colleague exploring his own presumptions about religion and higher powers. "The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of venerable but still rather primitive legends," he said.
That letter, dubbed the "God Letter," just sold for nearly $2.9 million at a Christies auction in London. Einstein's God Letter, which also delves into Judaism, the religion he was born into but did not practice, previously sold at auction for just $400,000 in 2008, the New York Post reports. Someone must really be in search of meaning.
Einstein's faith was a complicated mix of religion and science, and he wrote about it many times as it evolved through the years. He described his beliefs as "agnostic," and firmly denied being an atheist. But he did scoff at the idea of a "personal God," one who took on human form and meddled in the intricacies of day-to-day lives on Earth, handing out great rewards and gruesome punishments like candy. He proposed instead that the concept of God was beyond anything that human minds could even comprehend, much like how we still marvel at the universe while barely understanding it. In 1931 he wrote:
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. This insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive form—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong in the ranks of devoutly religious men.
To put it more succinctly, as Einstein wrote in 1954: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
All this while he was completely revolutionizing modern physics.
If Einstein's musings on God don't help you on your own journey of religious exploration through the weeds of scientific methodology, perhaps turn to to works of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who before his death in March wrote that "there is no God. No one directs the universe." He couldn't have been any clearer.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.