Charles Darwin

On this date in 1809, Charles Robert Darwin was born in England. He prepared for the Church at Cambridge, but his passion was natural history. During his work as a naturalist for the Beagle, he began documenting and formulating his theory of evolution. At the time he wrote the monumental On the Origin of Species (1859), he still accepted the "First Cause" argument. Gradually he threw off his religious beliefs. In his Descent of Man (1871), Darwin wrote: ". . . For my part I would as soon be descended from [a] baboon . . . as from a savage who delights to torture his enemies . . . treats his wives like slaves . . . and is haunted by the grossest superstitions."

He wrote the Rev. J. Fordyce on July 7, 1879, that "an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind." Darwin penned his memoirs between the ages of 67 and 73, finishing the main text in 1876. These memoirs were published posthumously in 1887 by his family under the title Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, with his hardest-hitting views on religion excised. Only in 1958 did Darwin's granddaughter Nora Barlow publish his Autobiography with original omissions restored (see excerpt below). D. 1882.

“I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine.”

—Charles Darwin, Autobiography

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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