The following pair of definitions have [sic] proven to be useful in distinguishing between High Church atheists and the agnostic.
AGNOSTIC: I don’t believe there is a God. Because I haven’t seen the evidence.
ATHEIST: There is no God. Because I’m an asshole.
(Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 17)
While I do not typically employ the above verbiage, my experiences with atheists prove Day’s “definitions” to be spot-on. With precious few exceptions, today’s non-theists are among the most vicious, mean-spirited, and militant people on earth.
Thus, you may imagine my surprise upon reading Charles Darwin’s, “The Descent of Man.” Darwin is a breath of fresh air! None of the atheistic antipathy, none of the raging vitriol, none of the condescension so prevalent in contemporary anti-theists is to be found within its pages.
In fact one finds quite the opposite of such things. Darwin speaks rather highly of religion in “The Descent of Man.”
The ennobling belief in God is not universal with man . . . The moral sense perhaps affords the best and highest distinction between man and the lower animals . . . the social instincts the prime principle of man’s moral constitution—with the aid of active intellectual powers and the effects of habit, naturally lead to the golden rule, ‘As ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them likewise’; and this lies at the foundation of morality (p. 319).
When is the last time you read or heard a “new atheist” write or say such things concerning belief in God and morality, as expressed by Christ? (Yeah…that’s what I thought.)
He further offers,
To do good unto others—to do unto others as ye would they should do unto you—is the foundation-stone of morality (p. 322).
The foundation-stone of morality? Amazing! (Darwin praises such morality, but do not suppose that the morality he here praises is the morality of evolution. It isn’t. I will demonstrate this in the near future.)
But can you remember a current non-theist speaking so glowingly of Christian morality? No? Neither can I.
The highest form of religion—the grand idea of God hating sin and loving righteousness—was unknown during the primeval times (p. 329).
Yet again, Darwin proves to be superior to his progeny. He clearly understands that not all religions are the same, nor does he denigrate “God hating sin and loving righteousness” as a “Bronze Age superstition” (as many sophistic atheists banally parrot).
Certainly, I am disagreed with Darwin concerning how and from where this “highest form of religion” comes to be; yet he respectfully treats the subject. He writes,
With the more civilised [sic] races, the conviction of the existence of an all-seeing Deity has had a potent influence on the advance of morality. . . . The belief in God has often been advanced as not only the greatest, but the most complete of all the distinctions between man and the lower animals. . . . The idea of a universal and beneficent Creator does not seem to arise in the mind of man, until he has been elevated by long-continued culture (p. 593).
Was Charles Darwin an atheist? Carefully consider the following:
He who is not content to look, like a savage, at the phenomena of nature as disconnected, cannot any longer believe that man is the work of a separate act of creation (p. 590).
Notice, he doesn’t say man is uncreated. He says man is not the work of a “separate act of creation.” That is, Darwin does not deny an initial creative act. He does not rule out, if you will, a First Cause. I would go so far as to say that he actually suggests the opposite.
There is no evidence that man was aboriginally endowed with the ennobling belief in the existence of an Omnipotent God. . . . The question is of course wholly distinct from that higher one, whether there exists a Creator and Ruler of the universe; and this has been answered in the affirmative by some of the highest intellects that have ever existed (p. 302, emphasis mine).
One rarely, if ever, hears such sentiments from today’s obnoxious atheists.
After reading “The Descent of Man” I was gratified to discover that an expert on Charles Darwin agrees with my assessment of him.
Given the paucity of evidence, and the ambiguity of the statements that do remain, we will probably never be able to completely refine our definition or understanding of Darwin’s religious views. But that is not to say that there are some things that cannot be known. One point is abundantly clear, all the surviving evidence contradicts the assertion that Darwin was an atheist, (John van Wyhe, Senior Lecturer at the National University of Singapore, publisher of four books on Darwin, and founder and director of Darwin Online).
I once had naturalistic evolutionist take offense at my labeling of his tribe: Darwinists. He disliked the moniker despite my using it in a non-pejorative manner. It seems he believed the term “Darwinist” to be inaccurate and beneath today’s atheistic evolutionists.
Having now read Darwin, I understand that the offended man is exactly half right. Today’s non-theistic evolutionists cannot be accurately described as “Darwinists.” But the reason they should not be called such is because “Darwinist” is much too lofty a title. It is above them, not beneath them.
Today’s naturalistic evolutionist is the product of devolution, displaying an alarming degree of mental and emotional reversion. Perhaps they are a sub-species of yesterday’s Darwinists. Then again, it seems probable, from what may be observed, that they may indeed be classified as a different species altogether.
But they’re not Darwinists. That’s for sure.
Charles Darwin, “The Descent of Man,” Great Books of the Western World, vol. 49 (Chicago, London, Toronto: William Benton, 1952)