Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
In Defense of Atheism | Righting America

by Sarah Olson

Sarah Olson is an undergraduate student majoring in microbiology at Oregon State University, and a member of the National Association of Science Writers. She works at a bookstore curating their science and math sections and reviews popular science books on her blog readmorescience.com. In addition to pursuing a career in science writing, Sarah frequently writes about the intersection of religion, feminism, and science. She currently lives in Corvallis, Oregon with her fiance. You can connect with her at saraholson.net and on Twitter and Instagram at @ReadMoreScience.

Picture of a red dragon with a large wings and spiked tail and horned head.
“Dragon” via Pixabay, licensed under CC0

Dr. Schmidt, thank you for your thoughtful response, and for participating in this discussion. I would like to close by noting that I don’t believe in science as a faith, nor do I think atheists have turned it into something metaphysical, a substitute for their lack of religion. It’s interesting to me that Christians use the argument of scientism to compare science to religion or spirituality as a means to invalidate it. Doesn’t this simply cast doubt on religion itself instead? As an atheist, I choose not to believe in a God or the legitimacy of the Bible until I have valid, reasonable evidence indicating they are true. I guarantee that atheist scientists, presented with adequate evidence for God, would be among the first to accept the idea. But would Christians be willing to deny the faith they cling to so adamantly if they were presented with scientific evidence that a different divine being, a being other than the God of Abraham, existed – say, a goddess, or Gaia? I would love to believe in something, given the evidence to justify it. But I’d hazard to say that many, if not most Christians would scoff at evidence contradictory to their beliefs.

Finally, I don’t accept the notion that science is incapable of explaining why anything exists. Science and technology in their present form may be advanced, but they are still young, and the possibilities of future discoveries are still tantalizing, especially for those of us in biology. Scientists are just as fascinated with the why’s as well as the how’s, they just don’t deign to assert the “why” without adequate support for their claims. Science may be a descriptive tool, but I believe this makes it an explanatory one as well. And Christianity, unfortunately, offers far less in terms of describing and explaining. If I come across as materialistic by saying this, it is only because I am grounded in our wondrous physical reality. I am too preoccupied with it to lose my head over the possibility of invisible dragons in the garage.