Darwin’s atheism note to be auctioned
A private letter in which Charles Darwin confesses to not believing in the Bible or that Jesus was the son of God is set to sell for more than £50,000.
The naturalist and geologist was renowned for keeping his religious views to himself and very rarely discussed the existence of God. He avoided the subject for fear of offending friends and family.
But in a handwritten letter to a potential reader he shared his honest thoughts.
Francis McDermott, a barrister and committed Christian, wrote to Darwin on November 23, 1880, and asked:
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 promised not to publicise any response and Darwin wrote back to him the following day, saying:
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.
Darwin, who died two years later, is still regarded as the greatest naturalist of his age.
There were rumours he converted to Christianity on his deathbed but they were denied by his daughter.
McDermott kept his word and his no-nonsense letter from Darwin remained unknown to scholars for the next 100 years.
The letter will be sold by Bonhams at its History of Science and Technology auction on September 21 in New York.
It has been given a guide price of £45,000 – £60,000.