Why I’m Taking Exception to Stephen Hawking

Why I’m Taking Exception to Stephen Hawking

Renowned physicist and author Stephen Hawking, perhaps the most famous ALS sufferer after Lou Gehrig, had his final book posthumously published on Oct. 16. In “Brief Answers to the Big Questions,” one of the answers Hawking offers is that there is no God.

If Hawking was correct, the implications would be enormous for people with ALS. Imagine the ensuing outrage and despair in discovering that we’ve been arbitrarily assigned to spend our final years, prior to oblivion, wandering aimlessly in a prison cell of ever-shrinking walls, with ALS strapped to our backs. I believe that Hawking got that answer wrong.

For many, faith in God is simple. Some steadfastly believe without requiring empirical evidence. Some summarily dismiss concepts like salvation and eternity out of fashion or incredulity regarding the necessity and possibility, respectively.

Others are “sunshine” believers. When fortune is shining on them, a wise God exists. However, when the clouds of life interrupt their plans, the reality of God is questioned. Perhaps that was part of Hawking’s rationale. From this perspective, no ALS patient would acknowledge God, much less worship Him. Yet many of us do.

Another option, though more involved, is personal due diligence. It takes some effort, but ample information exists to be investigated. I did it. Perhaps had Hawking followed this course, genius that he was, he’d have had the same realization as I did.

I totally believe in God. I cannot fathom staring down ALS without that belief. It is a source of sustaining energy. The many people who offer succor to me are gifts from God, reminders that I’ve not been abandoned. The words that He puts in my brain, allowing me to share them with others, enable purpose. The countless times He has rescued me from calamitous outcomes provide courage. The awareness of His miraculous interventions yields hope.

Hawking wrote that, “I prefer to think that everything can be explained another way, by the laws of nature.” The application of science is, for me, cementing proof of God, as it illustrates that nothing in the universe is random. If we allow it to, science draws us nearer to God and His Divinity. It partially unveils his work. As Albert Einstein opined, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

To again quote Einstein: “When I am judging a theory, I ask myself whether, if I were God, I would have arranged the world in such a way.” I believe that the confluence of elements of God’s divine design coupled with His exquisitely pristine timing are the recipe constituents that cure disease. For ALS to be arrested during my lifetime will require such a miracle.

Please join me in praying, to whatever your flavor of God is, for that miracle. If you are religiously unaffiliated, l urge you to earnestly petition your version of a higher power. And if you number yourself among the population who are atheistic, please on a frequent basis, wish that a cure for ALS to be imminent.

In the Christian Bible, the following passage may be found in Acts 16:25: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” Contextually, Paul and Silas were in prison, shackled to the stocks by their feet, after being flogged and beaten with rods. That is what ALS often feels like. For me, even if ALS swallows up every other purpose, I’ll still have prayer. I will still be able to communicate with God. And by His grace, I have hope that my soul will sing for eternity.


Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.

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  1. Andy Straw says:

    Thanks for posting this. I whole-heartedly agree. Our faith in the god of the Bible has been the main thing sustaining my wife and me during the 2+ years I’ve had ALS. A couple of the Bible passages that I cling to:

    Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

    I have felt that peace, despite the trying circumstances.

    2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

    It’s great to know we can be renewed daily. And if ALS is a “light and momentary” trouble, then the heaven I’m looking forward to must be really awesome, and that gives me hope.

    • Dave Reckonin says:

      ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’

      Another counter-intuitive glib mollification from the Bible, which makes no logical sense, reason or rationality

  2. Joanne says:

    Thank you for this column Rick and your reply Andy. My sister-in-law has just been diagnosed with ALS and our family is reeling. My faith in God is strong & it is bringing me hope in our situation but my brother and s-i-l’s family have little faith in spiritual things and some of them would describe themselves as atheists. I long for my
    s-i-l, my brother and their children to be encouraged and sustained by a hope in a loving and eternal God and to know that this life is not all there is and that ‘someday’ all will be healed, all tears will be dried and all will be well forever.
    Please know that I am praying with love for all of you with ALS and your families and I am praying for a cure. But also know that I am praying with great fervency and anticipation that throughout your journeys, you will know the peace and the love of God and even moments of great joy.

  3. Lou says:

    Wanting something to be true doesn’t make it so. Deep down, in their heart-of-hearts, all believers know that there is no god. They are just too afraid to accept it.

