Stop saying that Charles Darwin was converted on his deathbed

A letter is up for auction written by Charles Darwin in 1880 in which he says explicitly,

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.

Here’s the source.

While this letter confirms what we’ve long known about Charles Darwin, this won’t stop some preachers (too many) from repeating the too-good-to-be-true story of Charles Darwin’s supposed deathbed conversion which even Answers in Genesis believes to be spurious.

So how did this story begin circulating? Apparently within days of his death such stories were being repeated from pulpits and in personal conversation. I 1915, some lady known as “Lady Hope’ (real name: Elizabeth Reid Cotton) told the story of Darwin’s deathbed conversion during a devotional service at a conference in Massachusetts. His children maintained that Lady Hope had not even seen their father during his illness and that his views on religion remained unchanged until his death.

The rumor persisted for years, however, because Darwin’s wife, who was always concerned about the status of her husband’s soul, along with one of their sons, edited his autobiography before publication and deleted all the statements dealing with religion. It was not until 1958 that his unedited biography was published and his views becomes more widely known.

This hasn’t stopped the story of Darwin’s supposed deathbed conversion from being repeated over and over again in shameless attempts to win conversions from the listener or to win points in discussions with non-believers. It’s time to finally put it to rest. Repeating it now just makes you look either stupid or dishonest (or both).

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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