Faith and Science

by John Green on September 23, 2008

(I wrote this post for YA for Obama and am crossposting it here.)

I don’t talk about it very often, but I’m a religious person. In fact, before I became a writer, I wanted to be a minister. There is a certain branch of Christianity that has so effectively hijacked the word “Christian” that I feel uncomfortable sometimes using it to describe myself. But I am a Christian.

So I’m going to write this blog post as a Christian. I’m not going to write (yet) about the time I met Senator Obama. I’m not going to write (yet) about how Obama’s economic plan offers our country the best opportunity to avoid what will be a long and painful period of economic stagnation no matter who becomes President. But I want to explain three reasons why I feel that I am called not only by my conscience and values but also by my faith to support Barack Obama.

First, there is the question of loving thy neighbor as yourself, which Jesus states clearly and irrevocably is the second most important law for his followers, behind only the love of God. Our healthcare system is profoundly broken because we have failed to live up to this high calling–because most Americans have been willing to live in a nation where tens of millions go uninsured. For all the uninsured (my brother Hank and his wife were among them for many years), bankruptcy is an accident or a diagnosis away. Money they’ve saved to send their kids to college must instead pay for chemotherapy, and not because they made poor choices or failed to work hard, but because they own or work for small businesses, or because they’re unemployed, or because they’ve been sick before and so insurance companies refuse to cover them. (My father, a cancer survivor, couldn’t get health insurance for fifteen years after his recurrence of bladder cancer.)

Making health insurance available to all isn’t going to be easy, and it isn’t going to run smoothly, and it will require sacrifice by all Americans. But I would have happily made the sacrifices involved for my brother or for my father, and so as a Christian I must be willing to make them for all my neighbors. John McCain and Sarah Palin have already said they will not bring meaningful reform to our health care system. Barack Obama, with the support of the U.S. Congress, will.

Secondly, the world in which we live. Apocalypticism has always been a part of Christianity. Early Christians (and some argue Jesus himself) were convinced the world as we know it would not survive for more than a generation or two. For much of recent history, this has meant for many Christians that we don’t need to worry too much about what some Christians derisively call “the World.” Evangelical leaders (and Governor Sarah Palin) have said that man can’t possibly affect the climate, because God made it and humans could never destroy it. (To which I say: Um, okay, but didn’t God make the passenger pigeon?) We are unquestionably called by the Bible to stewardship of the land, and right now that means Americans must make drastic changes in the way we use energy and how we find it. Our failure not to have done this earlier owes to the tremendously powerful oil lobby and an administration that has always protected them over the long-term interests of Americans (and in doing so, has financed a tyrannical regime in Saudi Arabia that has long denied religious freedom or the freedom of expression to its citizens). Climate change is the greatest issue of our time, and if we fail to recognize it, we will be remembered by whatever people remain as the prideful gluttons who said to future generations, “Let them eat cake.”

Finally, science. Sarah Palin has repeatedly stated that she wishes to see creationism taught in our schools. I believe that every Christian (and indeed every American) should be opposed to this. What science has taught us does not invalidate religious faith, and to those evangelical Christians who believe otherwise, I would respectfully say that you are placing too much faith in the power of science. Not that science isn’t powerful: We now know, thanks to rational thought and the testing of hypotheses, that evolution was the driving force behind the breathtaking diversity of life in the world. And we know that the earth has existed far longer than we have. Science has given so much to the experience of being a creature on this planet. But it does not render our spiritual lives irrelevant.

The anti-intellecutalism that has become the hallmark of religious conservatism in contemporary Christianity (and many other religions) will only set us back–not only economically and politically but also spiritually. We must invest in science; we must teach our children the scientific method; we must share with them the myriad discoveries that the scientific method has brought us. And we must do all of these things in classrooms that are in the business of teaching children how to learn, and not in the business of teaching that faith in God is incompatible with the intellectual rigor and creative innovation that have been the glory of our nation’s past. Christianity loses in that bargain, and so, too, does America.

