A handwritten missive by Albert Einstein known as the “God letter” is expected to fetch up to $1.5m (£1.2m) when it goes under the hammer.
The one-and-a-half-page letter, written in 1954 in German and addressed to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, contains reflections on God, the Bible and Judaism.
“The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive, legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”
The sentence has been hailed as evidence that the physicist, one of the 20th century’s most esteemed thinkers, was an atheist. But Einstein at times said he was not an atheist, and resented being labelled as one.
In the letter – being auctioned at Christie’s in New York on Tuesday – Einstein, a Jew, also articulates his disenchantment with Judaism.
“For me the Jewish religion like all others is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions. And 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,” he wrote.