“Most scientists are atheists!” A reply.


Whereas studies have suggested that disbelief among scientists is higher than that of the general population there is still a large portion of scientists who believe in God, or in some form of transcendent being. One atheist scientist, Lawrence Krauss, conceded that “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God. We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it” (1). In one study in 1969 the Carnegie Commission National Survey of Higher Education: Faculty Study data suggested that approximately 35% of scientists did not believe in the existence of God.

In another major study Elaine Ecklund and Christopher Scheitle questioned 2198 faculty members from a variety of academic disciples – these included that of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology from 21 elite American research universities (2). Overall, 75% of professors contacted by the pair of researchers completed the survey, and it was found that among the different disciplines, disbelief in the existence of God was not correlated with any particular area of expertise. The study suggested the following (the percentages represent atheist numbers):

  • Physics: 40.8%
  • Chemistry: 26.6%
  • Biology: 41%

Total = 37.6%

  • Sociology: 34%
  • Economics: 31.7%
  • Political science: 27%
  • Psychology: 33%

Total = 31.2%

This figures suggest that no particular field is associated with disbelief in God’s existence. However, there are several other factors that do play a role in disbelief, for example, the study found that those scientists who were immigrants disbelieved in God to a greater degree than those who were born and raised in America. The study also found that scientists come disproportionately from non-religious or religiously liberal backgrounds compared to the general population – that suggests that at least some part of the difference in religiosity between scientists and the general population is probably due to religious upbringing rather than scientific training or institutional pressure to be irreligious. In another study conducted by the Pew Research Center we find:

  • 33% of scientists believe in a personal God.
  • 18% believe in a higher power.
  • 41% don’t believe in God or a higher power.
  • 7% don’t know.

This would suggest that 51% of scientists believe in some form of a divine being or higher power whereas 41% do not, which would indicate that atheists do not command the majority of scientists. For the atheist to suggest otherwise it would come over, to the religious believer, as somewhat dishonest. Historian Jeffrey Russell concludes:

“If it were true that Christianity and science were incompatible, there would be no Christians who were respected scientists. If fact, about forty percent of professional natural scientists are practicing Christians, and many others are theists of other kinds” (3).


1. Lawrence Krauss quoted by George Johnson in A Free-for-All on Science and Religion (2006). Available.

2. Ecklund, E. 2007. Religion among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics. Available.

2. Jeffrey Russell quoted by Quotes Codex. Available.



19 responses to ““Most scientists are atheists!” A reply.

  1. I made a research about the origin of that Ravi Zacharias quote and I couldn’t find that supposed atheist who said it. I can’t trust it, could be fabricated. I agree with everything else though.

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  3. Pretty much all biologists and cosmologists are atheists. These branches of science are incompatible with belief in the Bible or Koran.

      • Well name ’em and claim ’em then. What? Hugh Ross and that Jonathan Wells guy who Reverend Moon sent to school so he could refute the subject of biology?

        • Off the top of my head:
          Cosmology: Sandage, Ellis, Eddington (who was actually against the Big Bang!), Lemaitre, Page, Carr, Holder, Bussey, Abdus Salam (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1979), Wheeler, etc.

          Biology: Miller, Fisher, Ayala, Dobzhansky, Mendel, Gray, Collins, Schloss, Lamoureux, Peacocke, Alexander, etc.

          Modern cosmology and biology are incompatible with a strictly literalistic interpretation of the Bible. They are very compatible with reading the Bible in the context of the times.

          • Oh yeah reading the Bible in a context it wasn’t written in makes a lot of sense. AFTER the Big Bang was discovered THEN the Christians tell us the Bible predicted it. The same with every other scientific discovery even including evolution. AFTER we find out about something the Christers tell us about how it was all in the Bible all the time. It isn’t and it wasn’t.

            • The Bible does not contain scientific truths. It is phrased so that the people of the time could understand it. You didn’t really address what I pointed out, however. You stated that “pretty much all cosmologists and biologists are atheists.” I named several cosmologists and biologists who were not, and I actually left several out. I will point out, however, that several Christian scientists (Eddington, McShea, and several others) strongly disliked the Big Bang, and Eddington called it “philosophically unacceptable.”

              The idea of the Bible as a science book is a fairly modern idea. That idea did not stem from the writers or the culture of the time. That idea actually post-dates the Enlightenment. Newton, Kepler, Galileo, and many others did not read the Bible as though it held great scientific truths. Galileo rather famously claimed that the Bible tells us how to get to heaven, not how the heavens go.

              I don’t know much about the Koran, so I’m not going to comment upon it.

              Finally, I don’t think it really matter whether or not the universe began to exist or not. Both are philosophically fine for the theist. Indeed, St. Thomas Aquinas himself argued that the universe needn’t have a beginning in time to have a Creator. Genesis 1:1, often translated as “In the Beginning,” is more accurately translated as “When God first began to create” or “In the beginning of God’s creating…” It doesn’t require a beginning of the universe in time. The Hebrew is actually ambiguous.

  4. I thought this was a lot of good information, however in order for me to use this in discussion I’d have to have references to the original data which you did not link or list. Otherwise this looks like fairy tale statistics on a religious site to the skepic. I can’t and won’t in good conscience use something unless there are references to actual data.

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  7. Here is the message jablomih offered that did not see: The first study is here, http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~ehe/doc/Ecklund_SocialProblems_54_2.pdf

    If you look at Table 3 where the data is taken from, you’ll see that it doesn’t actually support the claim this blog makes. Only 21% of respondents answer that they believe in God. There is no way to interpret the data to claim more scientists believe than disbelieve.

    The Pew study is here:

    and in fact says that only 33% of scientists believe in God. Trying to claim people who answer “No” to the question “Do you beleive in God?” are not atheists seems problematic. I don’t claim to know what they mean by “universal spirit or higher power” but I know what “No” means.

    If you look at the most elite scientists in the US, the members of the National Academy of Sciences, it gets much worse for belief in gods, down to 7%:


    Twisting these numbers around to claim a majority of scientist believe in gods is disingenuous. All three of these studies clearly show the majority of scientists do not believe in gods.

  8. Pingback: Western Philosophy: Do Philosophers Believe in God? | James Bishop's Theological Rationalism·

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