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Albert Einstein's anti-religion 'God Letter' goes on sale on eBay

October 09, 2012|By Deborah Netburn
  • Albert Einstein writes out an equation for the density of the Milky Way on a blackboard at the Mt. Wilson Observatory headquarters in Pasadena in this 1931 file photo.
Albert Einstein writes out an equation for the density of the Milky Way on… (Associated Press )

Bidding has started on eBay for Einstein's "God Letter" -- a handwritten letter from Albert Einstein in which he is very frank about his feelings on religion.

"The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses," the physicist wrote in German in the 1954 letter addressed to the Jewish philosopher Eric B. Gutkind. 

Einstein goes on to refer to the Bible as "a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish."

The auction went live at 6 p.m. Monday. Ten minutes later a bid of $3 million was made by an anonymous pre-qualified bidder.

But if you are interested in purchasing the letter yourself, you still have nine days to enter a bid of $3,000,100 or more.

The current owner of the letter picked it up at a London auction in 2008, where it sold for $404,000. At the time of the sale the New York Times reported that Richard Dawkins was among the bidders.

Eric Gazin, president of Auction Cause, the online auction management agency handling the eBay sale, said as far as he knows the London auction was the first time the letter had gone up for sale.

"It wasn't discovered in an antique store or behind a painting," he said. "Someone knew what it was and held onto it." 

I asked Gazin why the seller turned to eBay to sell the letter, rather than through a more traditional auction house such as Christie's or Sotheby's. 

"At a traditional auction the bidding is over in just a few minutes," he said. "On eBay you've got 100 million active members, and the bidding lasts for 10 days. You also get great exposure."

Not just anyone can bid on Einstein's God Letter, however. Gazin said the company is accepting bids only from pre-qualified buyers who can prove they have the cash to back up their bids. He wouldn't say how many people have pre-qualified, but did indicate that several people had applied to be bidders.

Gazin said the lone early bid is an encouraging sign.

"Many times on eBay, the bidding activity in the last minute can affect the sales price," he said. "We believe it will go higher, but there are no guarantees."

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