[ExI] Darwin the Deist

John K Clark jonkc at bellsouth.net
Tue Jun 9 06:26:57 UTC 2009

This is what Darwin had to say on the subject in his autobiography that he
insisted was not to be published until after his death:

"Disbelief crept over me at very slow rate, but was at last complete. The
rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even
for a single second that my conclusion was correct. 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 of my friends, will be
everlasting punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine."

Darwin's religious wife ordered this passage removed and so it was not in
the first edition of the book. The note to the publisher in her own
handwriting survives; she said:

"I should dislike the passage in brackets to be published. It seems to
me raw. Nothing can be said too severe upon the doctrine of everlasting
punishment for disbelief -- but very few now wd. call that Christianity".
After her death the passage was put back into later editions of the book.

There are other interesting Darwin quotes:

"The old argument of 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."

"[The] very old argument from the existence of suffering against the
existence of an intelligent first cause seems to me a strong one; whereas,
as just remarked, the presence of much suffering agrees well with the view
that all organic beings have been developed through variation and natural

"At the present day the most usual argument for the existence of an
intelligent God is drawn from the deep inward conviction and feelings which
are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos,
Mahomadans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in
favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddists
of no God. I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any
weight as evidence of what really exists. "

As to why Darwin didn't say any of these things publicly during his

"My father advised me to conceal carefully my doubts."

  John K Clark

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