Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stephen Hawking – “Heaven is a Fairy Story”

You may have read about physicist Stephen Hawking’s statement concerning the existence of Heaven. In an interview with the Guardian, he addresses the idea of Heaven this way, "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,"

So, according to him, half the world is scared of the dark?


My first reaction to his statement, as a Christian, is sadness. I can understand his outlook, though. His remarks sound bitter. I feel certain that he didn’t ask to be stricken with ALS in his youth. Similarly, children with cancer didn’t ask for it, nor has anyone else who has experienced a debilitating illness.

Life isn’t fair. That phrase should be tattooed on your forehead in reverse at age 3 so you can see it in the mirror every morning. I can think of few people who have a charmed life, where everything always goes their way, their spouse is exceptionally attractive and all their children are above average.

As a famous scientist, Hawking’s words carry weight. There are many in the scientific community who agree with him, and I don’t have a problem with their personal beliefs. All of us are free to believe anything we choose to believe and also to look at life any way we wish.

Hawking is free to express his faith, as he has done. He is convinced there is nothing beyond this physical life. We are nothing more than computers that wear out and are then discarded.

I don’t happen to agree with him, but that’s just me.

I understand that scientists live in a world of measurement. They live and die, in a professional sense, by how they measure the world. Accuracy is their Holy Grail, and if something cannot be quantified, they don’t concern themselves with it. There’s nothing wrong with that attitude, that’s why they make the big bucks.

Humans are the most inquisitive organisms on Earth. That curiosity has led us to discover things that, not so long ago, would’ve been considered magic. Great strides were made in the previous century due to it: we now live longer, better, and more productive lives than at any time before. We seem to be doing a good job of subduing this Earth and using it to better ourselves, just as we’re supposed to.

But it seems as though Dr. Hawking’s curiosity stops at a certain point. He seems willing to go where no mind has gone before, only to coast to a stop intellectually. Maybe that’s all the fuel he has left. Perhaps the toll his disease has taken on him is too great for him to continue any further. That’s perfectly understandable.

However, his blanket statement that there is no Heaven and that those who believe there is are childlike, sounds to me like someone who has closed his mind. I always thought the thing that separated brilliance from averageness was an open mind. That quality that was willing to consider possibilities that no one else has considered.

Now, the notion or idea of life beyond this corporeal one isn’t new by any means; it’s been around for thousands of years and is inextricably woven into the fabric of humanity. There’s just no getting away from it. It’s so firmly fixed in every society that it cannot be ignored.

It’s like growing up in Alabama. You simply cannot ignore the rivalry between Alabama and Auburn – you have to take one side or the other.

The afterlife is like that too. Either you believe in it or you don’t.

Going back to scientists and measurement for a moment, there is no physical proof of life after death. This reality is all there is to most scientists because there’s nothing to measure, no physicality to spirit, nothing to quantify, there’s no “there” there.

How do you measure you?

Surely, you exist. Of that, there is no doubt. But what part of you is you? Where do you stop and your body begin? Are you nothing more than neural firings inside a mass of tissue? What is it that animates your body? What is your spirit?

These are the questions that scientists have no answer to, as far as I can tell. That doesn’t bother me in the least.

Could it be that we’re not meant to know certain things? Is there a line beyond which we cannot go? It seems that way to me.

And that’s where faith enters. Christianity teaches that faith is believing in what you can’t see, feel, or touch. Heaven would fall into that category.

Personally, I can’t find anything wrong with believing in Heaven. Or goodness. Or mercy, or forgiveness. Nor any of the other things that Jesus instructed us to seek in this life. And I don’t have any problem with anyone that doesn’t believe in them, or Him.

You are free.

I choose to Believe, with a capital “B.” Not because of what I’ve been taught, but because of what I’ve experienced, which has led me to question virtually everything, kinda like a scientist. That’s what faith is all about.

Your free choice.

Someone I didn’t know made an interesting comment to me several days ago. He pointed to my crucifix and asked if that meant anything to me. Being the good-natured dude that I am, I answered him that yes, it did indeed mean something to me. For a long time, I had resisted calling myself a Christian. But after years of searching, I had come to the conclusion that I was, indeed, a follower of Christ. (Whether He agrees or not remains to be seen, but I prefer to do little things, like always trying to follow the Golden Rule and be as patient as I can with my fellow man and hope for The Best, IYKWIMAITTYD.) I also told him that I didn’t care what others believed as long as they weren’t trying to kill me.

I also told him that I thought it was the right time to make a choice, at which time he walked away, seemingly satisfied with my answer.

I should note that this happened in a bar.

But I digress.

Dr. Hawking is allowed his opinion on matters of faith. I’ll listen to what he has to say and measure his words against my experience and make my own decision as to the accuracy of his view, as I hope he would do with me.

Maybe he’ll open his mind just a bit farther. Who know what he might discover?

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