Is it reasonable to believe in God? Many scientists, including the late Stephen Jay Gould, think so.
“Either half my colleagues are enormously stupid, or else the science of Darwinism is fully compatible with conventional religious beliefs-and equally compatible with atheism.”
- Stephen Jay Gould, atheist and evolutionary biologist.
However, despite Gould’s moderate and reasonable tone, the more militant members of the atheist community prefer to assert that, yes, believers are enormously stupid.
To New Atheists the answer is obvious. There is no evidence for God, therefore belief in God is irrational. God is a fairy tale, and smart people don’t believe in fairy tales. So of course believers are stupid. This is the theme one constantly encounters when reading their literature or perusing their blogs and websites. They delight in holding up for ridicule and public scorn the image of the stupid Christian.
Fortunately the real answers are not so simple and much more interesting. What escapes the notice of the New Atheists as they repeatedly shout their tiresome mantra, is – ironically – the absence of evidence for their position. And the rich irony here seems to have wholly escaped them.
Plenty of smart people, including scientists, believe in God. And many of the greatest scientific minds in history were believers and had no problem reconciling faith with science. Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Asa Gray and Newton come readily to mind. And more recently Francis Collins, leader of the human genome project, Alister McGrath and John Lennox, to name a few. This simple fact alone is enough to sink the argument that smart people don’t believe in God.
It’s beyond the scope of today’s blog to discuss the evidence for God. Stay tuned for future blogs on that theme, but in the meantime I would invite the reader to the following books which discuss the evidence in great detail: Gunning for God by John Lennox, The Language of God by Francis Collins, The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, Reasonable Faith by William Craig.
Collins is a top notch scientist who headed up the Human Genome Project. He was also an atheist who came to faith in God as a result of his research into human DNA. You might also want to check out Just Six Numbers by Martin Rees. Rees is a scientist who does a masterful job describing the incredible mathematical precision necessary behind the universe. He is also an atheist and concludes that we just got lucky. But a person could also just as reasonably (it could be argued more reasonably) conclude that deliberate design rather than blind luck is much more likely.
But the point is – it’s possible to be rational and an atheist, just as it is possible to be rational and a Christian. The tiresome refrain we often hear from militant atheists that there is no evidence for God and therefore believers are dangerously irrational is in itself an irrational and silly argument. They are simply uninformed and out of step with the evidence – historical as well as scientific.
The existence of God is a perfectly rational explanation for the amazing fine tuning of the universe and the incredible precision of the big bang. Therefore it is rational to believe in God. Faith can be reasonable and thoughtfully entered into. Sensible atheists recognize this, and there is no reason for anyone to feel threatened by the position the other camp takes. I think we should be able to talk about our different beliefs without thinking the other stupid. That’s the mark of a reasonable person.
It’s time for militant atheists to take note and admit this as well. But I’m not holding my breath. The mindset of militant atheism we see among the New Atheists is eerily similar to intolerant fundamentalism.
But more on that in a future posting…