Darwins Letter sold at auction stating he was an atheist

I I have started this topic because i believe it has relevance to theology and doctrine and the ways in which they are derived. Relying on the wisdom of individuals who are openly not Christian is an unsafe way for us to develop our religious theology and beliefs.

i am one who follows Creation Science and not Evolutionary Science and believe that both Creation and Evolution require faith. (where “Evolution” is the secular naturalism world view of origins)

They are religious fundamentally because both attempt to explain the origin of life and from the fundamental premises of whichever we subscribe to follow, and from that we derive a view about the future of life.

It appears to me that there are those who say evolution has a negligible effect on Christianity in terms of whether or not it detracts from God. These individuals actually claim that Creationism is the danger…strangely enough, the complaint is founded not first on the premise Creationism is antibiblical, but because Creationism disagrees with Naturalism and its because of that notion it must therefore be antibiblical!

When i hear an individual say “negligible”, i sense a theological dilemma arising here…if one is to take that to its logical conclusion, one would be of the belief that some sin is negligible. This would raise eyebrows i think.

If we then extrapolate further, we might then come to the conclusion that the biblical statement below has caveats that allow us to straw pluck only that which suits our existing beliefs.

2Tim. 3 Verses 16 to 17[16] All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: [17] That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works

Unfortunately, Christ demonstrates something very differently in his ministry…note the rich young ruler in Matthew 19

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect,go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”.

I think that given us humans are both physical and spiritual in our lifestyles, Christ is asking us to do far more than just give up world possessions…he is asking us to give up on our worldly beliefs ie heresy such as Darwinian evolution

With my own caveat stated above, on to the topic at hand…

I found the CBS News story about Charles Darwin

While many scholars believe Charles Darwin was an agnostic or even an atheist, it can be difficult to find hard evidence to back up those beliefs. He was reluctant to discuss religion and his writings are often silent on the issue.

But now a simple one-sentence handwritten letter signed by the naturalist offers proof he did not believe in God. The letter, written 21 years after the publication of “The Origin of Species,” was auctioned off Monday afternoon at Bonhams in New York. It fetched $197,000 at the auction, three times the previous record of $59,142 for a four-page letter that Darwin had penned to his niece.

Darwin’s letter is a reply to a young barrister named Francis McDermott, who wrote on November 23, 1880 with a very unusual request: “…If I am to have pleasure in reading your books 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.” McDermott continues by promising not to publicize Darwin’s reply in the “theological papers.”

The next day Darwin responded. He wasn’t brusque but he was to the point and left no doubt about his beliefs, stating: “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.”

Matthew Chapman, the great-great grandson of Darwin who is also the president of sciencedebate.org, a group is trying to persuade the final presidential candidates to have a debate on science and technology, said Darwin may have been open about his beliefs in the letter because he was approaching death.

“You have to remember this was written two years before he died,” Chapman told CBS News. “I don’t think you screw around with this kind of stuff. You say what mean. I don’t think you are inclined to lie or showboat. You know you are facing death at that point and so I think this is a clear and honest expression of his atheism.

Personally, I am somewhat skeptical of the letters authenticity (it wouldn’t be the first time a fake has sold for huge sums at auction), however, i think most here would agree Darwin was at the very least on the agnostic side of the line. He clearly struggled to reconcile his scientific research with the bible and this appeared to cloud the most important aspect of Christianity…that there is a future hope after this life.

In any case, the above is proof to me that the founder of Evolution Charles Darwin lost his faith in God because of his theory being at complete odds with his own reading of the bible. Its very obvious that Darwin simply could not reconcile any biblical writings with what he saw around him. I think that its pretty clear Darwin realised the dilemma was an impossible one…Origin of species Evolution and Creationism cannot coexist in a single world view.

Darwin’s theory does not, as some appear to me to have wrongly claimed, support the notion of God as the origin of our existence.

But Creationism IS “antibiblical”: its foundation is not found in scripture at all.

That’s what YEC does by refusing to read the scriptures in their original context.

But YEC is founded on a worldly belief: the idea that to be true, a thing has to be 100% scientifically and historically accurate. That belief cannot be supported from the scriptures – in fact it is a belief from scientific materialism.

Tell that to the former atheists and agnostics in our university informal intelligent design club who ended up as Christians because their study of evolution convinced them there must be a Designer.

BTW, my first thought was to wonder about the authenticity of the letter – it seems just too convenient to be appearing now.

