Religious views of Charles Darwin | Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by natural selection

Religious views of Charles Darwin

Was Charles Darwin an Atheist?

Leading Darwin expert and founder of Darwin Online, John van Wyhe, challenges the popular assumption that Darwin’s theory of evolution corresponded with a loss of religious belief.

The religious views of Charles Darwin, the venerable Victorian naturalist and author of the Origin of Species (1859) never cease to interest modern readers. Bookshops and the internet are well-stocked with discussions of Darwin’s views and the implications of his theory of evolution for religion. Many religious writers today accuse Darwin of atheism. Some popular proponents of atheism also enlist Darwin to their cause. Even while Darwin was still alive there were widely varying descriptions of his religious opinions – which he kept mostly private. In 1880 the Austrian writer Ernst von Hesse-Wartegg visited Darwin at his home, Down House, in Kent. n station at Orpington opined of the famous Mr. Darwin: “Ha es en enfidel, Sar- yes, an enfidel — an unbeliever! and the people say he never went to church!”. The passage quoted here was actually marked in Darwin’s copy of this German newspaper (the Frankfurter Zeitung und Handelsblatt) – no doubt it amused Darwin as much as the German attempt to capture the Kentish accent through phonetic spelling.

Other commentators were more generous in their interpretations of Darwin’s religiosity. The modern myth of a timeless conflict of science and religion was far from the reality experienced by Victorian readers who first turned the pages of Darwin’s Origin of Species and Descent of Man (1871). It is now widely forgotten that the scientific debate over the theory of evolution was over within twenty years of the publication of Origin of Species. Yet how could that be given that the Victorians were, by and large, far more religious than people generally are today and the scientific evidence for evolution was far less complete than it is now? The explanation is that for very many Victorians the choice was not between God and science, religion or evolution, but between different notions of how God designed nature. It was already widely accepted that fixed natural laws (or secondary laws) had been discovered that explained natural phenomena from astronomy and chemistry to physiology and geology. Darwin, it was believed, had simply discovered a new law of nature designed by God. And it seems this was how Darwin himself viewed at least part of the religious implications of his evolutionary theory. This also makes it all the more understandable that Darwin was buried by the nation in Westminster Abbey in 1882.

"A Venerable Orang-outang", a caricature of Charles Darwin as an ape published in The Hornet, a satirical magazine
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Sola Scriptura Ministries International Charles Darwin's religious views: from creationist to evolutionist
Book (Sola Scriptura Ministries International)

Religious views of Charles Darwin

by CincyJiman


"Charles Darwin's views on religion have been the subject of much interest. His work which was pivotal in the development of modern biology and evolution theory played a prominent part in debates about religion and science at the time, then in the early twentieth century became a focus of the creation-evolution controversy in the United States."

"Darwinists for Jesus" (NY Times Magazine)

by flaveur

In 1981, Michael Dowd would have counted himself among the millions of conservative Christians who blame Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and the idea of a godless, purposeless universe for the moral decline of society. That year, as a freshman at Evangel University in Springfield, Mo., Dowd felt a rush of indignant anger in biology class when the professor held up a textbook that taught evolution. As he stormed out of the classroom, Dowd could not have imagined that he would come to view evolution as a spiritually inspiring idea that religion must embrace.
In the years that followed, Dowd shed his more conservative views and served as a pastor in the liberal United Church of Christ

Darwin was raised in the church, and his

by arahana

Opinions and beliefs changed during his life. He left the church but still considered himself to be a theist initially. Later, he also wrote that he considered himself to be agnostic.
Pertinent passages:
Darwin himself was not entirely consistent in the language he used to describe his beliefs. And of course his views changed over the course of his life. Starting in 1876 he began writing a private autobiography for his children and grandchildren. In it he mentioned the change in his religious views

Bird brainiacs: The genius of pigeons  — New Scientist
Before a visit from his friend the geologist Charles Lyell, Darwin wrote: "I will show you my pigeons! Which is the greatest treat, in my opinion, which ..

FAQ

Brea
What are some interesting/strange facts about Charles Darwin?

Charles Rober Darwin, the naturalist, was made famous in scientific communities for his work in Geology following publication of his work after his five year journey aboard the Beagle.
He is one of only five non-royals to be honored with a state funeral and buried at Westminster Abbey.

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