"The word God is for me nothing but the expression of and product of human weaknesses." Even now, more than 60 years later, Albert Einstein's words carry some shock value—which is why auction house Christie's expects to nab up to $1.5 million with the sale of his 1954 "God letter." Penned in German to philosopher Eric Gutkind, who'd written a "biblical call to revolt" based on Jewish tradition, the letter actually makes only one reference to God, though Einstein further discusses his Jewish identity, per the New York Times. "For me the unadulterated Jewish religion is, like all other religions, an incarnation of primitive superstition. 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," he wrote.
"We would term this a 'masterpiece' item … a remarkable and very, very precise—and quite blunt—expression of his philosophy about religion," a Christie's expert tells Religion News Service. Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson isn't so sure. The Nobel laureate's views on God and Judaism, which he discussed in dozens of letters, "were not totally unchanging" through the decades "or even on different days," he tells the Times. What is clear is that Einstein didn't believe in the common perception of "a God who went around choosing favorite sports teams or people," Isaacson says. Written in the year before the genius' death, the letter was sold by Gutkind's heirs for $549,000 in 2008. It hits the auction block Tuesday in New York with a pre-sale estimate of $1 million to $1.5 million. (In Einstein's diary, "a clear hallmark of racism.")