{ 118 comments… read them below or add one }

Simone July 16, 2015 at 1:54 pm

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed when I heard you were a christian. I personally think you must have a lack of brains to not believe in evolution (no offence). I love the fact that even though you’re religious, you love science and you don’t try to convert anyone. So thanks for being one of the few people I know that are religious yet not some douchebag.

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Melissa July 23, 2015 at 6:38 pm

First, it is good to see that you respect John regardless of his beliefs. I wanted to point out though that John never personally stated he didn’t believe in evolution. That was an assumption on your part. Plenty of Christians believe in evolution and God. I would challenge you to meet other Christians besides the decidedly anti-intellectual ones John speaks of. If not, then google it :) They are out there. I would also recommend you look up Georges Lemaitre. I think it may change the way you perceive Christianity and evolution a little bit.

The lack of brains comment was uncalled for although I get you were trying to explain how you feel about Christians in general. It is sad that you seem to have a bad experience in general but a little more digging and outreach will reveal that not everyone has a narrow minded view of the world.

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Waverly August 1, 2015 at 8:17 pm

He did not express a lack of belief in evolution. In fact, he expressed the opposite: A support of evolution and a rebuttal for why creationism should not be taught in schools. So I belived you’re incorrect in telling him “no offence.” Just because someone expresses a faith in Jesus Christ doesn’t mean they’re an misguided half-wit who dismisses evolution as a blasphemous suggestion on principle.

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Georgina July 26, 2015 at 9:03 pm

Okay. First off, I want to apologize, if not to you (because I doubt you’ve read my mind), to God (because otherwise my conscience would eat me alive), because I thought you were an atheist, John Green. Seriously. You have no idea how relieved I am now that I know one of my favorite authors believes in God, and is in fact Christian.
But what I really am still in doubt about is why oh why some of your characters lack that faith. Just recently I read An Abundance of Katherines, and Colin doesn´t believe in God, whereas his friend Hassan does.
Just…??
Anyway, I’m glad I’ve been enlightened on this aspect of your life, John Green.

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Tim July 31, 2015 at 4:13 pm

Why would you be relieved about the fact that he is christian? It’s not like believing in one religion makes you in any way better than people that believe in another religion. And it’s not like books written by atheists are not as good as books written by christians, or vice versa. I am an atheist, but I don’t feel in any way sad about John having other beliefs than I do (and I don’t understand why some do)

As for book characters, I think it’s ridiculous to say that religious writers can only create religious characters. I like how John keeps his books pretty neutral religiously, with Christian, Muslim, Atheist and Jewish characters (just like real life). If you think that all his characters should be religious because he is, I think you should consider that there are other people with different beliefs who also want to read his books and also want to feel represented.

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Jared August 15, 2015 at 2:34 am

Coming from a Christian view, you should be relieved when you find out someone is a Christian…but not because that makes people better than others. Christians believe in sharing the gospel to those who aren’t believers and they/we also believe in heaven & hell. Georgina also said that John was already a favorite author of theirs, so she wasn’t discriminatory against him even when she thought he was an atheist. However I don’t think that a Christian author has to or even should make every character in a piece of work a Christian, cause that’s not realistic at all, and even the Bible isn’t that way.

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Youmna July 28, 2015 at 5:06 pm

God is literally everything. Without him how could science ever excist? I’m Christian and i’m proud of it.

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Youmna July 28, 2015 at 5:09 pm

Oh and i forgot to mention that John Green is my al time favorite author. He inspires me. He should be an example to many people!

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Question from an ex-Christian August 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

I’m sure you have tons of emails every day, so I’ll be excited if you get the chance to respond to this.

I very much appreciate your worldview and perspective on Christianity. My question, as an ex-Christian, is…well…*why* Christianity?

I’m not asking you to prod into your beliefs. I’m asking, because I’ve met very, very few people who share the ideas that you have…*and* remain Christian. So any sort of answer helps me as an individual, spiritually.

