Famously known for his various works that eventually cast doubt on the literal interpretation of Biblical Creationism, is Charles Darwin a worthy enough icon for Atheism?
By: Ringo Bones
Ask your typical Joe Public at random about Charles Darwin and 9 out of 10 of them would respond “Darwinian Evolution”. Probably an equal numerical ratio would answer “Icon of Atheism” without a second thought. Given that almost all of us – even fans of “Darwinian Evolution” – tend not to know the biography of Charles Darwin, is it safe to ask whether Charles Darwin is a worthy enough icon for Atheism?
Atheism is often defined as a disbelief in the existence of a deity. Atheism is often seen as a more humane alternative to Organized Christianity - which is often used to persecute non-Christians and darker-skinned ethnic minorities for much of the last millennia. And the Organized Christianity justified persecution even managed to gain a renaissance during the Bush Administration of the start of the 21st Century. Given the “counter-renaissance” of Atheism in the post-Bush Administration era world in order to promulgate a more just and humane global society, should Atheist keep on promoting Charles Darwin as an icon for their cause?
Charles Darwin (1809-1882) gained the ire of Organized Christianity – or other religious groups with a vested interest in the literal interpretation of Biblical Creationism, including the concept of “The Mark of Cain” and “Children of Ham” – when he published The Origin of Species by Natural Selection, which is also known as The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.
Unbeknown to most of the readers of this particular work, Darwin revised The Origin of Species a number of times just to gain the approval of his wife, Emma Wedgwood, which was well known at the time as a devout and practicing Christian. Even though Charles Darwin’s wife, more or less, eventually found the concept of “evolution” plausible and congruent with Biblical scripture, The Origin of Species was considered by many Victorian era churchmen an affront to the Biblical portrayal of Creation. Given that Charles Darwin “massaged” The Origin of Species to make it more or less congruent with Biblical scripture and “spousal approval”, does this mean that Charles Darwin is not – I repeat not – a worthy icon for Atheism?
The concept of an “Atheist Darwin” was probably a product of seeing the past from the prism of our contemporary society. Charles Darwin fortunately (?) never witnessed the Scopes Monkey Trial, so he probably had never witnessed first hand the inevitable political clout his “Theory of Evolution” had eventually acquired. As time went on – and the more the extremist branches and sects Organized Christianity use Holy Scripture to justify their unjustly illogical prejudices and racism – the more Charles Darwin will be inexplicably linked with Atheism. From what I know about Charles Darwin, he could have been flattered to be labeled as an “Icon of Atheism”. But Atheist should have the burden of responsibility to explain why Charles Darwin deserves such a flattering title.