Being a Christian I have oft heard the story that Charles Darwin ‘repented’ of his theory of Evolution on his deathbed and converted to Christianity. Being a historian, I investigated this and have found to be an urban-myth-come-Christian-propaganda.
Basic googling exposes this as a lie made up by Elizabeth ‘Lady’ Hope, an evangelist who claimed that in Autumn 1881 (Darwin died in April 1882) she visited a bed-ridden Charles who was reading the book of Hebrews. She alleged that upon her speaking on the Genesis account of creation, he became distressed and asked her to return the following day to speak about Jesus to him and a room full of around 30 staff. It is at this time, that he supposedly gave his life to Christ.
It is probable that Lady Hope did visit Darwin in late September/early October 1881. His children who furiously deny this story were almost certainly absent, and therefore not witnesses to this tale.
However, historical investigation has shown several flaws with this account. Firstly, Darwin was not bedridden six months before his passing. Secondly, even if he was, the room he was in was far too small to accommodate 30 people. His wife Emma was present, and herself being a religious person why is it she never collaborated with this story? Why didn’t Darwin himself let his children or others know about his conversion? Why did Lady Hope wait until after his death before making her story known?
The urban myth still holds popularity today. It filters down and I hear many of my contemporary Christian friends speculate of this account, as it continues to snowball into supposed truth. Yet it is simply not true.
Being a Christian is not an excuse for being naive, or dismissing fact because it doesn’t fit in with our worldview. When our beliefs our challenged, we should investigate further. Likewise, to not believe in something, does not mean it isn’t true. And so, we should investigate the sources before we reject anything out of hand