Famous Christians, Atheists and Scientists


Here we present a number of lists:

  • Christian and skeptical authors worth reading;
  • Christians who became skeptics and skeptics who changed their minds; and
  • famous scientists who are/were either Christian or atheist.

Christian Authors Worth Reading

There may be others, but these are the books that I have read and found to be worthwhile.

John C. LennoxGod’s Undertaker: has science buried God?  2009. [JL1]

John Polkinghorne.   Exploring Reality:the intertwining of science and religion.  Many years a scientist followed by many as a Minister.  Yale Univ. Press.  2005.  [JP1]

C.S. Lewis.  Mere Christianity.  A revised and amplified edition was published in 2001. (I have not read it recently)

Richard Swinburne.  Emeritus prof of Philosophy at the University of Oxford.  Writes philosophical arguments for the existence of God.  “His non-technical book, Is There a God? (1996) summarises for non-specialists many of his arguments for the existence of God and plausibility in the belief of that existence” [W9]

Peter S. WilliamsA Sceptic’s Guide to Atheism.  Paternoster: 2009.

Alvin Plantinga.   [W11]  Works in Philosophy of Religion, warranted Christian belief and reformed epistemology.  He has written at least 13 books, and won many awards.  I have read his Where the Conflict Really Lies: science, religion, & naturalism. Oxford University Press, 2011.

William Lane Craig.   He is famous for debating atheists, but I have not read any of his books.  However, in a YouTube debate he said “God as the author and giver of life has the right to take human life as he wills and to give human life as he wills.  God has it perfectly within his rights to strike someone dead at any moment that he would choose.  If God chooses to take human life I simply don’t see that that is not good.”

Skeptical Authors Worth Reading

Bart D. Ehrman   [W7] M.Div and Ph.D from Princeton. Author of many books and member of the Religious Studies Dept at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Some of his debates with Christian scholars are on YouTube.   I have read four of his books and listened to some of the corresponding Great Courses on CDs.  In an interview he said that he is now agnostic in terms of knowledge, but atheist in terms of belief.  His best book is  How Jesus Became God.  2014  [BE3]  .

Richard Dawkins  (1941-    )  Prof of Biology, Oxford U.  His book, The God Delusion  2006, is the most famous of the books from the “new atheists”.   His biggest focus is on refuting a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation stories.

Christopher Hitchens  (1949-2011) a “public intellectual”  (ed)  The Portable Atheist: essential readings for the nonbeliever.  2007.  DaCapo Press.  499 pp.  Excellent readings selected and introduced by Hitchins.  Ten of the 47 authors in the book are: Charles Darwin, David Hume, Anatole France, Mark Twain, Sigmond Freud, Carl Sagan, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris. Salman Rushdie, and Thomas Hardy.

Sam Harris (1967-    )  Letter to a Christian Nation.  2006  I have not read this book.

Michael RuseAtheism: what everyone needs to know. OUP 2015.  “this book tries to lay out dispassionately the issues surrounding atheism, the arguments against it and the arguments for it, its critics and its supporters.”


Famous Christians Who became Atheists

Dr. Bart D. Ehrman   [W7]  Dr. Ehrman moved from fundamentalist Christian to liberal Christian to his current position of agnostic and atheist.  In terms of knowledge, he is agnostic, since he doesen’t know (with certainty) whether or not there is a god.  But in terms of what he believes, he does not believe in any God, so he is an atheist.

Rev. Tom Harpur  (1929-2017)  [W5] ordained Canadian Anglican priest, most famous book    The Pagan Christ [TH2], based on a belief that the historical Christ did not exist and myths from Egypt are behind the resurrection story.  He wrote so well that he was able to publish 13 popular books.

Rev. Gretta Vosper.   [W12] A Toronto United Church minister who has declared herself to be an atheist.  Her first book was “With or Without God. After much debate, the United Church (of Canada) has decided to allow her to continue as a United Church minister – I find this surprising.


Famous Atheists who became believers

We would be interested in hearing about more examples in this category.

Lewis, C.S. (1898-1963) He was an atheist until his conversion in the 1930s.  His most famous non-fiction book is Mere Christianity, 1952. [CApol, 402-3]

George R. Price (1922–1975).  American population geneticist who while a strong atheist converted to Christianity. He went on to write commentaries on the New Testament and dedicated portions of his life to helping the poor.  [W18]

Antony Flew  (1923-2010)  [W17]  There is A God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.   by Antony Flew with Ray Abraham Varghese.  2007.  Harper One   English philosophy professor, Antony Flew came to believe that the world was created by an impersonal “God” who is extremely powerful and intelligent, but takes no personal interest in us.  This is the “deist” concept of God; it is not the Christian “theist” concept of God.  He calls this god “an inoffensive inactive god.”

One of Flew’s most famous articles is “Theology and Falsification,” which argues that claims about God are merely vacuous where they could not be tested for truth or falsehood. [W17]


Lists of Scientists

We present two lists of famous scientists; those who are/were Christian and those who are/were Atheists.  Our lists only include three representative examples from each of physics and biology.  The chosen examples are famous names that the reader might recognize.  The sources for both lists are found in Wikipedia, and contain many more names.


Famous Scientist who are/were Christians  [W18]

Physicists:

  • Freeman Dyson (astronomy and quantum physics);
  • Guglielmo Marconi (long-distance radio transmission; 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics);
  • Werner Heisenberg (quantum theory).

Biologists:

  • George Washington Carver (botanist, educator, inventor);
  • John Gurdon (stem cells; 2012 Nobel laureate);
  • Francis Collins (former director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute). His wrote The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief which bases belief on the sense of a moral code which we all have – it is not convincing.

Famous Scientists who are/were Atheists [W8]

Physicists:

  • Neils Bohr (atomic physics),
  • Stephen Hawking (physics and astronomy),
  • Carl Sagan (astronomy).

Biologists:

  • Francis Crick (structure of DNA),
  • Richard Dawkins (evolution),
  • Richard Leakey (anthropology).

References

  • [AF1]   Flew, Antony, with Roy Abraham Varghese.  There is A God: how the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind.   Harper One, 2007.

  • [BE3]   Ehrman, Bart D.  How Jesus Became God: the exaltaton of a Jewish preacher from Galilee.  HarperOne, 2014.

  • [CApol] Campbell-Jack, Campbell & Gavin J. McGrath, eds., New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006.

  • [JL1]   Lennox, John C.  God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?  Oxford, England: Lion Hudson plc, 2007.

  • [JP1]   Polkinghorne, John.  Exploring Reality:the intertwining of science and religion.  Yale Univ. Press, 2005.

  • [TH2]   Harper, Tom.  The Pagan Christ. Thomas Allen, 2004.

  • Wikipedia Articles


  • [W5]   Tom Harpur
  • [W7]   Bart D. Ehrman
  • [W8]   Lists of Atheists
  • [W9]   Richard Swinburne
  • [W11]  Alvin Plantinga
  • [W12]  Gretta Vosper
  • [W17]  Antony Flew
  • [W18]  List of Christians in Science and Technology