Some rambling commentary on my part about Stephen Hawking and the mild uproar caused by his comment.
I don’t write as much about religion any more as I used to, mainly because I’ve found it is near impossible to sway people one way or the other when it comes to religion or spiritual belief. That and the notion that I should even be trying to sway people was actually rather arrogant in and of itself. Trying to do so is like beating a dead horse and really only accomplishes creating unnecessary conflict. As such I now try to steer clear of such topics.
But today I make a rare break from my personal rule to comment mainly due to the uproar Stephen Hawking made regarding his atheistic view of the universe. I noticed most people broke sharply into two factions: Hawking supporters and religious supporters. Both factions naturally disagreed with one another, but sadly little actual discourse arose. Instead there were a rash of insults and disrespect back and forth with only hardening opinions on both sides. This lack of discourse in this instant I blame on Mr. Hawking. I just don’t see what was logically gained by Mr. Hawking restating his well known views in such a manner.
While I am agnostic and do not believe in an afterlife, I thought Hawking’s words, whether intentional or not, sounded demeaning, elitist, and rather arrogant. By demeaning the beliefs of others he lost a moment in which he could have made an effort to explain his atheistic perceptions to theists without the implied denigration. You can’t start a rational dialogue when the dialogue from the start evokes an emotional reaction, in this case resentment and anger by many religious and spiritual followers and believers. If you can not show respect for others you certainly can not expect them to respect you in return. A more respectful, measured approach by Hawking would have far greater influence.
Ultimately, I am of the opinion that much of the conflict between religion and science would be eliminated if both sides would stop trying to interject themselves into the others sphere of influence. Given historical events and the currently meddling of extremists on both sides to interfere with one another I know that’s unlikely to happen.
I’ve known deeply religious and spiritual people who were excellent scientists and I’ve known atheists who were as equally humanitarian and caring as the most devoutly religious. As such I do not accept the notion that atheism and theism can not coexist or are natural enemies of one another.