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Did Stephen Hawking believe in God? How are Hawking’s views of God similar to that of pantheistic religions?
According to the late Stephen Hawking, God is unnecessary because science explains the universe better than religion. However, Hawking didn’t rule out the possibility of God—he said that “God” is the natural laws of the universe rather than a singular being.
Here are Stephen Hawking’s ideas about God.
Why We Don’t Need God
Hawking begins his book Brief Answers to the Big Questions with a discussion of God, observing that the concept of God is closely related to the question of how the world began. He explains that our ancestors looked to religion for an explanation of the origin of the universe as well as how reality works in the present. In ancient times, people attributed the creation of the universe, the seasons, the phases of the moon, natural disasters, and many other things to the often-fickle actions of God or gods.
Hawking asserts that today, science provides better explanations for these phenomena than religion does, making the concept of God unnecessary. He doesn’t claim to have proof of God’s non-existence. But he says that the universe follows a set of inviolable natural laws, which would constrain the actions of any god who might exist, and therefore the existence of a god who could change the events of the world according to a personal whim, as many religions believe, would not be possible. Science is the study of these natural laws. As such, science gives you a better understanding of how the universe works and where it came from than religion does.
So, according to Stephen Hawking, “God” is what one might call the natural laws. After all, they determine everything that happens in the universe, so they are omnipotent, in a sense. But he cautions that these laws are impersonal principles, unlike the personal, relatable gods that most religions depict.
|Is God Separate From the Laws of Nature? |
Some religions are more consistent with Hawking’s view of the relationship between science and God than others.
Pantheistic religions such as Hinduism and Taoism are relatively compatible with Hawking’s position that gods are either constrained by the laws of nature or indistinguishable from them. This is because pantheism teaches that the natural and the spiritual are one and the same: God is in everything and everything is part of God. In pantheism, natural and spiritual realities may be personified in any number of deities, but these gods are all unified with nature and with each other as part of a universal spirit. Also, many pantheistic religions do not regard the universal spirit as a personal entity, which is consistent with Hawking’s view that the laws of nature are impersonal.
By contrast, monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Judaism tend to be at odds with Hawking’s perspective. This is because they teach that God is a personal being who created the universe and exists independent of it. Most monotheists believe that God established the laws of physics as nature’s default mode of operation, and also that God can override the laws of nature whenever he wants to. For example, God demonstrates his power over nature when he performs miracles, such as when Jesus walked on water.
Thus, the monotheist might argue that knowledge of God still gives you a more fundamental understanding of how the universe works than science does, because God dictates the laws of nature, rather than being constrained to obey them.
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- The final lessons from Stephen Hawking, published after he passed
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- Why humans should be colonizing the Moon