Brian from Kentucky asked the following:
Something came up in my small group the other day – If God makes so much sense to us, then why are there so many smart people that believe in something else? There are plenty of people out there that are way more educated and way smarter than any Christian I know that believe in another God or believe in no God at all.
Also, if we were born in another culture that believed in something else, do you think it would make just as much sense? Did we just get lucky to be born in the right culture with the right beliefs around us?
There are actually two distinct questions here so I am going to treat them in two different posts. First of all, thanks Brian for your questions.
The first question deals with the belief of intelligent people in regard to God. Brian, you are absolutely correct in your assessment that a number of intelligent people do not believe in any God, while others believe in a different god than this site professes. It is a common misconception though that intelligent people do not believe in God (or some god). Throughout history some of the wisest and most intelligent people have professed their belief in a God of creation. The bible tells us of the man Solomon and his legendary wisdom. Certainly Solomon believed in God. I will not focus on him to make this point since our knowledge of Solomon is primarily from the bible and we would in a sense be using the bible to support the bible.
Isaac Newton is regarded by many as one of the most intelligent people and most respected scientists to have lived. During his lifetime Newton wrote over one million words regarding theology. Indeed, he spent more time on theology than on science.
Another great man of science in history, Galileo Galilei, spent much of his life showing the harmony of the scripture and science. While his scientific views seemed to have gotten him into hot water with the church, as he held to a Copernican cosmology, while the church had for years based their belief on Aristotelian cosmology (with the earth at the center of all things), it was probably actually his sharp sarcasm that got him into more trouble than his beliefs. He never met a debate that he didn’t like and was quick to enter into argument where his intellect and knowledge, combined with his sharp wit would often humiliate his opponent.
Even well-known scientists of a more modern era, Einstein and Stephen Hawking have admitted that a creator God is the most plausible solution to the ultimate source of what we know – albeit Einstein admitted it begrudgingly, he admitted it none the less. Great minds of other disciplines besides science and math have expressed their belief in God throughout history as well.
The perception that intellectuals do not believe in God is due in part to the fact that some are extremely vociferous in their objections.
Dr. Henry F. Schaefer III, Grahan Perdue Professor of Chemistry and director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia has been nominated for the Nobel prize and was recently cited as the third most quoted chemist in the world. Dr. Schaefer states in regard to the resistance to the idea of a beginning of the universe and subsequently a belief that God is the author and origin of that beginning, “Why such resistance to the idea of a definite beginning of the universe? It goes right back to that first argument, the cosmological argument: (a) Everything that begins to exist must have a cause; (b) If the universe began to exist, then (c) the universe must have a cause. You can see the direction in which this argument is flowing–a direction of discomfort to some physicists.”
The direction Dr. Shaeffer refers to is the fact that if the universe has a cause, it must have a creator, and if it has a creator and a cause, people ought to be compelled to line up with that cause. For many, the idea of lining up with anything greater than themselves or their ideas is frightening at best.
This is supported by the Apostle Paul’s words in I Corinthians 1:18 thru 31. In this passage of scripture Paul states, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ ” Paul has quoted Isaiah 29:14 in the last half of those verses above. God predicted that those who are considered to be and who consider themselves to be wise would doubt His primary message, the gospel.
In verse 23 of the passage Paul writes, “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. Why would it be “foolishness to the Gentiles?” Man, by nature is an arrogant creature. At the risk of painting with too broad of a brush, those who consider themselves wise are often the most arrogant. It is utter foolishness to those who like to sit around and debate wisdom to consider that the answer to man’s problems is actually the act of self-humiliation by the creator, the very one who should embody wisdom. The arrogance of man often gets in the way of him finding the real answers. Paul, recognized this trait. Solomon also recognized it as he wrote in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
Thirdly, would man really want a God who is no smarter than he is? While we struggle in our arrogance to believe in Him, logic tells us that one who could and is charged with the creation and maintenance of the universe would need to be significantly wiser and smarter than any man. This is part of what Paul means when he states in verse 25, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength”
One cannot prove the existence of God, but logic leads one in that direction much more readily than it leads one to a void – which is what would be if God did not exist.
In my next post I will address the second part of Brian’s questions relating to people believing in other gods, especially other cultures.