O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith

Stephen Hawking, God, and Twitter

stephenhawking.jpgLast Thursday, in an excerpt from his upcoming book, The Grand Design, world-famous physicist and mathematician Stephen Hawking revealed that he no longer believed the universe needed a creator God. “The universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he wrote. That’s a fairly simplified statement, and one he will no doubt expand upon in the new book.


But that didn’t stop comment sections, discussion boards, and Twitter from exploding in a Big Bang of hatred and derision toward Hawking from people who DID believe in God. As a Christian, I bristle anytime other Christians are sources of hatred and derision — especially toward people “on the other team,” so to speak. (What part of “love your enemies” don’t we understand?)

Also, I’m a big fan of Hawking and his work. So I wrote a quick Guest Voices piece for “On Faith” at the Washington Post. The piece is called “Stephen Hawking says there’s no creator God; the twitterverse reacts.” Yes…it’s a really catchy title. Anyway, here’s an excerpt:

There were tweets belittling the physicist’s physical ailments.
Tweets chortling about how he’ll be sorry when he dies and meets God.
Tweets over-simplifying his ideas and then cheerfully labeling them
stupid. Tweets calling Stephen Hawking an idiot.


Like dogs backed into a corner, my religious brethren went on the attack, escalating the culture war between science and faith.

Jesus taught slowness to anger, compassion for the sick, and love for
our enemies. But even accounting for the simplicity of Twitter, and the
troll-like culture of the Internet in general, we still come across as a
bunch of petty, rage-filled monsters eager to discount the life work of
one of the world’s greatest scientists.

A genius with a debilitating disease says something we disagree with,
so we make fun of his wheelchair and laugh at his impending death.

I hope you’ll read the whole article here, and then consider the following question: What is the Christian (and/or God-believing) response to this kind of situation?

Comments read comments(9)
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Ed Cyzewski

posted September 7, 2010 at 9:10 am

Thanks for your response Jason. I am disturbed by the pride and back-slapping by Christians who think of themselves as clever insiders as opposed to the other “suckers” who don’t know God. It breaks my heart.
Some possible responses to Hawking…
Go into a prison and pray with the inmates…
Sell some of our Christian books and give the money to charity…
Bring meals to the hungry…
In other words, say nothing in reply, but prove by our actions that there is a God in heaven who calls us to live differently, even foolishly in a world that fears prisoners, hoards wealth, and lets the poor starve.

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posted September 7, 2010 at 9:33 am

i agree with everything ed cyzewski said.
i also think maybe people need to find out somethings about stephen hawking…. he has chosen to live for nearly 40 years with increasing disability when there are christians who have chosen to kill themselves. he has maintained a certain sense of humor in the midst of his disability.
i guess what i am saying is know more than the quote from an unpublished book. know as much as you can about the man before you speak about him in a cruel and stupid fashion.
if you are really concerned about his spiritual life, pray for him. sheesh people.

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posted September 7, 2010 at 9:37 am

How about respect? Respect for their opinion, for their beliefs and for them as a person. We Christians are great at playing the martyr, beating our chests and loudly protesting any percieved persecution. We’re not so great at accepting and tolerating anything that falls outside the tenets or our own belief. And, that’s not good.

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Jason Boyett

posted September 7, 2010 at 2:08 pm

I totally agree about respect. For what it’s worth, though, not all Christians feel that such respect is warranted. I haven’t read the comments at the Washington Post, but a handful of the private/Facebook/Twitter responses I’ve gotten from fellow Christians have implied that it is wrong for me to say I respect Hawking, because he has done nothing worth respecting. He is deceived and spreading lies about God, they say, and as a Christian I should be standing against him and rather than defending him.
(Agreed: not good)

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posted September 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm

I agree with Ed Cyzewski, as well. We only make ourselves look bad when we belittle and deride others, whether we are Christians or not. I did read the article you wrote for the paper. Very well done! And this blog post is also well done. I’m glad there are those who speak out against the awful behavior of people who teach against that kind of behavior. You mentioned that we are encouraged to love our enemies. We are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, too. And I do believe that Stephen Hawking qualifies as a neighbor. Bad-mouthing people who have been great contributors is not only in poor taste but it also shows poor critical thinking and poor character and perhaps these folks need a little more to do? After all, idle minds are the devil’s workshop…or was that hands? Whatever…

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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted September 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

anything short of grace only proves the other side’s point even further.

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Padriags Ghost

posted September 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Hawkings must be made to account for his heresy against God and the mother church:
No one expects the Spanish Inquisition aka Monty Python:
“I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!” At this point, the Inquisition — consisting of Cardinal Ximénez, and his assistants Cardinal Biggles, and Cardinal Fang — would burst into the room at the sound of a jarring chord. Ximénez would shout, with a particular and high-pitched emphasis on the first syllable: “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Cadinal Fang fetch the easy chair, no wait – Hawkings is a heritic and must be burnt at the stake…
-or if you really want to get medieval on his ass:
Hawking’s gord is full of bog butter that my ancestors planted Inishoven, Donegal sometime in the last millennia… “Beltaine’s Fire” awaits Hawkings in the Wickerman!
How is that for old-time religion?

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Ron Krumpos

posted September 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm

In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.
I agree that attacking Stephen Hawking – especially with vitriol – is disrespectful of one of the most brilliant minds in history, even when you (and I) do not agree with him. In fairness, he said God is not necessary [sic] for the creation of the Universe. If he thinks there was no designer, why did he chose that title?
In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”
Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

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posted September 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

I’m late to the conversation, but I just found you on twitter. I read your WP piece and enjoyed it very much.
I do think, though, that the media (naturally) flogged this story a bit. They made it sound as though Hawking was saying “There is no God! And I can now prove it!” Which, according to the excerpts, is not at ALL what he is saying (even if he really believes that, and he may.)
I’m reading “A Brief History of Time” for the first time and, as you’re aware, Hawking admirably allows for a Creator at various points.
I think this was much ado about not much. Thankfully, it seems to have died down.
I’m sure Hawking is enjoying the publicity. :-)

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