Darwin’s Unbelief is News?

Over the years I’ve read a variety of things about Charles Darwin’s faith and his so called struggle with it, as if he was truly ambivalent about it. The deeper he got into his theory of evolution, the story goes, the more his faith gave way to doubt and eventually to nothing. A short letter by Darwin was sold at auction affirming he in fact did not believe in the Bible or in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and I guess for some this was news.

[T]his is only news if we have accepted the usual stories—indeed, myths—about Darwin’s alleged struggle between faith and doubt. The usual story we’ve been fed is that he was a faithful Bible-believing Anglican until he discovered incontrovertible evidence for evolution on his 1831-1836 journey on the HMS Beagle (mythical option 1), or until spiritually broken by the death of his beloved daughter Anne (mythical option 2).

The truth is that Darwin’s unbelief was a family inheritance, as was his adherence to a godless account of evolution, reaching back through his father, Robert, to his grandfather, Erasmus. Charles could have written that letter long before he ever set foot on the Beagle.