Hawking is the kind of person who would make such a bold statement of "nonbelief." As a celebrated physicist and cosmologist, he's been probing the same issues that religion addresses all his life: Where did everything come from? What does it all mean? Who am I? And what will happen to me when I die?
This last question carries great amperage and voltage for the world's religions. Most people believe that every person has a soul that survives the death of the body and afterwards moves on to another phase of existence. This next step varies from religion to religion, but this belief is huge "good news," because the idea that one's existence might cease to be is fraught with horror. Human beings are intelligent enough to understand that they will die someday, but most people find the mere contemplation of personal extinction to be practically intolerable.
Apparently, Stephen Hawking is different. He seems to have made some kind of leap of acceptance, which is too far for most people to go. They make a leap of faith instead. Hawking has been coping with degenerative Lou Gehrig's disease for nearly 50 years, and he claims he's not afraid of death.
And he's created his own set of answers. The explanations he has drawn from science do not require a deity. As for the meaning of life? He declares that a deity isn't needed for that, either, that creating meaning for one's life is an individual responsibility. "We should seek the greatest value of our action," he said.
His point of view isn't new or particularly shocking, but it's unusual for a "nonbeliever" to speak out like this. Even though Stephen Hawking can't claim to have the final word on these issues, religious freedom allows people to express their beliefs, whatever they may be. And if believers in God value religious freedom, they need to respect the right of Hawking and other nonbelievers to pursue answers to the great questions in their own way.
Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2011. Building Personal Strength .