In times like these, when natural disasters loom large over much of the country, it’s heartening and encouraging to hear of people offering prayers for those who need it. But not everybody feels that way. Take comedienne, actress, and all around terrible human being Sarah Silverman. Take a look at what she tweeted:
— Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) September 8, 2017
Always classy, isn’t she?
There are a ton of problems with this tweet. Politically, what does a government that believes in science really mean? Of course, she’s referring to putting radical environmentalists in power, and that’s a whole can of worms in and of itself.
Or, as gaming writer and Orlando resident Kyle Foley put it:
Scoring cheap political points while islands are getting leveled and people are fleeing for their lives is an all-time low.
— Kyle Foley (@KFoleyFL) September 9, 2017
But what I want to focus on is the whole faith angle of this tweet. For starters, what’s the problem with people praying, regardless of how much or little faith they have? I’ve had people of other faiths say they would pray for me, and I don’t correct them or tell them not to. And my non-believing friends appreciate when I tell them I’ll pray for them. Even for those who don’t believe in anything, there’s something comforting about the sentiment of prayer.
In his wonderful book on prayer, Tim Keller notes that even unbelievers pray from time to time:
Even deliberately nonreligious people pray at times. Studies have shown that in secularized countries, prayer continues to be practiced not only by those who have no religious preference but even by many of those who do not believe in God. One 2004 study found that nearly 30 percent of atheists admitted they prayed “sometimes,” and another found that 17 percent of nonbelievers in God prayed regularly.
So there’s a universality to prayer, even for those who don’t believe, despite what Ms. Silverman wants to think.
And what about this “belief in science” business? I hate to break it to her, but plenty of religious people believe in science. In fact, Christians don’t disbelieve in science; they know that God is in control of it.
The idea of science as something to believe in isn’t that crazy. Even the most ardently religious people know that there are rules and conventions that science follows. We know that science is a force to be reckoned with, but most people don’t turn it into an object of worship.
Jesus’ brother James made a powerful statement about mere belief:
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! James 2:19 (ESV)
Those of us who believe in God also believe in science, but we don’t bow at its feet. Science is just not a deity for most people. We don’t serve science, but instead, we harness it to serve ourselves.
Believing in science does nothing to keep a hurricane like Harvey or Irma from making landfall or taking a turn in one direction or the other. Believing in science doesn’t diminish the damage a storm will do, outside of using science to develop stronger buildings and warning systems.
A belief in science won’t prevent a fire from burning whatever it touches. We can employ science to help put out the fires and rescue those in the path of the flames, but an unreasonable worship of science doesn’t make a fire less of a fire.
But we can pray to God for protection. We can pray that the fires and storms lessen and do minimal damage. We can pray that people escape and flee disaster. And we can pray for comfort and peace when things go horribly wrong. Science can do none of those things for us, at least not in the way that God works.
Much to the chagrin of people like Sarah Silverman, science will never replace the almighty, all-powerful God who created the world and the scientific rules that govern it.