As he asked the question, I could tell he felt both angry and confused. My heart went out to him. He was afraid there wouldn’t be an answer or that he was wrong to ask.
“You know, Harry, I’ve heard that question before.”
His expression melted into hopeful curiosity. “You have?”
He came and sat next to me. I was volunteering that week for Mother’s Day Out and was on playground duty. Sitting in the church’s shady play area felt good. We’d lunched outside, read under the trees, and collected rocks, sticks, and leaves to construct a Jesus house. Now the girls sat in groups on the grass and talked while the boys played chase.
“Oh, yes,” I began. “There are people–some of them very brilliant and important–who teach that believing in God is like believing in ghosts or fairies. But some of them aren’t being honest and some haven’t thought about it long enough. Others are just saying what they heard someone else say and really don’t know if that’s true.”
Harry nodded. “Oliver’s daddy is a science teacher and Oliver said his daddy said that Sunday School is just superstition.” He crossed his arms and sighed.
“So, do you think Oliver thinks you’re silly for going to church?”
Harry looked at his feet, now bouncing as if running in the air. “I don’t know. But that’s what he said when I invited him to come to church and go home with me after.”
“Oh, I see,” I said. “I’d feel really disappointed if my friend said that to me.”
“Yeah,” he responded.
“Well, what Oliver’s daddy may not know is that over half the scientists in the world believe in God.1 Would you like for me to show you a list?” I offered as I picked up my phone.
“Yeah, show me, Nannygranne!” Leaning over my phone, he watched the screen.
I searched Wikipedia for “List of Christians in Science and Technology.”2 As I scrolled down page after page, Harry’s jaw dropped. Then, so like a boy, he stood up, shook convulsively, feigned unconsciousness, and fell dramatically to the ground.
“Hey! You haven’t seen them all yet,” I laughed, poking the phone into his face, then tickling him.
He rolled out of my reach, laughing.
“I think I know why Oliver’s dad didn’t know about this. There were a couple of science clubs that took a vote to see who believed in God. There were 239 in one who said ‘no’ and 20 who said ‘yes.’ But half the club members didn’t even vote.3 Then they told everyone that most scientists don’t believe in God. But the number who said ‘no’ weren’t ‘most scientists’ in the world.”
“Yeah. That’s not everyone!” He sat in the cool grass at my feet, thinking. Then he tilted his head. “Why do some scientists not believe in God?”
“I can’t read their minds or see into their hearts. Only God can do that. But I think some of them haven’t tried to figure it out because they don’t want God to be their boss. There will always be folks like that. But God still wants them to become His friends, too. And you and I can believe in God because of what we know is true. We don’t have to feel ashamed when someone disagrees with us.”
I added, “Maybe when you grow up, you can help other people see that God made everything amazing and fascinating and interesting to see.”
“Nah. I think I’ll be a fireman. But I’ll tell Oliver to come look at your list. Is that okay?”
“I don’t mind. Be kind though and just tell him I showed you something cool. All right?”
As he ran off, I hoped he’d heard my caution.
Again, I was amazed by the willingness of intelligent people to say something is true without confirmation, when a quick Wikipedia search could reveal the truth. I prayed for Oliver’s family that this might be a window of light that could reveal a crack in their unbelief. And they could peer through that crack and see God looking back at them.
- Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, “Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith,” NATURE 386 (Apr 3, 1997):435-36
3 “93% of Scientists are atheist or agnostic.” Scientific Journal NATURE, Jul 23, 1998. (Note: The latest survey involved 517 members of the National Academy of Sciences, but only half replied.)