When asked about a health scare in 2009, Stephen Hawking answers:
I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first. 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.Like most parents and grandparents I have told my share of fairy tales. My children liked the standard fare well enough-Jack and the Beanstalk, Hansel and Gretel, et al, but their favorites were the off the cuff stories about the fair Lady Nadia and the brave knight, Sir Jason. Every story had its gloom and doom and every story had its happy ending. They knew that the stories were nothing more than tales that Mommy made up for their amusement and I can assure you that they never took it upon faith that the stories were true.
I take it on absolute faith that the universe was created by God. Hawking takes it on faith that it wasn’t. There is no doubt that Hawking is brilliant but at the end of the day he can no more prove that God did not create the universe than I can prove that he did. If the universe was created by a big bang then I say that God caused the big bang. For all of Hawking’s knowledge can he prove otherwise? No, he and I are both working under the same principle but we are applying it through our own lens.
People often state quite confidently that faith in God is a symptom of a fear of death. I am not afraid of death. I certainly would prefer some means of dying over others but if death is nothing more than ceasing to be I can’t imagine what I should be afraid of. And certainly Hawking does not mean to suggest that people of faith are afraid of finding themselves in Heaven. I guess one could fear Hell, and I have known some who were “good” more out of a fear of Hell than a faith in God and Heaven, but that too has struck me as rather silly.
I doubt that I or anyone else could ever convince Hawking, or any other atheist, that ultimately he is acting out of faith. If it gives him comfort to think otherwise then so be it. But occasionally even the brilliant would benefit from a little reflection.