1 Like

To claim that the theory of evolution must be false because Darwin was an atheist is like claiming that nuclear physics must be false because Oppenheimer quoted from the Bhagvad Gita when the first atom bomb was detonated.

Scientific theories are not falsified by the religious beliefs (or otherwise) of those who study them. They are falsified by contradictory evidence.

Religious beliefs (atheism included) could have some bearing on the truth or falsehood of a scientific theory if those beliefs led to researchers fudging, fabricating or misrepresenting evidence or cutting corners in their research. But to demonstrate this, you would have to make a case that such fudging, fabrications and misrepresentations were ubiquitous right across the entire field, and not just casual one-offs by individual researchers.

Given that there have been a hundred and fifty years of research into evolution since Darwin, that the number of scientific papers involved runs into the hundreds of thousands if not the millions, and that the theory of evolution has practical applications in, and is foundational to, many other areas of research, that is a pretty tall order.

In any case, at least some of those who collaborated with Darwin in researching the theory of evolution in the early days were Christians. Asa Gray is one example who comes to mind.


It’s got to be millions – in botany alone back with I was at university there were hundreds of thousands of papers just in botany.

Darwin does not have anything to do with my theology. Before Darwin was even born, before his grandparents were even born, there were already Christians who realized Genesis was not written literally. Genre has been something Christians have been talking about for a long time. It’s also how we know things like 1&2 Samuel contains different traditions, why genesis 1&2 can’t be harmonized and how we know things like Esther, Job and Jonah are not literal also.

Darwin was simply a science oriented person who did a good job at helping to shape the understanding of clades.

1 Like

Interesting article, even though it is from 2015.

Of course the writer was pretty uninformed about who believes what:
“ Darwin remains a deeply polarizing figure today and is despised among those who believe in creationism, the theory that God had a hand in evolution.”


Actually, this is a very important comment and i think indicative of exactly my point (so thank you for being the scapegoat in making it jammycakes).

I shall answer this comment with a quote from the late Stephen Hawking … one of those millions of scientists who have given us a deep inside into the practical applications of evolution.

There is no God. No one directs the universe" … For centuries, it was believed that disabled people like me were living under a curse that was inflicted by God,” he adds. “I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature.” (Stephen Hawking - Brief Answers to Big Questions)

What Hawking simply could not come to accept, his personal affliction had nothing to do with a curse inflicted by God. Hawking’s personal affliction is and will always be as a result of sin. And i refer to the Day of Atonement scapegoat Azazeel as my witness and reference for this.

Azazel, in Jewish legends, a demon or evil spirit to whom, in the ancient rite of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a scapegoat was sent bearing the sins of the Jewish people . Two male goats were chosen for the ritual, one designated by lots “for the Lord,” the other “for Azazel”

Azazel was the personification of uncleanness and in later rabbinic writings was sometimes described as a fallen angel. (Leviticus 16:8). Encyclopedia Britannica

At the end of all of this, Azazeel will bear the responsibility for all the suffering, sickness and death that has ravaged this earth for the last 6000 years of documented Biblical history at least.

Irrespective of whether or not early on he claimed differently, my understanding up until i found this CBS News story, was that the general consensus believed he was at least an agnostic.

Below is an image of Bonhams Auctions in New York…the firm that sold the letter

and the 21st September 2015 press release from Bonhams regarding the sale:

A new world record at auction for a letter by Charles Darwin was set at Bonhams New York yesterday (21 September) at the History of Science and Technology sale. The highly personal and unusually pointed statement on Darwin’s lack of belief in the Bible and in Jesus Christ as the son of God was sold for $197,000, (£127,000) having been estimated at $70,000-90,000 (£45,000-60,000).

Darwin’s letter is a reply to a young barrister named Francis McDermott who wrote on November 23, 1880 with a very unusual request: “…If I am to have pleasure in reading your books 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…” McDermott continues by promising not to publicise Darwin’s reply in the “theological papers”.

Darwin responded the very next day:

Nov. 24 1880
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”

I read the following on this website in 2016 (only 1 year after the Bonhem auction strangely enough…apparently oblivious to the auction press release)

Contrary to what is often said, Darwin’s theory wasn’t atheistic, and it didn’t destroy natural theology. It was all about creation by natural laws—essentially the same view that BioLogos calls Evolutionary Creation—and left the door open for others to formulate newer, even more powerful, arguments from design. The Evolution of Darwin’s Religious Faith - BioLogos

Its very clear that Darwins world view became a product of his own emphatuation with Evolution…and he gave up God choosing his own published theory placing his faith in that theory instead. And here we are…or at least, and here all of you are making outrageous claims Creation Science is driving people away from God!

