Most People Dont Realize
Darwin Repented On His Knees
Jane Meehan

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jane Meehan"
Subject: Re: Letter:_why_the_little_fish_with_legs
Date: January 28, 2002 1:25 PM

Firstly, let us suppose this tale to be true. It is most assuredly a lie; however, for the sake of discussion, let us assume, for a moment, that Darwin did suffer a death-bed conversion and "humbly received Christ as his personal savior," as has been the popular parlance during the latter half of the twentieth century to describe a Christian Conversion.

Many people, in the throes of death or mortal illness, revert to the thinking and even the language of their youth. For example, during the late 1970s or early 1980s, I heard a lecturer mention that Dutch author and Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom was (at the time) old and frail, that she could no longer speak English but could only speak her native Dutch. How the mind decays in age and in the throes of death is a fascinating subject if one is as interested in observing how the human mind works as I have been for my entire life. Thus, any little insight, such as this minor "aside" in a lecture, will probably stick with me for life.

What's important, though, is that during her life, Corrie ten Boom was a devout Christian and brilliant author who spoke and wrote fluent English. During his life, at the peak of his career and while doing his life's work, Charles Darwin became more and more skeptical of the Christian religion of his youth, until as recently as a few weeks before his death (this according to his Autobiography, and as is evidenced by letters on this very subject that were included in the Autobiography).

We do not call a man a Christian based upon his behavior during a delusional bout during the final moments before his mind and body stop working entirely, we call a man a Christian if and only if this was how he led his life when he was healthy and can reasonably be said to be of sound mind.

However, this discussion is moot, because the Darwin death-bed conversion tale is pure fabrication, invented by zealous Christians for the purpose of furthering the Christian religion and for the purpose of denigrating both the "agnosticism" practiced by Darwin (what this magazine calls atheism) and the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection.

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Secondly, I've heard this rumor for over 30 years, now, having been a life-long fan of Darwin (as well as several other scientists), because, as a child, I was a science buff, and studied the lives of the great scientists and inventors. I even built a model replica of the H.M.S. Beagle. However, I have never been able to substantiate this little tale of Darwin's death-bed conversion to Christ. Indeed, I never heard this thing as a child, but only encountered it as a teenager, at a church, in a pastor's attempt to shatter my love for science and learning in the hope of convincing me to become a missionary. Meanwhile, having studied Darwin's Autobiography, and having read several biographical sketches, I cannot find any evidence that this story is true.

Please provide us with detailed information that will enable us to confirm that what you just wrote to our readers is true. If you can, to our satisfaction, verify this story, I will retract all the writings we have posted to the contrary and will replace them with notices condemning them in the strongest language.

If you cannot verify this story, however, please apologize to the magazine, to our volunteer staff, and to our readers for trying to mislead us in the name of Christ, and for denigrating our viewpoint and degrading the memory of our cultural hero, Professor Darwin.

Meanwhile, atheistic activists and historians George Foote and A. D. McLaren wrote a very long treatise documenting the alleged death-bed conversions of 82 men and women who had once been outspoken against the Christian religion. These are 82 different people for whom some leader in the Christian church boldly proclaimed that this person had converted to Christ during the final moments of her or his life. Foote and McLaren soundly refute all 82 of these tales.

That's 82 (count 'em, 82) separate Christian lies.

One of the falsehoods that Foote and McLaren soundly refuted (and refuted to my satisfaction, since I had studied this question independently, long before encountering this work; in fact, I studied this question while I was yet a Christian, and privately castigated my own pastor, Mike Macintosh [San Diego: circa 1981], for propagating this lie), was the very tale you have tried to foist upon us: that regerding Charles Darwin. In fact, here is the entire entry from that book (critically edited):

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Darwin, the great evolutionist, whose fame is as wide as civilization, was born at Shrewsbury in 1809. Intended for a clergyman, he became a naturalist; and although his bump of reverence was said to be large enough for ten priests, he passed by gentle stages into the most extreme skepticism. From the age of forty he was, to use his own words, a complete disbeliever in Christianity. Further reflection showed him that Nature bore no evidence of design, and the prevalence of struggle and suffering in the world compelled him to reject the doctrine of infinite benevolence. He professed himself an Agnostic, regarding the problem of the universe as beyond our solution, "For myself," he wrote, "I do not believe in any revelation. As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities." Robert Lewins, M.D., knew Darwin personally, and had discussed this question with him. Darwin was much less reticent to Lewins than he had shown himself in a letter to Haeckel. In answer to a direct question "as to the bearing of his researches on the existence of an anima, or soul in man, he distinctly stated that, in his opinion, a vital or spiritual principle, apart from inherent somatic (bodily) energy, had no more locus standi in the human than in the other races of the animal kingdom" (What is Religion? by Constance Naden, p. 52). Yet the Church buried him in Westminster Abbey "in the sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection."

