News Revelations

Astronaut and senator, John Glenn saw no conflict between faith and science

STS-95 crew member, astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn poses for his official NASA photo taken April 14, 1998. In 1962, Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth, and he returned to space in 1998 aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Photo courtesy of NASA via Reuters

(RNS) John Glenn may best be remembered as one of the 20th century’s greatest explorers, the first American to orbit the Earth and, later, the oldest man in space.

Glenn also will be remembered for his long career as a U.S. senator, representing his home state of Ohio for 24 years as a moderate Democrat.

But less well-known is the fact that Glenn, who died on Thursday at age 95, was an elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who saw no conflict between his beliefs in God and in science.

He told The Associated Press last year he believed scientific discovery – including evolution – should be taught in schools.

“I don’t see that I’m any less religious by the fact that I can appreciate the fact that science just records that we change with evolution and time, and that’s a fact,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s less wondrous and it doesn’t mean that there can’t be some power greater than any of us that has been behind and is behind whatever is going on.”

And in a space-to-Earth news conference during his second space flight at age 77 in 1998, Glenn told reporters his view of space only strengthened his belief in God.

“Looking at the Earth from this vantage point, looking at this kind of creation and to not believe in God, to me, is impossible. To see (Earth) laid out like that only strengthens my beliefs,” he said.

That flight aboard the shuttle Discovery had made him the oldest man in space.

Glenn was the last surviving member of NASA’s original Mercury 7 astronauts.

(Reuters contributed to this report)

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About the author

Emily McFarlan Miller

Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS based in Chicago. She covers evangelical and mainline Protestant Christianity.

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