I seem to be missing something here. Where in this letter does Darwin state that he was an atheist?

I suggest you read more about Darwin’s life. I believe the death of his beloved daughter had more to do with loss of faith than anything in his theory.


Are you telling Christians to reject all scientific theories that were first proposed by atheists?

Why wouldn’t a scientific theory stand or fall based on the scientific evidence?

You can claim it requires faith to believe in Heliocentrism. The Earth still moves about the Sun. Why should your opinion of what requires faith be compelling to others? More importantly, why do you equate faith with something being untrue?

Creationism is a danger just like Geocentrism was a danger. It shows that Christians have to ignore the evidence in nature in order for Christianity to be true.

“If the tenets of young earth creationism were true, basically all of the sciences of geology, cosmology, and biology would utterly collapse. It would be the same as saying 2 plus 2 is actually 5. The tragedy of young-earth creationism is that it takes a relatively recent and extreme view of Genesis, applies to it an unjustified scientific gloss, and then asks sincere and well-meaning seekers to swallow this whole, despite the massive discordance with decades of scientific evidence from multiple disciplines. Is it any wonder that many sadly turn away from faith concluding that they cannot believe in a God who asks for an abandonment of logic and reason?”–Francis Collins, “Faith and the Human Genome”

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”–Galileo Galilei

You are asking Christians to stop thinking and to stop using their eyes. This is what YEC demands of people.


In his autobiography, Darwin spoke about why he left the Christian faith. Here is a snippet:

You can read more here:


Funny the obsession many YEC folk have with Darwin and his writings, when most evolutionary creationists, and non-religious scientists as well, see him as a historic figure, but no real influence on their daily work and life. I have a copy of his Origin of the Species book, that interestingly I inherited from my father, and he got from a library book sale (my dad was a farmer, not a scientist, but loved to read) but I have not read it as there are too many other books in the queue ahead of it.


The obsession serves a purpose. Hundreds of thousands, or millions, who knows the count, of scientists accept the age of the Earth and evolution because the evidence, both generally and as pertains to each researchers expertise, is absolutely compelling. That is not, of course, the message YEC ministries want to bring to their followers.

To portray those scientists as slavish acolytes of some old dead antagonist makes for a much more presentable dichotomy. Ignore the mountains of evidence, it is all about whether you place faith in the writings of a misguided and bitter heathen or place your faith in the authoritative eyewitness account written straight from the hand of God. The more this propagandized narrative can be kept front and center, the less YEC has to actually deal with the facts.


Exactly. YEC is a religiously based ideology, so they have to try and cast the theory of evolution in the same light in order to level the playing field. It’s a bit like trying to falsify Heliocentrism by pointing to the personal foibles of Galileo, or trying to falsify the theory of evolution by pointing to Einstein’s atheism. The goal is to do anything other than address the evidence.


This is sneaking in the genetic fallacy, because no one here is relying on Darwin for theology and religious beleifs. Should we rely on Darwin for theology or advice on how to live sanctified lives? No. But that does not in any way discount scientific observations or theories developed by people who do not share Christian beliefs, because methodological naturalism allows people from all different religious perspectives a way to study the natural world based on shared premises.

Except it isn’t. Evolution is a scientific model, not a secular naturalism (i.e. ideology or religion) view of origins. And for like the fiftieth time, evolution describes the diversification of life, it does not describe the origin of life or present any “fundamental principles” about metaphysics or the telos of the universe.


It appears to me that sometimes we forget the breadth of Atheism. It is a gross oversimplification to merely state that Atheism means “there is no God” Its a lot more than that. What the letter clearly illustrates is that Darwin, like the information from Britannica below, lost belief in a Creator.

Now whether or not you wish to open a rabbit warren of philosophical debate on this, the Bible clearly tells us in Revelation 3:16

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of My mouth.

A person who rejects certain aspects of our Creator rejects them all…there is no fence sitting.

Darwin in this letter clearly denies the Creative power of God…he has rejected the most fundamental principle of our existence…a Creator. Therefore, he is no longer a believer in an omnipotent creator…he became an atheist.

Darwins great great grandson, whom i should think knows a lot more about his ancestor than we do, clearly agrees that Darwin was an atheist when he died.

