Charles Darwin, quote
[Charles Darwin, quote]
Charles Darwin, existence of God, quote

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Charles Darwin autobiography

faith and reason quote about God

  It would be very presumptious to write about such a deeply personal thing as anyone's attitudes to religion without being very sure of your ground. We have particular reason to regard the words of Charles Darwin himself about his approach to faith and the Bible as contained in his Autobiography (1876) as being authoritative as not only does it contain a sub-section specifically entitled "Religious Beliefs" but also he himself seems to have taken its preparation very seriously.

  This first quote is actually the opening paragraph and shows something of his frame of mind at the time:-

  A German editor having written to me to ask for an account of the development of my mind and character with some sketch of my autobiography, I have thought that the attempt would amuse me, and might possibly interest my children or their children. I know that it would have interested me greatly to have read even so short and dull a sketch of the mind of my grandfather written by himself, and what he thought and did and how he worked. I have attempted to write the following account of myself, as if I were a dead man in another world looking back at my own life. Nor I have I found that difficult, for life is nearly over with me. I have taken no pains about my style of writing.

  The first worthwhile quotation about religious beliefs occurs at the stage of life where he has given up attempting to qualify in medicine and where his father has suggested that he train for the church:-

  ...I asked for some time to consider, as from what little I had heard and thought on the subject I had scruples about declaring my belief in all the dogmas of the Church of England; though otherwise I liked the thought of becoming a country clergyman. Accordingly I read with great care Pearson on the Creeds and a few other books on divinity; and as I did not then in the least doubt the strict and literal truth of every word in the Bible, I soon persuaded myself that our Creed must be fully accepted....

  Darwin duly proceeded to Christ's College Cambridge where he was to take a degree preparatory to Ordination as a minister of religion. He did indeed qualify with a degree but he was never Ordained. Although his direction towards entering the church was never formally abandoned the fact of his being offered, and accepting just after graduation, a place on HMS Beagle during a protracted scientific voyage placed his feet on an alternative path in life.

  Our remaining quotations from the autobiography come from a section that actually bears the sub-heading religious belief.

  ....During these two years (March 1837 - January 1839) I was led to think much about religion. Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox, and I remember being heartily laughed at by several officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality. I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come by this time (i.e. 1836 to 1839) to see the Old Testament, from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rain-bow as a sign, &c., &c., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian....
  ....Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother, and almost all my best friends, will be everlastingly punished.
  And this is a damnable doctrine....

  He then mentions that he did give some thought to the existence of a personal God at a considerably later period in his life. The fact that evolutionary adaptions could account for life forms is gone into. Then there is mention of the existence of appalling suffering in the world and that we are asked to show faith in an omnipotent and omniscient God of whom, in Darwin's words...

  it revolts our understanding that his benevolence is not unbounded.

  But to return again to a directly faith related quote from the autobiography of Charles Darwin:-

  At present the most usual argument for the existence of an intelligent God is drawn from deep inward conviction and feelings which are experienced by most persons. But it cannot be doubted that Hindoos, Mahomedans and others might argue in the same manner and with equal force in favour of the existence of one God, or of many Gods, or as with the Buddhists of no God...
  ....This argument would be a valid one, if all men of all races had the same inward conviction of the existence of one God; but we know this is very far from being the case. Therefore I cannot see that such inward convictions and feelings are of any weight as evidence of what really exists....

  It happens that in our own times sympathetic translations of texts drawn from several World Religions are widely available. Many persons have come to see that there is a "Perennial Philosophy" of agreement that lies at the heart of several World Faiths. The term "Perennial Philosophy" is attributed to Leibniz and was used by Aldous Huxley (himself actually a grandson of "Darwin's Bulldog" Thomas Henry Huxley!!!) as the title of his own celebrated work that deeply explores the Mysticism common to several world religions.

  On several pages of this Web site you can find a multitude of world faiths quotations that illustrate aspects of Spirituality e.g. Charity, Meekness, that the most prominent world religions hold in common!!!

Introductory quotations
Charles Darwin biography
Charles Darwin
quote about God
Thomas Henry Huxley
Spirituality & the wider world



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Charles Darwin autobiography
quote about God