World-famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking says flat-out that he doesn’t believe in God, but he does believe that space travel offers the best hope for our species’ immortality.
Those pronouncements came during the buildup to this week’s Starmus Festival at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where Hawking and other scientific luminaries have gathered for rounds of talks, tours and elbow-rubbing.
The Spanish newspaper El Mundo engineered an exclusive interview with Hawking, and headlined its report with his views on the origins of the universe.
In the past, there’s been a tiny bit of ambiguity: In “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking writes that the discovery of a unifying set of scientific principles known as the theory of everything would enable scientists to “know the mind of God.” But in a follow-up book about the quest for the theory of everything, titled “The Grand Design,” Hawking said the mechanism behind the origin of the universe was becoming so well known that God was no longer necessary.
El Mundo’s Pablo Jauregui asked about those two references to God in one of the questions he prepared for Hawking to answer, and here’s the scientist’s response:
“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”
Hawking addressed the issue more delicately several years ago when he told Reuters that he was “not religious in the normal sense,” and said “God does not intervene to break the laws” that He decreed. Since then, however, there’s been a lot more theorizing devoted to the origin of the universe. Hawking now believes that an approach known as M-theory will eventually reveal the grand design of the cosmos.
“In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind,” Hawking told El Mundo.
After an airman was unable to complete his reenlistment because he omitted the part of a required oath that states “so help me God,” the Air Force changed its instructions for the oath.
Following a review of the policy by the Department of Defense General Counsel, the Air Force will now permit airmen to omit the phrase, should they so choose. That change is effective immediately, according to an Air Force statement.
“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in the statement. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen’s rights are protected.
“The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now. Airmen who choose to omit the words ‘So help me God’ from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.”
The issue gained national attention in early September after a letter from the American Humanist Association outlined the case of an airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada who was unable to complete his reenlistment after striking out the phrase in question on a form. The AHA said it was prepared to sue on religious freedom grounds unless the airman was allowed to reenlist without saying the phrase. The requirement, the AHA argued, violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The issue drew attention to a previously unnoticed rule change: The rules governing the Air Force’s enlistment oaths used to include a note stating that “Airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons.” That exception quietly disappeared in October 2013, after which the Air Force required the inclusion of the full oath for any enlistment or reenlistment.
Now, the airman’s paperwork “will be processed to completion,” the Air Force statement said.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed our client has a First Amendment right to omit the reference to a supreme being in his reenlistment oath,” Monica Miller, an attorney with the American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center, said in an emailed statement.
What do I know?
Like most other American Christians, I can’t claim to know much about Islam. I took a two-month class on the religion in college, and learned a bit about it in high school, but other than that, I have had no immersion into the religion, and only see it through the lens of the war.
But let’s focus on what we do know. Muhammad was a normal and pious man, born around 570 C.E., married to an older woman, living his life when the angel Gabriel came to him and ordered him to recite. The Qur’an is the result of this recitation from illiterate Muhammad. The Qur’an is the living word of God, similar to how Christ is the living word to the Christian God. Muslims worship only God, Islam means “submission to God,” and Muhammad was a prophet, just as Abraham, Jesus, and all the Old Testament prophets were.
Out of the Qur’an comes the Five Pillars. They are 1) Confessing faith in one God, 2) Prayer five times a day, 3) Alms-giving, 4) Fasting at Ramadan, and 5) hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca, a historically relevant city to the Muslim faith.
Sunnis follow Muhammad’s example. Shiites follow Muhammad’s example but also, long ago, chose to follow the example of Muhammad’s descendants, like Ali, Muhammad’s son-in-law.
Jihad means “struggle.” It is not holy war, but it can be. It puts a name to the inner struggle each Muslim goes through to submit to God rather than follow their own ego.
Muslims believe that humans were created with fitra–a good framework everyone is born with, but that many people forget and get distracted from the true path. This negates the need for a Savior, unlike Christianity, which is a religion based on the saving blood of Christ. All one needs to do to be saved in the Islam faith is to follow the Five Pillars.
Treatment of Women
We look at Muslim women covered head to toe, living under strict rules and say the religion and culture is oppressing them. Muslims look at American women wearing next to nothing on TV and billboards, putting all their worth in their bodies, and say American culture and Christianity are objectifying and oppressing their women. Both sides argue that their women are better off.
These differences will always bother the modern, democratic West as well as the traditional, Islamic East. It overlaps into all the question both religions ask: do we move forward with our ideas and technology, or do we try to go back to the way things were in the Bible or in Muhammad’s time? No text or living example can tell us what to do about stem cell research. The ambiguity in both Christian and Islam doctrine create unanswerable questions and unnegotiable relations between nations.
But we look at the stories of Muslim men killing their sisters because they were raped, or seen with a man who wasn’t part of the family, and we Westerners cannot condone it due to cultural difference. How can two civilizations agree to disagree when innocent people die? It is difficult to know when to intervene with another nation.
Yet, many Muslim women feel hopeful that they will attain more freedoms as time goes by. Only a hundred years ago in the US, women weren’t allowed to vote. How can we rush other cultures to catch up to us?
Violence and Jihad
Another reason Christians and Muslims can’t get along is violence. The unforgettable attacks and counterattacks of the last decade have shown us that people will fight and die for their religion. Christians and Americans question Muslims: how is your religion peaceful when so much war and killing has happened since its beginning?
