Darwin’s Letter About the Bible

This is going to provoke an orgy response from creationists. The headline is at the website of the UK’s Guardian: Charles Darwin letter repudiating the Bible heads to auction. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

In November 1880, Charles Darwin received a request from a young barrister named FA McDermott. “If I am to have the pleasure of reading your books,” McDermott wrote, “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.

Darwin died in April of 1882, only a year and a half later, so this was very late in his life. How did he respond? We’re told:

Darwin’s reply, penned on 24 November 1880 – exactly 21 years after the publication of On the Origin of Species – was blunt:

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 Guardian: was right — that letter was rather blunt. But it doesn’t say that he was an atheist. Let’s read on:

That letter is headed to auction at Bonhams on 21 September in New York, where it is expected to fetch $70,000-$90,000.

We’re not interested in the auction. What else can we learn? The article continues:

On this letter to McDermott, he scrawled the word “private” across the top, a significant addition considering the provocative content. Even at the age of 71, he was wary of expressing his true thoughts about his faith.


The letter remained private for more than 100 years. It was last seen at auction in 1996.

That’s probably why we haven’t heard about it before Here’s more:

After Darwin’s death in 1882, rumours of a deathbed conversion circulated. This letter, written less than two years before, defends against such claims.

Yes, it certainly does.

There’s much more in the article, and you may enjoy reading it. It will be even more enjoyable to see the creationist reactions to this letter. It has no scientific significance, of course, but that doesn’t matter to creationists. The letter will undoubtedly confirm their dogmatic belief that the theory of evolution is an atheist plot.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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4 responses to “Darwin’s Letter About the Bible

  1. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  2. “The letter will undoubtedly confirm their dogmatic belief that the theory of evolution is an atheist plot.”
    And that’s exactly why I don’t share your optimism. They’ll see it as a confirmation.

  3. They see the whole world as an atheist plot. Evolution theory doesn’t need atheists, creationists do a better job at promoting evolution than geneticists!!

  4. There’s an obvious response to those who will claim that this letter proves Darwin was an atheist.

    First, nowhere in it does it say Darwin actually disbelieved in God, only in Jesus as the son of God. Millions of Jews and a billion Muslims, not to mention everyone not a member of one of the Abrahamic faiths, would agree.

    And second, there is not now and never has been any real evidence that the Bible is a “divine revelation.” that’s something one believes on faith or not at all, Bible Code digital numerology notwithstanding.