In the summer and fall of 1873, George John Romanes lost his belief in God. Of itself, this was nothing unusual. For a young Englishman of the time—particularly one embarking on a career in the sciences—to abandon the faith of his fathers was, if not a universal rite of passage, at least a common trajectory, a well-beaten path traveled by distinguished Victorian intellectuals like Matthew Arnold, W. K. Clifford, Thomas Huxley, John Tyndall, and above all Charles Darwin. And yet Romanes’s case is distinctive both for the care he took to explain the reasons for his loss of faith and for his candid admission of what it cost him to follow, to the best of his ability, wherever the argument seemed to lead.
In the end, it led him where he never expected to arrive.
Truth can never possibly run Men into any real Absurdities in the Defence of it; nor can God oblige us to receive any Point of Doctrine, to the utter overthrowing of that Reason he has given us, to guide ourselves by; tho’ he may oblige us to receive that, which our Reason cannot solve all the Difficulties of.
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