How come Charles Darwin is not mentioned anywhere?
Was he an agnostic, or did he recant on his deathbed?
From: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, June 08, 2000
Charles Darwin, or rather his profound and revolutionary scientific discovery, permeates several sections of our website. He became a skeptic, an atheistic agnostic, toward the end. He was a disbeliever in Christianity. His "Autobiography" contains some telling letters and conversations along these lines, written very late in life.
That he recanted Darwinism on his deathbed is so unlikely as to be laughable. There are no records of this, and all the rumors along these lines are from extremely suspect sources.
It is common for Christian apologists to claim a deathbed conversion -- so much so that Madalyn Murray-O'Hair wanted her death and burial site kept a secret so that nobody could get away with doing that to her. They cannot convert us through reason and truth, so they "convert" us by claiming that we went over to their side during the throes of death. Perhaps a few were influenced by what novelist Anthony Burgess described as the "vestigial fears" of hell, and perhaps some were weakened or rendered delusory during this most traumatic state, but what we should examine are the opinions of a man during his greatest moments of clarity -- not those thoughts when we can would expect someone to be weakened and perhaps even hallucinating.
So frequent is this Christian lie that George Foote compiled "Infidel Death Beds" to counter this widespread trend. Here is his writeup on Darwin:
CHARLES ROBERT DARWIN
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: --
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.
One conversion-lie that is well documented is the alleged deathbed conversion of Thomas Paine. We have Robert Green Ingersoll's brilliant writeup on this, "A Vindication of Thomas Paine," in our Historical Section under Ingersoll and under Paine. It begins: "Last June in San Francisco, I offered a thousand dollars in gold -- not as a wager, but as a gift -- to any one who would substantiate the absurd story that Thomas Paine died in agony and fear, frightened by the clanking chains of devils. I also offered the same amount to any minister who would prove that Voltaire did not pass away as serenely as the coming of the dawn." See "A Vindication of Thomas Paine" Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
Another "deathbed conversion" lie is that concerning George Washington. More of this article appears on Internet Infidels. The most telling is the diary of Washington's secretary. I cannot find an eText version, but it appears in the appendix of Steiner's "Religious Beliefs of our Presidents" -- a book that is in print and available from Prometheus.
See also "Infidel Death Beds" by George Foote for a complete writeup on this trend.
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