A picture taken on March 6, 2018 shows a signed letter by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein dated 1928 concerning the formalization of the "Third Stage of the Theory of Relativity" on display at Winner's auction house in Jerusalem, prior to being auctioned later in the night with the rest of a series of nine. That was nearly twice the expected amount.
"The word God is for me nothing but the expression and product of human weaknesses", Einstein wrote.
It is not the first time Einstein's letters have been put up for auction.
Einstein biographer Walter Isaacson warned against considering this letter definitive of Einstein's beliefs, saying the theoretical physicist had written on the subject multiple times, and was not always consistent.
"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 writes. "Otherwise I can not perceive anything "chosen" about them", the letter says.
The letter fetched almost double the auction house's predicted price of up to 1.5 million
The 1954 letter surfaced in 2008 after being held by Gutkind's family.
"This remarkably candid, private letter was written a year before Einstein's death and remains the most fully articulated expression of his religious and philosophical views", a statement from Christie's says.
Acknowledging his disappointment in failing to secure the item, Dawkins said: "This letter was about something very important to Einstein I suspect". Indeed, in his 2007 biography, Isaacson recounted Einstein's "passionate zeal for Judaism" in his early life. But at the age of 13, he "abandoned his uncritical religious fervour, feeling he had been deceived into believing lies".
Specifically, Einstein did not believe that if there was a God, he answered individual prayers and intervened directly in human affairs. His cosmic religion and distant deistic God fits neither the agenda of religious believers or that of tribal atheists.