Atheists confronted: How I confronted Carl Sagan the year before he died

In today’s news you will read about Kirk Cameron taking on the atheist Stephen Hawking over some recent assertions he made concerning the existence of heaven. Back in December of 1995 I had the opportunity to correspond with Carl Sagan about a year before his untimely death.

Sarah Anne Hughes in her article,”Kirk Cameron criticizes Stephen Hawking for saying ‘there is no heaven’ ” Washington Post, May 19, 2011, notes:


Kirk Cameron in 2001. (JIM COOPER – AP) “Growing Pains” actor turned Christian film star Kirk Cameron is taking issue with comments famed physicist Stephen Hawking made about the existence of heaven. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers,” Hawking said of the human brain to the Guardian newspaper Monday. “That is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

Cameron, a Christian evangelist who heads the online ministry, Way of the Master, responded on his Facebook page Wednesday, writing that “to say anything negative about Stephen Hawking is like bullying a blind man. He has an unfair disadvantage, and that gives him a free pass on some of his absurd ideas.” Hawking suffers from a motor neurone disease that has left him totally paralyzed.

“Professor Hawking is heralded as ‘the genius of Britain,’ yet he believes in the scientific impossibility that nothing created everything and that life sprang from non-life,” the actor continued.

Cameron, who last appeared on television with the Duggar Family on their TLC show “19 Kids and Counting,” also had harsh words for Beatles singer, John Lennon. “(Hawking) says he knows there is no Heaven. John Lennon wasn’t sure. He said to pretend there’s no Heaven. That’s easy if you try. Then he said he hoped that someday we would join him. Such wishful thinking reveals John and Stephen’s religious beliefs, not good science.”

______________________________________

Over the years I have confronted many atheists. Here is one story below:

I really believe Hebrews 4:12 when it asserts:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

That verse prompted  me in 1992 to start sending a particular cassette tape out to these skeptics. This tape included three messages (“How I know the Bible is the Word of God,” Adrian Rogers, Sept 1972; “The Final Judgement,” Adrian Rogers,Sept 1972; “How to get a pure heart,” Bill Elliff, 1992.)

On Dec 5, 1995 Carl Sagan while suffering from cancer took time to finally answer the 4 letters I had written to him up to that point.(I don’t know if he ever listened to the tapes I had sent him.) Here is his response:

Thanks for your recent letter about evolution and abortion. The correlation is hardly one to one; there are evolutionists who are anti-abortion and anti-evolutionists who are pro-abortion.You argue that God exists because otherwise we could not understand the world in our consciousness. But if you think God is necessary to understand the world, then why do you not ask the next question of where God came from? And if you say “God was always here,” why not say that the universe was always here? On abortion, my views are contained in the enclosed article (Sagan, Carl and Ann Druyan {1990}, “The Question of Abortion,” Parade Magazine, April 22.)

I responded with a two page letter on Jan 10, 1996 and I never heard back again from Dr. Sagan and he died on Dec 20, 1996. His wife Ann Druyan reported that many people of faith reached out to Sagan in last few months of his life, but he never left his agnosticism.

I have read lots of Carl Sagan’s books and written several reviews and papers on his views. I will just leave you with two thoughts.

Sagan observed,”Plainly, there’s something within me that’s ready to believe in life after death…If some good evidence for life after death was announced, I’d be eager to examine it; but it would have to be real scientific data, not mere antedote”(pp 203-204, The DemonHaunted World, 1995).

Sagan said he had taken a look at Old Testament prophecy and it did not impress him because it was too vague. He had taken a look at Christ’s life in the gospels, but said it was unrealistic for God to send a man to communicate for God. Instead, Sagan suggested that God could have written a mathematical formula in the Bible or put a cross in the sky.However, what happens at the conclusion of the movie Contact?  This is Sagan’s last message to the world in the form of the movie that appeared shortly after his death. Dr Arroway (Jodie Foster) who is a young atheistic scientist who meets with an alien and this alien takes the form of Dr. Arroway’s father. The alien tells her that they thought this would make it easier for her. In fact, he meets her on a beach that resembles a beach that she grew up near so she would also be comfortable with the surroundings. Carl Sagan when writing this script chose to put the alien in human form so Dr. Arroway could relate to the alien. Christ chose to take our form and come into our world too and still many make up excuses for not believing.

Lastly, Carl Sagan could not rid himself of the “mannishness of man.” Those who have read Francis Schaeffer’s many books know exactly what I am talking about. We are made in God’s image and we are living in God’s world. Therefore, we can not totally suppress the objective truths of our unique humanity. In my letter of Jan 10, 1996 to Dr. Sagan, I really camped out on this point a long time because I had read Sagan’s  book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors  and in it  Sagan attempts to  totally debunk the idea that we are any way special. However, what does Dr. Sagan have Dr. Arroway say at the end of the movie Contact when she is testifying before Congress about the alien that  communicated with her? See if you can pick out the one illogical word in her statement: “I was given a vision how tiny, insignificant, rare and precious we all are. We belong to something that is greater than ourselves and none of us are alone.”

Dr Sagan deep down knows that we are special so he could not avoid putting the word “precious” in there. Schaeffer said unbelievers are put in a place of tension when they have to live in the world that God has made because deep down they know they are special because God has put that knowledge in their hearts.We are not the result of survival of the fittest and headed back to the dirt forevermore. This is what Schaeffer calls “taking the roof off” of the unbeliever’s worldview and showing the inconsistency that exists.

In several of my letters I quoted this passage below:

Romans 1:17-22 (Amplified Bible)

17For in the Gospel a righteousness which God ascribes is revealed, both springing from faith and leading to faith [disclosed through the way of faith that arouses to more faith]. As it is written, The man who through faith is just and upright shall live and shall live by faith.(A)

18For God’s [holy] wrath and indignation are revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who in their wickedness repress and hinder the truth and make it inoperative.

19For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them.

20For ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature and attributes, that is, His eternal power and divinity, have been made intelligible and clearly discernible in and through the things that have been made (His handiworks). So [men] are without excuse [altogether without any defense or justification],(B)

21Because when they knew and recognized Him as God, they did not honor and glorify Him as God or give Him thanks. But instead they became futile and [a]godless in their thinking [with vain imaginings, foolish reasoning, and stupid speculations] and their senseless minds were darkened.

22Claiming to be wise, they became fools [professing to be smart, they made simpletons of themselves].

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Comments

  • bography  On January 20, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    Everette, I see that Adrian Rogers is the first one on your list on the right. I laugh lots every time James White on his Dividing Line blog (Radio Free Geneva) airs a snippet of Rogers declaiming. “God so loved the world that WHO-SO-EV-ER…

  • bography  On January 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I mean your list on the left.

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