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Monday, September 20, 2010

Fad Atheism a la Stephen Hawking

The recent media fixation on physicist Stephen Hawking’s statement that “God did not create the universe,” has set off a firestorm of debate even though there are many famous scientists who are on record as believing in God. Still, this pronouncement from Hawking had something about it that reminded me of a papal announcement from Rome, only here we have it being said by a sort of secular, scientist “pope.”

When Hawking says, “God had no role in the creation of the universe,” he’s really leaving the realm of science and going into an area where he has no expertise. Only a decade or so ago, in “A Brief History of Time,” he stated that his work was “on the borderline between science and religion.” He wrote at that time, “…I stay on the scientific side of the border. It is quite possible that God acts in ways that cannot be described by scientific laws…”

Then was then, and now is now, as they say…

But let us, for the sake of this column, assume that Hawking’s scientific voice is indeed infallible and true. Let us also assume that his latest pronouncement took wing and converted the whole of humankind, including, of course, people in our own neighborhoods.
How would life be different if we all “digested” the Hawking philosophy and put aside all God “superstitions?”

Perhaps there’d be a neighborhood Hawking Greeting Card Committee that would work to eliminate all Rite Aid/CVS greeting cards that mention God. The new Hawking-inspired greeting cards would contain phrases like, “In the name of spontaneous creation, we wish you a speedy recovery.” Or: “We are sorry for your loss, but “it is not necessary to involve God in this [tragedy], because remember—God did not light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going.”

In other words, blame spontaneous combustion, whose origin, of course is a mystery.

In this new Hawking world, mentioning God in connection with the birth of a new baby would only get you a scientific lecture on how God had nothing to do with it. You’d also be advised to shy away from talking about “God blessing you” or saving you from serious injury, possibly your life, after a major accident. The fact that this message comes from someone who has had a huge cross to carry—life in a wheelchair as a paraplegic—does give it an intensified focus, since common logic inclines us to think of people with disabilities as needing God more than the rest of us. But rather than asking God, “Why me?” Hawking just denies God’s existence outright, which is perhaps his way of “getting even” for a lifetime of… disability.
Hawking, of course, if pressed on the issue, would probably agree that Campbell’s chicken noodle soup is more of a concrete reality than an all-knowing but invisible God, and he would undoubtedly discourage bowing our heads in mumbo jumbo prayer mutterings.

No deity then, earthbound or cosmic, cares if you survive or die in a car accident, helicopter crash, or from cancer. When we die we are food for worms, nothing more. “Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist,” says Hawking.

Which means, forget about going to church. Forget silly superstitions such as the Rosary Society or the Sodality of Our Lady of Fatima at St. Adalbert’s church on Allegheny Avenue. Your many prayers in this beautiful church are just gibberish mantras with no meaning, despite the incredible miracle of the sun in Fatima in 1917 where 70,000 people saw-- and where even objective, secular journalists reported-- the sun spinning and hurling towards the earth before resuming its place in the sky.

Forget absurd sounding parish names like Our Lady Help of Christians, or Nativity B.V.M., churches with colored states, Gothic designs and pointed arches. The only Our Lady, in a Hawking world, is The Lady Is a Tramp show tune from the 1937 Rodgers and Hart musical, Babes in Arms. As for those churches with onion domes in Northern Liberties, they are temples to a mythological god with no power except the power to be spontaneous in order to create new and different worlds for Hawking to talk about.

Human beings have no allies on the other side because there is no other side. There is only the bad economy, the inevitability of Monday, taxes, and SEPTA rate increases.
So come up to Stephen Hawking’s level, and put aside all this silly “Have a blessed day,” and “God bless you,” talk.

Look reality in the face, and snarl.

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