The incredible Stephen Hawking, who died last March, was outspoken about his own particular lack of faith in God, even as scientists around him began to reach the opposite conclusion, namely that the Big Bang Theory and others like it seemed to prove that someone or something greater must have lit the fuse.
Hawking's fame, no matter how aggressively market, isn't going to advance atheism, just as Albert Einstein's fame didn't help advance faith in God. With all due respect to both men, their authority on spiritual matters, in the eyes of most people, is about as important as the opinion of an old-time preacher's on quantum physics.
Hawking's posthumous book, Brief Answers to Brief Questions, published this week, was enthusiastically reported on by Israel's Ynet news portal, which seized the opportunity to wave the "no God" flag with impressive vigor. From the headline, "Stephen Hawking in his lsat book: There is no God," Israeli leaders were left with the impression that the great astrophysicist's last act was to further encourage mankind to accept a scientific gospel that omits any divine participation in the history of our universe.
To his credit, Hawking didn't belong to the circle of professional atheists who make a living out of mocking creationists. "Everyone is free to believe as he wishes," Hawking wrote, "but in my opinion the simplest explanation [to the existence of the universe] is that there is no God." Such humility from a person of his magnitude is praiseworthy.
But, as the comment section on this particular Ynet article demonstrated, Israelis can be both dogmatic and humorous when discussing this topic, standing fuzzily between trolling and legitimately engaging with the news item. "God in his first book: There is no Stephen Hawking," read one of the first comments. Another wrote, "Scientists' opinion regarding God carries no special weight," to which someone else replied scornfully, "This is what you should do–buy a few books on astrophysics ... this will make you less dumb." One particularly angry commenter wrote that "Hawking suffered from ALS because he was a heretic." But that prompted the contemptuous response: "He lived much better than you, who slaves to earn minimum wage and live on white bread."
A more facetious reader supplied his own proof for the existence of God: "I grew one flowerpot close to a book of Psalms and another further away, and the one next to the book grew faster … and that's a fact!" In the same vein, another insisted that, apparently like Hawking, "the Orthodox [Jews] already know that God and aliens are one and the same."
From witty to clever to plain dumb, the entire exchange shows once again that scientists' opinions regarding the existent of God matter little to those who need no proof of any kind.