The first rule of dealing with argumentative atheists is to fact-check everything they say, because if it isn’t an outright lie, it’s a half-truth or a manipulation.
Take, for instance, the oft-repeated statistic that “93% of scientists are atheist.” This is a half-truth — more accurately a tenth-of-a-percent truth. The 93% number applies to the membership of the National Academy of Sciences, which represents only 0.1% of scientists in the U.S. It’s a very elite group of 2,200 members out of millions of scientists employed in the U.S., and is far from representative of the entire scientific community.
So, what’s the real number? According to a Pew survey of scientists in the U.S., the number is about 41% non-believers vs. 51% who believe in God or some other higher power (7% didn’t respond on the survey).
If you look at these survey results in detail, you notice some interesting things. For instance, younger scientists are more likely to be believers than older scientists. That’s why I laugh when atheists tell me the remaining 7% of NAS scientists will eventually become 0% as people become more enlightened by science. It’s nothing more than wishful thinking. The most unbelieving age group of scientists is 65 and older, and this is reflected in the NAS statistic. The NAS is comprised of very distinguished scientists, most of whom tend to be “old” for obvious reasons — it takes a long time to carry out the sort of work that gets you noticed by and elected to the Academy. If the nomination and election process is even somewhat fair, then we expect the % of NAS scientists who are atheist to go down, not up, as these more spiritual younger scientists mature and distinguish themselves in their careers.
Now that we know the truth, that fewer than half of all scientists in the U.S. are non-believers, we can ask questions. Forty-one percent non-believing is still rather high given that only 4% of the general U.S. population identifies that way, so what’s going on? Given the atheist propaganda that religion and science are at war with each other, you might be tempted to think it’s because of science. However, once you dig into the reasons for non-belief, it turns out to have less to do with science than you might think. Elaine Howard Ecklund, a professor of sociology at Rice University, interviewed several scientists at elite research universities to determine why they lacked belief in God. She details her findings in her book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think:
For some, not believing has everything to do with learning more about science. For others, science itself had little influence on their decision not to believe. In fact, for the majority of scientists I interviewed, it is not the engagement with science itself that leads them away from religion. Rather their reasons for unbelief mirror the circumstances in which other Americans find themselves: they were not raised in a religious home; they have had bad experiences with religion; they disapprove of God or see God as too changeable. For others, religion is simply irrelevant to their life’s passion of science.
She goes on to explore each of these reasons in more depth and provides anecdotes from her interviews with individual scientists. I found it particularly interesting that those who were raised in religious homes found that their parents and church mentors were unable to answer their questions about religion. This response leads me to believe that many of them are open to believing in God, but these naturally very curious people are not getting satisfactory answers to big questions. (Fellow Christians, do you see an opportunity here?)
Here’s what you should take away from all this. Never, ever, ever take anything an argumentative atheist tells you at face value. That goes doubly for atheists on social media; they are bored, frustrated, socially-atypical people who live to stir things up with Christians. They are almost always lying, bending, twisting, or otherwise manipulating the facts. Always check for yourself, and let the truth set you free.