Darwin's Deathbed

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From: "Positive Atheism"
Subject: Re: PA-via_Positive_Atheism_Index
Date: Thursday, June 08, 2000

Charles Darwin, or rather his profound and revolutionary scientific discovery, permeates several sections of our website. He became a skeptic, an atheistic agnostic, toward the end. He was a disbeliever in Christianity. His "Autobiography" contains some telling letters and conversations along these lines, written very late in life.

That he recanted Darwinism on his deathbed is so unlikely as to be laughable. There are no records of this, and all the rumors along these lines are from extremely suspect sources.

It is common for Christian apologists to claim a deathbed conversion -- so much so that Madalyn Murray-O'Hair wanted her death and burial site kept a secret so that nobody could get away with doing that to her. They cannot convert us through reason and truth, so they "convert" us by claiming that we went over to their side during the throes of death. Perhaps a few were influenced by what novelist Anthony Burgess described as the "vestigial fears" of hell, and perhaps some were weakened or rendered delusory during this most traumatic state, but what we should examine are the opinions of a man during his greatest moments of clarity -- not those thoughts when we can would expect someone to be weakened and perhaps even hallucinating.

So frequent is this Christian lie that George Foote compiled "Infidel Death Beds" to counter this widespread trend. Here is his writeup on Darwin:

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One conversion-lie that is well documented is the alleged deathbed conversion of Thomas Paine. We have Robert Green Ingersoll's brilliant writeup on this, "A Vindication of Thomas Paine," in our Historical Section under Ingersoll and under Paine. It begins: "Last June in San Francisco, I offered a thousand dollars in gold -- not as a wager, but as a gift -- to any one who would substantiate the absurd story that Thomas Paine died in agony and fear, frightened by the clanking chains of devils. I also offered the same amount to any minister who would prove that Voltaire did not pass away as serenely as the coming of the dawn." See "A Vindication of Thomas Paine" Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Another "deathbed conversion" lie is that concerning George Washington. More of this article appears on Internet Infidels. The most telling is the diary of Washington's secretary. I cannot find an eText version, but it appears in the appendix of Steiner's "Religious Beliefs of our Presidents" -- a book that is in print and available from Prometheus.

See also "Infidel Death Beds" by George Foote for a complete writeup on this trend.

Cliff Walker
"Positive Atheism" Magazine

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