To explain this a little more using resources outside of the Bible:

Encyclopedia Britannica states the following about Atheism

Prior to the rise of anthropology and the scientific study of religion, an appeal to revelation and authority as a substitute for knowledge or warranted belief might have been thought to have considerable force. But with a knowledge of other religions and their associated appeals to revealed truth, such arguments are without probative force. Claimed, or alleged, revelations are many, diverse, and not infrequently conflicting; without going in a small and vicious circle, it cannot be claimed, simply by appealing to a given putative revelation, that the revelation is the “true revelation” or the “genuine revelation” and that others are mistaken or, where nonconflicting, mere approximations to the truth. Similar things need to be said for religious authority. Moreover, it is at best problematic whether faith could sanction speaking of testing the genuineness of revelation or of the acceptability of religious authority. Indeed, if something is a “genuine revelation,” there is no using reason to assess it

Perhaps such a belief is nothing more than a cultural myth. There is, as has been shown, neither empirical nor a priori knowledge of God, and talk of intuitive knowledge is without logical force.

Nope, that’s all it is. An atheist is simply someone who says “No” when asked if the believe in a deity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Interestingly, you avoid the scientific debate which actually deals with evidence.

Then evolution is hardly your only worry. We have found that clouds form through natural processes which clearly denies the Creative power of God to create clouds. You don’t accept the atheistic secular worldview that clouds form through natural processes, do you?

1 Like

Again, where are you seeing that? The letter quoted above says that Darwin didn’t believe in the Bible as revelation or that Jesus was God’s son.

Are we reading a different letter? Where does the letter say anything about a creator?


I know we differ in our view on the fallibility of humanity and the manipulation the devil has over the physical world. obviously, I follow the biblical model of the corruption of mankind, the animal kingdom, and all of non living creation. I believe that Satan has the power to not only manipulate the ways in which our environment functions (See the book of Job - killing of Jobs Children), but that he manipulated the geological record during and after the flood.

I also believe in the bible statement about the “still small voice” and that God has left little evidences of Himself despite the corruption caused by the influences and actions of Satan.

Now we all agree here i think that the written evidence only dates back at most about 10,000 years and therefore any resources older than that are theoretical interpretations…nothing more.

Now you claim obviously, oh but we have a narrative of theories and evidence that appear to fit together and appear to complete a puzzle of our existence. Anyone here will tell you quite openly, most problems have more than one apparently logical solution (whether right or wrong). Indeed in my major and minor fields of study in education (Industrial Technology and Design), the design process demands multiple solutions are developed prior to moving into the next phase of solution realisation. I find it rather unintelligent when i read statements from seemingly well educated individuals who make the claim that fundamental in design is not also the case in scientific discovery and building out the puzzle (particularly in relation to Creation vs Naturalism interpretations of science). There are plenty of sound evidences that deny naturalism…the unfortunate thing for TEism is, it swallows “hook line and sinker” the response “we don’t have answers for the dilemma yet” despite the bible providing direct and clear answers to quite a large number of those dilemas.

The secular view of uniformatarianism is not biblical. What happened in the ancient past is described quite clearly in the bible using language that is not metaphorical. And, even though in the bible there are lots of writings that are not literal, it is always obvious from a plain reading of the text when that occurs. We can further prove our comprehension in such circumstances by biblical cross referencing.

This is where Charles Darwins faith was lost…he very obviously was not well trained in how to study the bible, nor was he adequately knowledgable in the scriptures to understand that the death of his daughter was not Gods fault…its a direct result of the consequences of sin!

If i am wrong on this, provide some biblical examples that you believe falsify my statement above and then we can discuss those.

But we aren’t dealing in logic, we’re dealing in empirical observations and measurements and math and physical constants. So what makes sense to you “logically” is irrelevant when it comes questions like how old is the earth or in what order was the fossil record laid down or did anything die more recently than 10,000 years ago. The answers to those questions aren’t simply a “narrative,” they are facts that can be verified. They are not conclusions of a logical argument that one reasons to. You get there with processes like counting and calculating.

Adam you do this all the time, but it’s just dumb. The Bible can be used for some things, but it isn’t a calculator or a computer or a microscope. It can’t be used to prove or disprove empirical data. It can’t be used to measure the age of the earth or examine the fossil record. The fact that Charles Darwin lost his faith and did not find in the Bible the answers to his questions about the meaning of life does not throw his empirical observations about natural history into question.