I’m in a period of skepticism…agnosticism. I’ve read a LOT of books on the subject. I’ve talked to a LOT of people from various religious backgrounds…and I feel as if in a gridlock between what the majority of scholars have to say about Jesus, what respected philosophers have to say about theological topics…what respected psychologists and neuroscientists have to say about belief…what anthropologists and historians have to say about the evolution of religion…etc.

And I’m certain you have as well.

Just…why? Why believe in such an old myth? The idea baffles me…but makes me all the more curious.

Thanks so much for your time. – Sean.

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John G August 17, 2015 at 12:55 pm

Mr. Green,
First let me say that I am relieved that you are willing to speak about your faith at least this small bit, “let your light shine before all men” and all. Being that the light within you is Christ, putting it behind a bushel so as to try and not “turn off” any readers is probably only going to stifle His work through you. Now, about your support for Obama. You have given us personal anecdotes (your father) that have lead you to think that we all want someone to pay huge expenses for us and therefore should “do unto others” in the same way. It is highly debatable that using the government -perhaps the most broken system in existence- to accomplish such a thing is indeed a motion of love or of torture. HSAs would be a better option in my opinion, but I believe the Church has a huge responsibility to take care of the sick and needy. The Church is deserving of much criticism for not having done so, but the government is NOT a good solution. Plus, you have thrown your support and trust to a person who has repeatedly lied (Obamacare will reduce the deficit?srsly?) and who has very clear stances on the most vulnerable among us, our unborn and newly born. You are aware that he voted against having doctors work to save viable babies that survived abortion, right? But this issue doesn’t hit close to home, perhaps you don’t have a personal anecdote related to the murder of unborn babies.
Finally, I hope by now you can see that his foreign policy has made things worse for many Christians in foreign lands. Corruption seems to thrive in the government under his leadership, the IRS and DOJ being two glaring examples. American Christians in the military and outside of the military have seen their beliefs and avenues of expression thereof systematically extinguished.
Your post reads like an apology for the evils of Christianity, echoing the apology of Mr. Obama for the evils of America. Bringing up creationism as to why you want to support Obama is a non-sequitur. It seems you’re just pulling out straw men because you know it is what “the world” believes, and you feel some need to explain that “hey I’m not one of THOSE guys!! Honest!” I’m not sure what Christian thinkers you follow or if you even have any Christian Literary mentors, but I acknowledge you can either be a direct and outspoken writer like C.S. Lewis, or a more subtle one like Tolkien, who injected truth at the foundation of the narrative.

All this to say, I hope you have thought better of your decision to support these liberal progressive platforms. They won’t treat you any differently because you think global warming is a huge threat in spite of God’s sovereignty. By now it should be clear that you cast your pearls to swine.

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Ty August 19, 2015 at 2:40 am

Hello,

I too am relieved that he did share his outlook on faith (Coming from a a Catholic). Though I will like to point out that Mr.Green isn’t quite liberally progressive as you may think he is. John is roughly described as independent. He’s voted for Republicans before, and has even described himself as one on his tumblr, though he only labels himself as one by name. Though I believe John, like many other Democratic voters fell into the trap of Obama’s outspoken policies, Twice. John simply votes using rational and logical thinking, whichever side appeals to him more. The problem with this however is that it is too easy to get deceived. I am not going to call him out for that simply because, I have no reason to. He doesn’t seem to be the kinda guy who is too radical or fanatical of the left.

As for religion, I suppose does seem like he’s apologetic, like he is regretting it in some form. But I cannot say I don’t respect it. It’s true, most Christians should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. Though I would have to disagree on opposing to teach Religion in school. Religion is sole cause of modern science, it’s birthed and has largely made our history. It has given us many scientific thinkers and theories. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe we should be teaching are kids to be fanatical and preach the entire book of Leviticus off of the top of their head and solely believe in it. But I do believe that teaching our children religion, in the right direction, of course. Can lead to not only a more scientific community, but also a more friendly and prosperous one. But hey, that’s just me.

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