Muslims turn around and ask us the same thing. Christianity has a history of violence, too. The US has turned to violence to get what it has wanted.
But why did Islam extremists attack us? As Western thought and modernism spread, along with American culture, to almost every nation, Muslims cannot help but see these new ways of thinking and living as imposing on their religious tradition. When we try to make their religious governments into democracies, they don’t see it as a gift of freedom, they see it as an attack on their religion. When the World Trade Centers fell down and fingers were pointed to Al Qaeda, Christians too felt their religion was being attacked. Christians tend to tie up their religious conviction with patriotism, and freedom has become a synonym for the American way of life.
The majority on both sides want peace. But both sides are also called to spread their religion to all nations. Dedicated Muslims and Christians alike will fight for what they believe is right. This is the cause of the clash.
What Can We Do?
We have only dipped into this topic, and have already found material for endless debate. What can we do with this rising issue?
- For now, the best thing to do is to learn as much as we can about Islam. We must stay updated on what is going on in Islamic countries and we must hush our assumptions and listen for awhile.
- Understand and remember that there is fear on both sides. Western culture has become a force, a blind pillar of great evil to many other cultures in the world. Muslims also understand little about us. They fear us as much as we may fear them.
- Find the beauty in Islam. Instead of looking for its faults, look at it for inspiration for your own faith. How do Muslims find happiness? Looking for the positive aspects, we will have more than enough to love about this other culture.
- Talk about it with as many people as possible. Really listen to what other people are saying, and be respectful while still arguing your point. Communication is always the first step, and most of the time, we cannot even manage that. Let’s start the discussion.
Collin via CNN
Dear Evangelical Christians:
First, I do not exist. The concept of a 13,700,00,000 year old being, capable of creating the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies, monitoring simultaneously the thoughts and actions of the 7 billion human beings on this planet is ludicrous. Grow a brain.
Second, if I did, I would have left you a book a little more consistent, timeless and independently verifiable than the collection of Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology you call the Bible. Hell, I bet you cannot tell me one thing about any of its authors, their credibility or their possible ulterior motives, yet you cite them for the most extraordinary of claims.
Thirdly, when I sent my “son” (whatever that means, given that I am god and do not mate) to Earth, he would have visited the Chinese, Ja.panese, Europeans, Russians, sub-Saharan Africans, Australian Aboriginals, Mongolians, Polynesians, Micronesians, Indonesians and native Americans, not just a few Jews. He would also have exhibited a knowledge of something outside of the Iron Age Middle East.
Fourthly, I would not spend my time hiding, refusing to give any tangible evidence of my existence, and then punish those who are smart enough to draw the natural conclusion that I do not exist by burning them forever. That would make no sense to me, given that I am the one who withheld evidence of my existence in the first place.
Fifth, I would not care who you do or how you “do it”. I really wouldn’t. This would be of no interest to me, given that I can create Universes. Oh, the egos.
Sixth, I would have smited all evangelicals and fundamentalists long before this. You people drive me nuts. You are so small minded and yet you speak with such false authority. Many of you still believe in the talking snake nonsense from Genesis. I would kill all of you for that alone and burn you for an afternoon (burning forever is way too barbaric for me to even contemplate).
Seventh, the whole idea of members of one species on one planet surviving their own physical deaths to “be with me” is utter, mind-numbing nonsense. Grow up. You will die. Get over it. I did. Hell, at least you had a life. I never even existed in the first place.
Eighth, I do not read your minds, or “hear your prayers” as you euphemistically call it. There are 7 billion of you. Even if only 10% prayed once a day, that is 700,000,000 prayers. This works out at 8,000 prayers a second – every second of every day. Meanwhile I have to process the 100,000 of you who die every day between heaven and hell. Dwell on the sheer absurdity of that for a moment.
Finally, the only reason you even consider believing in me is because of where you were born. Had you been born in India, you would likely believe in the Hindu gods, if born in Tibet, you would be a Buddhist. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own god(s) and they always seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams and prejudices. What, do you think we all exist? If not, why only yours?
Look, let’s be honest with ourselves. There is no god. Believing in me was fine when you thought the World was young, flat and simple. Now we know how enormous, old and complex the Universe is.
Move on – get over me. I did.
Sure, I don’t agree with their notion of white pride. And I don’t believe in their desire to cut off all American foreign aid, nor their desire to outlaw homosexuality, nor their anti-abortion stance. I think their plans for creating a Christian nation are horrible and damaging. And I think their history of racism is a truly terrible thing.
But there is a lot of good that comes out of being in the klan! A sense of community. A sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself. And some of the things they believe in, I also agree with. They believe in supporting strict environmental laws. They believe in balancing the budget. They stand behind states rights, and they strongly support veterans.
Just because a few radical individuals did some terrible things in the past in the name of the Klan, that has nothing to do with how the Klan is today! Besides, those people weren’t true Klansmen. A real, modern Klansman would never act like that!
I can call myself a Klansman, even though I don’t agree with everything they believe in. And I still go to a few Klan meetings each year, even though I disagree with some of their core tenets. I like the ceremonies, and some of the songs. I’m just choosing the parts that I like, and I’m going to with that, while I ignore the parts of The Klan that I disagree with.
So really, there’s nothing wrong with The Klan, or being a member. It’s just a personal matter of how an individual chooses to live their life.
I really don’t understand why people have a problem with me being in the Klan!