Stephen Hawking and My Unbelief
The world got the word today that Stephen Hawking has died.
He had a huge influence on my metaphysics because of his statement that a creator–God–was not required in order for there to be a Big Bang.
It was at that point that I felt comfortable not assuming God any more, and began to feel comfortable wearing the label “atheist.”
I have been careful, since I began feeling comfortable in that way, to emphasize that I am not an Atheist-with-a-capital-A. Atheists with a capital A are all about there not being a God.
I don’t profess that there is no God; I simply do not believe that there is one. I don’t profess to be agnostic, though I believe that we are all, in the end, agnostic inasmuch as we may have a belief, but none of us has absolute knowledge.
“You ask me how I know He lives–He lives within my heart,” as the hymn puts it, does not count.
I am not about my not-knowing; at this point in my life, I simply assume not.
I think that Ockham’s Razor provides a good point of departure on the matter, the principle that the simplest explanation is to be preferred. One may argue that it is simpler to suppose a Creator God and let that be the end of it
From a logical perspective, though, it is not the negative that needs to be proved; the “burden of proof,” as it is called, is on the person making the assertion.
In fact, from a logical perspective, you can’t prove a negative, so it is never incumbent on the unbeliever to prove the non-existence of God. In the many centuries of Western debate about God, there has never been proof: only best arguments.
So I believe that it is simpler to believe less: the absence of God.
Before I entered theological school in 1998, I already knew that I did not presuppose that God and A Creator were one and the same. That is a Western notion, a biblical notion, but not every theist is a monotheist: there are, or have been in history, people in the world who believe in more than one God who don’t assume that the Creator of the world and the Sustainer of the world are one and the same.
I happen not to assume that there was any Creator at all, thanks to Stephen Hawking’s teaching on the Big Bang, and at this point I don’t believe in a divine sustainer, but I don’t count those two kinds of disbelief as the same.
I have believed many things in my lifetime. Ask me again in ten years and I may give much different answers to your questions than I give now.
Stephen Hawking was only human, and I understand that he was fallible. But I think he knew what he was talking about when he talked about the Big Bang, since he was a major voice in formulating it since 1970. I observe his death and his life today.