Religion is a highly interesting topic in this age. It is also subject to never-ending debates. Well known naturalist and the father of evolution, Charles Darwin rarely expressed his views on religion, keeping his beliefs to himself.
Confessed to being an atheist?
Amidst all this, a letter has emerged which reveals that the man who gave mankind the concept of evolution, was probably an atheist. It is thought the scientist, famous for his pioneering research on evolution, avoided the subject of religion so he didn’t offend friends and family.
When asked if he believes in the New testament or not, Darwin confessed in a private letter, “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 letter was written as a response to that of a Christian barrister Francis McDermott in which he asked, “If I am to have pleasure in 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?’”
Avoided commenting on religion
On one occasion, Darwin expressed his refusal to comment on religion or engage in a discussion on the same to well known atheist Edward Aveling. He wrote, “It has been always my object to avoid writing on religion and I have confined myself to science.”
As per his promise, McDermott kept the contents of the letter written in 1980 to himself and it was only after a century that the same was discovered. Currently the letter is up for auction, and will be sold for over £50,000.
In the present context
The ongoing turmoil in the world, communal clashes and extremism fueled by misconceptions, have led many to question the role of religion in human life. In such a time, Darwin’s stance of respecting beliefs of others, despite being an atheist, might show the way to resolve the heated discussion over the topic.