Charles Darwin and Christianity

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Charles Darwin

In Darwin’s own words: “During these two years (October 1836 to January 1839.) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the ‘Beagle’ I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority to some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time, i.e. 1836-1839, to see that the Old Testament was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos. The question then continually rose before my mind and would not be banished, - is it credible that if God were now to make a revelation to the Hindoos, he would permit it to be connected with the belief in Vishnu, Siva, etc., as Christianity is connected with the Old Testament? This appeared to me utterly incredible.

“By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, - and that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible do miracles become, - that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, - that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, - that they differ in many important details, far too important, as it seemed to me, to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eye-witnesses; - by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity, as a divine revelation. The fact that many false religions have spread over large portions of the earth like wild-fire had some weight with me.

…The old argument from design in Nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.” (2001, pp. 277-278)

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Recommended Reading

The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter. Edited by his son. Volume 1 The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin: Including an Autobiographical Chapter. Edited by his son. Volume 2 The Origin of Species On the Origin of Species: The Illustrated Edition

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