Of far greater significance was the study of the geological conditions of the places we visited, because this is where judgment and inference were brought to bear.
Did you have doubts about the content of truth in the Holy Scriptures even while you were on the Beagle?
On board the Beagle I was completely orthodox, and I recall how several officers laughed at heartily when I quoted the Bible as an irrefutable source on some point of morality. But during the period from 1836 to 1839, I had slowly come to understand that the Old Testament, with its evidently wrong history of the world, its Tower of Babel, its rainbow as a sign, and tendency of ascribing to God the sentiments of a revengeful tyrant, were no more worthy of credence than the holy scriptures of the Hindus or the beliefs of a savage. Despite all my powers of deluding myself, it became more and more difficult to find proof enough to satisfy me.
And that is how faithlessness stalked me and took hold over me slowly, till I became totally disbelieving.
So you are an atheist?
I think it would be more and more appropriate to call me an agnostic, in general and as age advances.
Do you see your lack of faith as a loss, then?
Disbelief crept in on me so slowly that I did not feel any discomfort, and since then, never have a doubted for even a single second the correctness of my conclusions. And I cannot really understand, either, how anyone might want to believe that Christianity were true, because if it were, then, in the plain terms of the text, it is said that people who do not believe would be punished for eternity, and that would include my father, my brother and almost all my best friends. And that is a terrible doctrine!
The questions in this fictitious interview were posed by Christoph Marty. The answers are original quotes from Charles Darwin from a variety of sources, including The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online, who died in 1882.