I really don’t like the idea of no Heaven. Last month, when my family buried my grandfather, the belief that I will meet with Grandpa again in Heaven sustained me through my sorrow. But is my hope simply an illusion, invented to keep myself from dealing with the finality of death? According to Stephen Hawking, the answer is yes.
Hawking certainly knows how to make headlines. Last year, his book The Grand Design stirred up media attention for its proclamations that God is unnecessary to explain the universe. This past Sunday, he was quoted in The Guardian declaring the nonexistence of Heaven. Said the famous physicist,
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.
Countering a statement like this seems daunting. Hawking is one of the smartest guys in the world and to make matters worse, he’s already poisoned the well against people who disagree by implying that they are unsophisticated, immature “‘fraidy cats” in need of a security blanket.
What does the atheist know that the religious believer doesn’t? Nothing at all. Atheists haven’t interviewed dead people any more than believers have. Nor have any atheists themselves crossed the river in death’s boat to discover what lies on the other side….The atheist has no better proof that there isn’t life after death than the believer has that there is. Both groups are claiming knowledge that neither group actually possesses. For the atheist, no less than for the believer, it is entirely a matter of faith.
Furthermore, D’Souza notes that accusing believers of wishful thinking is not a great tactic since many religious notions of the afterlife also include Hell—which isn’t a comforting fairy story for anyone.
In RTB’s podcast response to Hawking’s declarations, astronomer Hugh Ross and host Joe Aguirre encourage listeners to not be intimidated by Hawking’s prestige. Hugh observes,
When Hawking speaks about black holes, I pay attention. He’s an expert on that…But I notice he loves to make philosophical and theological pronouncements and his educational experience in those disciplines is rather slim.
Hawking is, by all means, entitled to his opinion, but I reserve the right to disagree on this one.
Resources: Kenneth Samples recommends a few books that make a positive case for immortality. Here they are:
- Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality by Gary R. Habermas, PhD, and J. P. Moreland, PhD
- Light and Death: One Doctor’s Fascinating Account of Near-Death Experiences by Michael Sabom, MD
- Life after Death: the Evidence by Dinesh D’Souza