>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 

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 

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. 


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