RECORD: Darwin, C. R. 1883. [Letter to Doedes on Darwin's religious views, 1873]. Rutland Daily Herald [Rutland, Vermont] (23 February): 2.

REVISION HISTORY: Transcribed by John van Wyhe 1.2020. RN1

NOTE: Darwin's 2 April 1873 letter to Nicolaas Dirk Doedes was printed in many newspapers in different variants, many omitting the first sentences. The full letter is in The correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 21, p. 149. See also A1042.

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Darwin's Religion.

Karl Blind, in an article in the Vienna Neue Freie Presse, [F2530] notes a curious fact that the recent revelations regarding Darwin's religious opinions were only noticed by three or four of the English periodicals, and that even Nature suppressed Darwin's letter to a Jena student, which Haeckel had sent to the editor as part of one of his lectures. [F1998] In this letter, it will be remembered, Darwin had stated verbatim: "For myself, I do not believe that there has ever been any revelation;" and in a conversation with Dr. Ludwig Buchner, he said he was with him in thought, but preferred the word agnostic to atheist, and that he had given up Christianity because "it is not supported by evidence." Karl Blind adds to this testimony another item, in the form of a letter written by Darwin in 1878 to a Dutch gentleman, N. D. Doedes, of which we give the following translation from the German, as given in the Presse:

"I find it impossible to give a brief answer to your question. I do not know if I should be able to answer it if I should write a great deal about it. Thus much I can say, that the impossibility of understanding how this great and wonderful universe, besides our own consciousness, could have come into existence through chance seems to me to be our principal argument for the existence of a God; but whether this argument is of any value I have never been able to decide, for I know that, if we accept a highest cause, the mind again strives to know whence it came and how it arose. Moreover, I cannot pass over the difficulty which, on this assumption, arises from the vast amount of suffering prevalent in the world. I am, indeed, bid to attach a certain amount of weight to the judgment of the large number of intelligent men who have implicitly believed in God; but here again I see what an insufficient kind of proof this is. The safest conclusion seems to be that the whole subject lies beyond the range of human understanding; nevertheless, a man may do his duty."


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Citation: John van Wyhe, ed. 2002-. The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online. (

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