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Published on December 04, 2020

Francis Collins: A Testimony

Francis Collins tells the story of his conversion from atheism to faith as a young doctor.


Francis Collins tells the story of his conversion from atheism to faith as a young doctor. As he began a journey looking for evidence of God, he expected only to strengthen his atheism. Instead he encountered Jesus and made the decision to follow him.

Francis Collins believes science and Christian faith can work together, hand in hand.

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Francis Collins:

In the home where I grew up, faith was not something that was talked about very much. My father was a professor of drama, my mother was a playwright. When I went to college and those discussions in the dorm late at night about religion began to occur, I found no reason to attach value to a faith worldview. I assumed that any religious feelings that anyone held must be on the basis of some emotional experience—and I didn’t trust those—or on the basis of some childhood indoctrination, which I felt I was fortunate to have missed.

In medical school, I loved the experience of learning about the human body and all of its complexities. And I particularly loved being introduced to genetics. But then I moved on to the clinical training portion, learning to take care of patients with real diseases. This was no longer an abstract study of molecules and organ systems. These were real people with real suffering. One afternoon, I was with one of my patients, a wonderful woman, much like a grandmother, who had very bad heart disease. She had a particularly bad episode of chest pain while I was with her. She got through it, and at the end of that, explained to me how her faith in Jesus was the thing that helped her in that situation. She realized that the doctors around her weren’t really able to give her that much help, but her faith was. And after she finished her own very personal description of that faith, she turned to me. I had been silent, and she

looked at me quizzically, and then she asked, “What do you believe, Doctor?” I was stunned. I said I didn’t really know. Her question had made me realize that as an atheist, I had arrived at an answer to the most important issue that we humans ever deal with. Is there a God? And I had arrived there without ever really looking at the evidence. I was supposed to be a scientist. If there’s one thing scientists claim they do is to arrive at conclusions based upon evidence. And I hadn’t taken the trouble to do that.

So I was determined to search for evidence. I was greatly assisted by a pastor who lived down the road, who tolerated my blasphemous questions and gave me a copy of CS Lewis’ wonderful book, Mere Christianity. Here was an Oxford scholar, a prodigiously developed intellect, who had traveled the same path. Within those pages, I realized for the first time that one can come to belief on a rational basis. In fact, I soon discovered that there are many pointers towards a creator that come from science itself. The universe had a beginning. It follows elegant mathematical laws. And it is fine tuned by the way all those constants that determine the behavior of matter and energy seem to have been set just in a certain, very precise range to make life possible. 

As I searched for more evidence of what God must be like, I encountered the person of Jesus Christ. I was amazed to discover how much we know about his life. I had thought that Christ was as much myth as history. As I studied more, I learned there is a great deal of evidence for his teachings, and even for his having risen literally from the dead. The evidence was compelling, and it demanded a decision. That day at my patient’s bedside started a journey for me, a journey that I was reluctant to begin, but I felt I needed to. It was a journey that I thought would result in strengthening my atheism — but to my surprise, resulted in my conversion. I am now a follower of Jesus.