Einstein's 'God Letter' fetches $3.9 million at NY auction

Albert Einstein

Christie's placed a $US1 million to $US1.5 million estimate on the letter.

A brief statement from the auction house said the letter sold for $2,892,500.

"For me the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition", the letter also said.

The letter, which was sold at Christie's on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT), was written the year before the Nobel prize-winner's death. "And the Jewish people to whom I gladly belong, and in whose mentality I feel profoundly anchored, still for me does not have any different kind of dignity from all other peoples", Einstein wrote.

The handwritten one-and-a-half page letter was written in 1954, and details some of the genius's musings on the existence of god and the nature of world religions.

"As far as my experience goes, they are in fact no better than other human groups, even if they are protected from the worst excesses by a lack of power".

The missive became known as the "God letter" and it sold at auction in NY on Tuesday for a hammer price of $2.4 million (£1.9 million, AU$3.3 million), though the full price with buyer's premium and fees came out closer to $2.9 million. "Otherwise I can not perceive anything "chosen" about them".

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The letter was written in response to a book by Gutkind, called Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt.

The letter is dated January 3, 1954, approximately a year before Einstein passed away at age 76.

In this file photo, Albert Einstein delivers a recorded lecture some time in 1955 at an unspecified location.

"Collectors worldwide competed very strongly, in the room, over the phone and online, for this finely curated auction which comprised masterpieces and fresh-to-market property across a wide range of subjects", said Sven Becker, head of books and manuscripts at Christie's.

Several of Einstein's letters have sold at auction in recent memory, ranging in size and scope.

While Einstein acknowledges that he and Gutkind had a lot in common "with regard to the factual attitude to life and to human community", he launches into a personal diatribe against religion. Einstein said he believed in "Spinoza's God"-that proposed by Baruch Spinoza, a 17th-century Dutch philosopher".

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