Why some great scientists became atheist?


Why some great scientists like Hawking and Einstein became atheist?

Bad philosophy and pride.

It seems to me, they both have never been particularly religious.

Because scientist study the natural world. God is supernatural and cannot be found in the natural world so some scientist conclude he does not exist.

According to the Magisterium:

“…Though We speak firmly and clearly in defense of religion, and of those human, spiritual values which it proclaims and cherishes, Our pastoral solicitude nevertheless prompts Us to probe into the mind of the modern atheist, in an effort to understand the reasons for his mental turmoil and his denial of God. They are obviously many and complex, and we must come to a prudent decision about them, and answer them effectively. They sometimes spring from the demand for a more profound and purer presentation of religious truth, and an objection to forms of language and worship which somehow fall short of the ideal. These things we must remedy. We must do all we can to purify them and make them express more adequately the sacred reality of which they are the signs. We see these men serving a demanding and often a noble cause, fired with enthusiasm and idealism, dreaming of justice and progress and striving for a social order which they conceive of as the ultimate of perfection, and all but divine. This, for them, is the Absolute and the Necessary. It proves that nothing can tear from their hearts their yearning for God, the first and final cause of all things. It is the task of our teaching Office to reveal to them, with patience and wisdom, that all these things are immanent in human nature and transcend it. Again we see these men taking pains to work out scientific explanation of the universe by human reasoning, and they are often quite ingenuously enthusiastic about this. It is an enquiry which is all the less reprehensible in that it follows rules of logic very similar to those which are taught in the best schools of philosophy. Such an enquiry, far from providing them, as they suppose, with irrefutable arguments in defense of their atheism, must of its very nature bring them back finally to the metaphysic al and logical assertion of the existence of the supreme God…They are sometimes men of great breadth of mind, impatient with the mediocrity and self-seeking which infects so much of modern society. They are quick to make use of sentiments and expressions found in our Gospel, referring to the brotherhood of man, mutual aid, and human compassion. Shall we not one day be able to lead them back to the Christian sources of these moral values?… We do not therefore give up hope of the eventual possibility of a dialogue between these men and the Church…”


I would say that it has a lot to do with the unfortunate shift of the universities. It used to be that Christian universities was the place where you got the best education, but Protestantism and some of the branches started to become piously ignorant by choice out of fear of knowledge clouding faith, so that made a mockery of religion in the field of acedemia. So now you see the pressure placed on those who go into the field of science that gives the impression to young minds that you cant be smart and religious at the same time, which is ridiculous. Even among Christian universities you have seen the shift to higher criticism and the mockery of religious tradition.

They most likely never had a deep religious faith before they became atheist.
Being an atheist isn’t necessarily a complete denial in the existence of God, for some its a rejection of faith due to lack of conviction, or absence of deeper study perhaps, for others its a choice they’ve made through indifference and lack of interest.

Einstein was a complex individual.
This is an interesting observation about him. strangenotions.com/einstein-god/

I hadn’t seen that before. Thanks for that link on your post.

Hawking said philosophy is dead. He has repeatedly said philosophy is of no value. That itself is a philisophical claim. Hawking may be a good physicist, but his lack of understanding outside that expertise is appalling. I wouldn’t consider him a particularly smart man.

I agree with you here. Very arrogant to say something like that.:shrug:

I think Einstein was agnostic.

I trust he’s Catholic now. :wink:

All of the popular “atheist” scientists (Dawkins, Hitchens, Krauss, et all) seem to be hopelessly ignorant of philosophy in general and theology in particular. To hear some of the things that comes out of their mouths truly supports the point of view that they are not particularly “smart.”

I don’t believe Hitchens was a scientist (you mean Christopher Hitchens, right?) He was a journalist and literary critic.

Dawkins has also not struck me as a particularly brilliant scientist. He is much more famous for his pop-science works, and his public-atheist persona.

When I was atheist, I was convinced that the bible was a bunch of fairy tales. That might be how most atheists in general think.

Ironically, Hitchens’ brother is religious.

Great scientists like Fr. Georges Lemaitre?

Yes you are correct. Hitchens, though, still lacked the fundamental basics to be able to at least intelligently discuss the subject.

There are people who are very spiritual and there are people who are more, how shall I say this, materialistic. There are also people who are sceptical by nature.

It’s not that scientists become atheists, it’s that people who have the personality type generally associated with atheists become scientists.

I think the combination of two points made by others already in this thread probably explains why agnosticism and/or atheism are more common among noted scientists than among the general public. The exceptions - noted religious scientists, or at least noted scientists who truly respect religion - are those who share with all scientists a scientific approach to asking questions about the natural world, but also have enough facility in philosophy (or enough humility to recognize they don’t) to realize that the scientific approach alone is insufficient to handle some of the worthwhile questions in life.

The Vatican observatory has some great examples of noted religious scientists:


I think you are right about personality types, my problem with scientists being atheistic is that they seem to have ruled out even the possibility of God. Why? They would have to know everything in order to rule out God absolutely and I think even they would admit that this is not the case. So where is this inquisitive nature when it comes to the possibility of God?:hmmm:

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