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Einstein (1879-1955) wrote to Gutkind after reading his book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. The letter combines Einstein’s thoughts on religion, his Jewish identity and his own search for meaning in life, and is regarded as the most fully articulated expression of his religious and philosophical views.

He writes that: “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. No interpretation, no matter how subtle, can (for me) change anything about this.” Although acknowledging a cultural affinity with the Jewish people in the letter, he believed that they were not “chosen” above others.

“Definitive statements”

Peter Klarnet, senior specialist books and manuscripts at Christie’s, said the letter “concerns themes that have been central to human enquiry since the dawn of human consciousness, and it is one of the definitive statements in the Religion vs Science debate”.

The letter, estimated at $1m-1.5m, will be on public view in Shanghai on September 19-21 and then in New York on November 30-December 3 ahead of the auction on December 4.