Surprise! Darwin Was An Atheist

Darwin Letter AuctionA private letter in which Charles Darwin admits unequivocally to being an atheist has sold for $197,000 at auction in New York,

Dear Sir,

I am sorry to have to inform you that I do not believe in the Bible as a divine revelation & therefore not in Jesus Christ as the son of God.

Yours faithfully

Ch. Darwin

The note is Darwin’s reply to a letter he received in November 1880. A young barrister called Francis McDermott wrote him to clarify his views on a thorny matter:

If I am to have the pleasure of reading your books, I must feel that at the end I shall not have lost my faith in the New Testament. My reason in writing to you therefore is to ask you to give me a Yes or No to the question Do you believe in the New Testament.

Due to the nature of his theories on evolution and natural selection, Darwin was dogged by rumours and speculation as to his religious beliefs —or lack thereof. Apparently (and surprisingly) historians have wondered what Darwin believed until nowadays. The question is relevant in light of controversies over the teaching of evolution and intelligent design in schools.

Darwin always shied away from confirming his feelings either way. In 1866, for example, he wrote that “my opinion is not worth more than that of any other man who has thought on such subjects.” Even at the age of 71, on this letter to McDermott, he was wary of expressing his true thoughts about his faith, as stressed by the word “private” written across the top.

McDermott promised to keep it secret. He was true to his word and the letter was unknown to scholars for over 100 years.

I wonder how much someone would have paid for a letter in which Darwin admitted he was in fact a creationist!

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