Darwin died on April 19, 1882, in the plenitude of his fame, having outlived the opposition of ignorance and bigotry, and witnessed the triumph of his ideas. His last moments are described by his eldest son Francis: --

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No special change occurred during the beginning of April, but on Saturday 15th he was seized with giddiness while sitting at dinner in the evening, and fainted in an attempt to reach his sofa. On the 17th he was again better, and in my temporary absence recorded for me the progress of an experiment in which I was engaged. During the night of April 18th, about a quarter to twelve, he had a severe attack and passed into a faint, from which he was brought back to consciousness with great difficulty. He seemed to recognize the approach of death, and said "I am not the least afraid to die." All the next morning he suffered from terrible nausea and faintness, and hardly rallied before the end came.

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No one in his senses would have supposed that he was "afraid to die," yet it is well to have the words recorded by the son who was present. In the second edition of Infidel Deathbeds this notice ended with the words: "Pious ingenuity will be unable to traduce the deathbed of Charles Darwin." But "pious ingenuity" is not easily slain. Sir Francis Darwin as recently as January, 1916, had to refute a lying story about his father's agonizing deathbed, and the story cropped up again, with embellishments, in The Churchman's Magazine for March, 1925.

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Nobody can walk away from having read Darwin's Autobiography, prepared by his family after his death, and conclude that those who prepared this work for the eminent biologist believed him to have labored under a death-bed belief that Jesus was his "personal savior."

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Thus, if you can bring forth some sound, believable evidence that what you told us is true, and not simply the resurrection of a lie that has been floating around Christian circles ever since it was popular among Christians to invent death-bed conversions of any and all of the Church's ideological opponents (mostly, the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but as late as 1980, when the above-mentioned Mike Macintosh invented a tale that he had led John Lennon to Christ within a week of his murder at the hands of a deranged young Christian man), then we will recant what we have said about this story. If you cannot do this, though, we expect a sincere-sounding apology from you for having attempted to deceive our readers in the name of Christ, for the purpose of furthering the Christian religion and denigrating the atheistic position.

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Finally, the page from which you sent this letter contains 19 items showing the discrepancies between the two Genesis creation accounts. Do you simply ignore what's in front of you? Are you telling us that Christianity will defend the Bible even in the face of these openly stated facts showing that the two accounts cannot both be true at the same time? Are you telling us that even in the face of this, that Christianity will still propagate a slander that most had hoped had been refuted beyond resurrection way back in 1916? Is this your "Gospel" message to us? Please address the 19 items listed on the Charles Gause "Little Fish With Legs" letter.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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From: "Positive Atheism Magazine" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jane Meehan"
Subject: Re: Letter:_why_the_little_fish_with_legs
Date: January 28, 2002 2:56 PM

I have, as I said, researched this about as thoroughly as this subject can be researched.

Meanwhile, I asked you to provide us with an argument that we can believe. Telling us to do what we've already done is not an argument, it's a dodge!

Thus, we conclude that you have written to us for the purpose of lying to us, in the name of Christ, for the purpose of trying to get us to believe that the Christian religion is an outlook of truthfulness. We conclude that you are a liar for Christ.

You aren't the first one of those we've encountered, either: Paul of Tarsus said, "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?" (Romans 3:7. The original note incorrectly said 3:9; we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.) Martin Luther had similar sentiments: "What would it matter if, for the sake of the Christian Church, one were to tell a big lie?" (defending his advice after admonishing Philip of Hesse to tell a "good stout lie," quoted by Moehlman, The Story of the Ten Commandments, p. 269, and Joseph Lewis, The Ten Commandments, p. 558).

Thus, are you demonstrating to us the fact that if a Christian cannot make her or his case using truthful persuasion, that the Christian ought to then lie? What comes after that? If we don't believe your lies, do the Christians then come after us and torture and kill us, confiscating our estates and enslaving our children in the mission or nunnery in the process? Is that what Christians have done when we haven't believed their lies?
 

Whoever said this is a liar. For repeating it, you are a bigot, in addition to being a liar. You do well to retract this slander.
 

By threatening us with the Judgement (the Christian Hell) you thereby threaten us with physical violence. This means that you hereby concede the argument -- the very argument that you started.

In any event, the two or three thousand people who will read this post over the next week now have one more reason to steer clear of the Christian religion.

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We are proud of the fact that we try not to dissuade people from being religious. We thank you for reminding us that we don't have to, that enough Christians write to us each week to make a laughingstock of a case against faith in Jesus without us needing to utter a single word!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.