>From Times Online September 17, 2008 God, Evolution and Charles Darwin Ten surprising things Darwin said about religious faith Nick Spencer Next year is the big Darwin anniversary. Two hundred years after his birth and 150 after the publication of On the Origin of the Species, millions will celebrate the life and work of Charles Darwin, one of the most brilliant scientists in history, and a man who was thoroughly decent, honourable and likeable. Unfortunately, he has become caught up in the crossfire of a battle in which Darwin exhibited little personal interest. On one side of this cartoonish debate are the creationists. Their precise numbers, in the UK, are uncertain, although the major survey Theos /ComRes are conducting into the public's beliefs about Darwinism, creationism and ID, which will be published next year, should help us find out more. Numbers aside, the point is that creationists dislike Darwin and regularly criticise him for supposedly undermining their religious beliefs. In the other trench lie the militant Godless who - bizarrely - wholly agree with the creationists. Darwinism, they proclaim, does indeed undermine religious belief and a good thing too. Darwin is their icon and they frantically genuflect before his image, in a way brilliantly parodied by the satirical magazine The Onion. The truth is, as ever, more complex. Darwin was too interesting, too careful a thinker to be caricatured in these ways. He was a Christian and yes, he did lose his faith. But he was never an atheist. He engaged in religious debate with friends but confessed to being in a hopeless "muddle". He agonised over whether the exquisite beauty of life on earth was worth the pain of natural selection. He hated religious controversy and was deeply respectful of others' views. He took upon himself the duties of a country parson whilst living at Downe and contributed to the South American Missionary Society. And, to top it all, he often doubted whether, his mind being evolved, he could even trust it in such matters. All in all, he was too complex, too subtle a man to be left to the polemicists. Times Archive, 1887: The life of Darwin It has been said with truth that we must go back to Newton before we meet with Darwin's peer a.. Obituary: Charles Robert Darwin a.. Richard Dawkins slaps creationists into the primordial soup Related Links a.. Times Archive, 1871: Mr Darwin on the Descent of Man So, in the interests, of rescuing him from the no-man's-land in which he has become trapped, here are 10 Darwin quotations, from his later years, which you are unlikely to hear from the mouths of either creationists or atheists in 2009. 1. "The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble by us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic." (Autobiography) 2. "It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist & an evolutionist." (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879) 3. "I hardly see how religion & science can be kept as distinct as [Edward Pusey] desires. But I most wholly agree. that there is no reason why the disciples of either school should attack each other with bitterness." (Letter to J. Brodie Innes, November 27 1878) 4. "In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God." (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879) 5. "I think that generally (& more and more so as I grow older) but not always, that an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind." (Letter to John Fordyce, May 7 1879) 6. "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." (Letter to Frederick McDermott, November 24 1880) 7. [In conversation with the atheist Edward Aveling, 1881] "Why should you be so aggressive? Is anything gained by trying to force these new ideas upon the mass of mankind?" (Edward Aveling, The religious views of Charles Darwin, 1883) 8. "Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey's mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?" (Letter to Graham William, July 3 1881) 9. "My theology is a simple muddle: I cannot look at the Universe as the result of blind chance, yet I can see no evidence of beneficent Design." (Letter to Joseph Hooker, July 12 1870) 10. "I can never make up my mind how far an inward conviction that there must be some Creator or First Cause is really trustworthy evidence." (Letter to Francis Abbot, September 6 1871) Nick Spencer is director of studies at the public theology think-tank Theos which is conducting, in partnership with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion a project on evolution, faith and Charles Darwin. Mr Spencer's book, Darwin and God, will be published in 2009 by SPCK.