“How Do I Approach a Carl Sagan Fan?”

Dear Dr. Bohlin,

I’m a pastor that is meeting with a young man who is planning to marry a young lady that is a member of our church. This young man, who is in his twenties, said that he believed in God–much like Carl Sagan. He seems to have a postmodern view of truth, but my question is, how can I read up on the spiritual views of Sagan? Do you know any websites or critiques on Sagan? I read your article “Contact: A Eulogy to Carl Sagan“–what would be the best approach to this young man?

It sounds like you have a rather sticky situation on your hands. Believing in God “like Carl Sagan” means little more than a deistic belief in some kind of super intelligence that helped order our universe but has no personal involvement with it or you and me. Sagan had a profound dislike for any thiestic belief, particularly Christianity. His novel Contact brings this out much more strongly than the movie adaptation.

My concern would be that the young man is saying some things to help smooth things out with his bride-to-be, but is potentially hostile to her beliefs. Sagan basically believed Jesus was a good man but not God (page 167-173 of the Pocket edition of the novel Contact. The character of Ellie Arroway is basically Sagan personified, so these seven pages will give some insight into his thinking. It’s about twelve pages into Chapter 10 if you find a different edition). My fear is that he would eventually ridicule or otherwise try to undermine her faith with science and skepticism.

I would ask him if Sagan was a hero of his and do his ideas about God and religion coincide with Sagan’s. If yes, does he hold the same disdain for Christianity and clergy (yourself) as Sagan did? This will perhaps force him to come a little cleaner and bring a little more understanding to the situation. He should be concerned with devaluing the belief system of the person he says he loves. If your intuition is correct about his taking a rather post-modern view, he should be senstitive to this. After all, truth is impossible to know so if it’s true for her great, what’s it to him?

Would he ever come to church with her?

What about children, how should they be raised? As skeptics or in the church?

I agree with your suspicion I sensed from your message. These kids need some hard questions asked of them. What are her thoughts? Does she think she can convert him? This rarely works out, but if this is her intent, is she ready to follow the prescription in 1 Pet. 3:1-2? Most women find this difficult even with a saved husband who has wandered away.

There is a potentially fatal divergence of basic world views which will affect nearly all aspects of their future lives. Maybe they just need to wait a little longer and give each other some time to explore these differences before committing to marriage.

Well, I have said a lot for someone who has little knowledge of the individuals involved.

Hope this helps.

Let me know if I can be of further assistance.


Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries

“You are Full of Hatred and Bigotry”

I just read your article Contact: A Eulogy for Carl Sagan. I hope you live to understand the hatred and bigotry you people spread and the millions of deaths that your kind of blind stupidity has caused. You live based on a political system used to control gullible people; that in itself is not wrong but please try to use the brain you have and think, just once in your life think.

Don’t waste your life with a lie. The universe is a wonderful place, whatever you believe, being so large and wonderful, let’s all think big and not insular and earth bound.

Good luck with seeing the truth and being honest with yourselves.

Sorry you had such a negative reaction to my article concerning Sagan and “Contact.” You’re certainly not the first to respond to me that way.

I certainly do think that the universe is a wonderful place. I simply believe I have a much better reason for thinking that way. The universe is wonderful because God created it that way and I can appreciate the beauty, wonder, and awe of what I see as a reflection of the Creator. Sagan, and I presume you, have no reason for awe and wonder. We’re just cogs in a mechanistic universe that did not have us or anything else in mind. We just happened. When we die, we’re dirt and our lives have had no real significance.

Sagan in his opening monologue to the Cosmos series claims “There is a catch in the voice and a tingle in the spine as we approach the grandest of mysteries.” He is referring to the origin and nature of the universe. However, if it’s just molecules colliding over time, what’s to get excited about? I maintain Sagan is borrowing his awe and wonder from a Christian perspective. When I approach the origin and nature of the universe, I too get a catch in the voice and a tingle in the spine because I am approaching the Creator in all His majesty, wonder, complexity, and mystery. Now that is truly awesome.

Every worldview has had its moments of terror attributed to it. Materialists such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot have put a dark stain on that worldview. On the other hand, the Christian West literally invented hospitals, orphanages, shelters for the poor and homeless, and relief aid around the world for centuries. Certainly Christianity has had its dark moments such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, to name just a few. However, I would argue that the perpetrators of those events were not consistent in their application of the Bible to their world, where the materialists listed above lived far more consistently within theirs in perpetrating their horrors.

So I agree that we all need to think more clearly and consistently.


Ray Bohlin
Probe Ministries

© 2005 Probe Ministries