NEW YORK (FOX5NY) - "Why?" It's a question humans have been asking for millennia. "Why are we here? Did it just happen or was there something else involved -- a higher power?" Belief in a creator is the bedrock principle for billions of people around the world. But does it make sense? Is it compatible with science in the 21st Century? Some -- including Pope Francis -- say yes, science and faith go hand in hand.
Ask a person of strong faith and chances are that they can tell you why they are here. Rev. Lawrence Aker III said: "Jeremiah 29 and 11 says that God knows the plans he has for our lives." Rabbi Arthur Schneier knew for sure in 2008, when Pope Benedict walked into his synagogue during his New York visit. He notes that it was a German pope visiting the temple of a holocaust survivor.
"I said, you know, God saved both of us to build bridges," Rabbi Schneier said. "One has to accept that this world was created by a Creator that gave man and woman freedom of choice."
Faith is not crazy, said New York based radio host and bestselling author Eric Metaxas. And he said it does not have to be at odds with scientific fact, either.
"We've all kind of bought in to this false narrative that science is pitted against faith," Metaxas said. "Complete nonsense. I mean, complete, total, demonstrative nonsense."
Metaxas wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal last Christmas on science and faith. It took off, becoming one of the most shared articles ever for the paper.
"What it shows to me is that there is a hunger in America for this kind of thing. Nobody's feeding the hunger. We all have the same questions. 'Who am I?' 'What is God?' 'What can science tell me?l," Metaxas said. "The scientific facts, instead of pushing us away from believing in God, the more we know in the last 40 years, it's pushing toward believing in a higher power."
Metaxas spent a lot of time researching this topic for his recent book "Miracles" but it was not as tough as he thought it might be.
"I do think the more you know about science the more you realize in the highest echelons of science, they're asking big questions," he said. "It's not settled."
Take the fundamental question: Why are we here? When you consider all that had to happen for humans to evolve the way we did, on a life-supporting planet like Earth, the scientific odds are steep.
"When you look at the math, when you look at the science, the odds of our existence are staggering," Metaxas said. "It's sort of like saying, 'If I flip a quarter and it lands heads.' You say, 'Okay 50-50.' And again, heads, and again heads. Come back tomorrow and it's 24 hours later and it's been heads thousands of times. Is that possible? Anybody would say that cannot happen. Mathematically it can happen but if that were to happen, we would all know something's going on."
He goes on to say: "When you look at all the facts, it seems pretty clear that it didn't just happen."
Pope Francis, in fact, made news for endorsing both the big-bang theory and evolution. He said they don't contradict the existence of a higher power.
"As a man of science I think he's shown a great deal of respect for the role of science in society," NYU physics professor Kyle Cranmer said.
Cranmer worked on the project, which after decades of searching, finally discovered the so-called God particle.
"This particle is key to the universe if it didn't exist, atoms wouldn't form there would be no life, there would be no stars," Cranmer said. "So this thing is key to how the universe works."
But if you're looking for it to provide proof of God, keep looking. Scientists call it the Higgs boson. It's believed to be responsible for giving particles mass. The atoms we are composed of are symmetric. But yet, we are not -- all because of this invisible particle.
"This kind of particle, I doubt will ever have a practical application, however it's part of understanding the rules of the game. Understanding how the universe works," Cranmer said.
To find it, scientists in Switzerland had to fling protons at each other at the speed of light. When they collided, the enormous energy produced then ignited the production of new particles and new collisions.
The Higgs boson decays immediately, but scientists were able to glimpse at the "God particle" by taking 40 million snapshots a second. It was first called that by physicist Leon Lederman in a 1993 book.
"It was clearly titled that to sell books. And it worked. It sold a lot of books," Cranmer said. "It's also been very good about capturing the public's attention. People know this name. And I think it's important in terms of science communication to have a catchy name."
It helps too, he says, that the pope, a trained chemist, seems to be a science supporter.
"Stepping back from the issues I think is just a respect for the scientific process and for human intellect and the fact that we're asking these questions is not some sort of affront to God, but as a part of human progress and making ourselves better," Cranmer said.
"So maybe the universe started with the big bang. Who started the big bang?" said the Rev. Canon Victoria Sirota, the pastor and vicar of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan. This is not where she expected to find herself. She had a doctorate in music and was teaching when everything changed in a day.
"For me, I had a powerful mystical experience on February 12, 1987," Sirota said. Her father-in-law was dying and she prayed for help.
"Two weeks after I had gotten down on my knees and cried and prayed for the first time in years, then I felt like I was being given a message to give to someone else," Sirota said. "And that that message came true six months later was a great shock to me. I had to struggle with the fact that I felt God was calling me to ordained ministry. And I didn't want to do it."
It would mean more schooling and a life change. It was not an easy choice for a woman married with two children.
"We have a funny idea of what God should do and be. We are projecting a God who micromanages everything," she said. "There is good and there is evil and we have a choice everyday about what path we take."
But she did it. Doors started to open and she said her life fell into place. And while faith is not a science, Rev. Sirota said she does know one thing as fact.
"Our final existence is not just to be here," she said. "It is a greater thing."