    • Joanne says:

      Hi Lou, I can understand someone not believing in God because they have experienced no evidence of God themselves but I find it quite extraordinary that one can say unequivocally there is no God and that they know that the experiences or beliefs of another are categorically wrong and that such faith is simply based in fear. Regarding such simplistic understanding of truth: a professor of mine once put a dot on a white board & asked us students if the size of that dot might represent the extent of our own individual knowledge of all there was to know in the universe. When we agreed that the dot might be a generous representation of our own personal knowledge, he then asked,’how then might you presume to know absolutely that something does NOT exist outside your dot? As an atheist for most of my life I can now attest to the fact that what I once believed to be fanciful & naive ‘wishful thinking’ is in fact the very thing that gives absolute meaning and hope in the midst of a affliction such as ALS.

    • Del says:

      Look around you. Examine what you see.
      For these things to have come into existence by accident in beyond the mathematics of probability.
      The illogical excuse is that anything is possible. It’s not. Try kissing the back of your head.

      • Dave Reckonin says:

        “Look around you. Examine what you see.
        For these things to have come into existence by accident in beyond the mathematics of probability.”

        The Natural Sciences explain those things we see around us.
        It didn’t need a God thing as long as there was water and nutrients.

  4. Bill says:

    I look forward to reading ALS news. This article whether, you are a believer or non-believer, is not ALS news. Stephen Hawkins personal opinion was his. I may or may not agree, but my opinion has nothing to do with my ALS.
    Curing ALS in my lifetime does not require a miracle. It requires hard work and breakthroughs, just like other cures for previous uncurable diseases.

  5. Laura Rotta says:

    I was very touched when I read this. I’m glad you see that at the end of day all we have is God, ALS or not.
    Blessings, Laura

  6. Wayne Lampe says:

    I was diagnosed with ALS January 2006 at age 44. Without Jesus Christ and assurance of heaven yikes!

    1 Chronicles 28:9 New International Version (NIV)
    9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

    So just like the TV show “God Friended Me ” God sends everyone a friend request. It’s up to you to accept or delete it.

  7. Dave Reckonin says:

    Rick has lots of evidence and certainty that ‘God’ exists, but chooses not to share any of that evidence. Most God-botherers are like that. They effectively say “I deeply believe in God, therefore he exists.’

  8. Dave Reckonin says:

    God botherers simply cannot expand their mind to encompass the possibility that ‘the God’ does not exist (because there is no evidence) but that life after the physical death, in another dimension, exists (because of overwhelming evidence.

    • Andy Straw says:

      You are right. Disease isn’t something God created, but rather the result of the fact that we live in a fallen world where – today – satan does have significant power, and has corrupted much of what God created. But today is not all there is, and this life isn’t all there is, and satan will not prevail in the end.

  9. Dave Reckonin says:

    “Some summarily dismiss concepts like salvation and eternity out of fashion or incredulity regarding the necessity and possibility, respectively.”

    Some think about the ‘God’ with logic and reason and realize he simply cannot exist, or he cannot exist in the ‘all-loving ‘ style we are brainwashed with as children.

  10. Dave Reckonin says:

    “Others are “sunshine” believers. When fortune is shining on them, a wise God exists.”


    When fortune shines it is good luck or plain old individual hard work and application.

  11. Dave Reckonin says:

    “The many people who offer succor to me are gifts from God,”
    They are simply altruistic people.
    Many fine atheists are profoundly altruistic.

  12. Dave Reckonin says:

    “For ALS to be arrested during my lifetime will require such a miracle.Please join me in praying, to whatever your flavor of God is, for that miracle.”

    It will entail no miracles but lots of work in the research labs by committed scientists using their evolved brains.

    ‘The God’ has done nothing to assist research. It’s people who do the hard yards.

  13. Dave Reckonin says:

    “Some steadfastly believe without requiring empirical evidence.”
    Some use logic, reason and deduction.
    ALS researchers use logic, reason and deduction.

  14. Dave Reckonin says:

    “Another option, though more involved, is personal due diligence.”

    Many people have done their Due Diligence. God-Botherers simply cannot accept that non-believers have delved deeply into the mass of religious contradictions and inconsistencies and having employed reason, logic and rationality, realized that religion makes no sense.

  15. Dave Reckonin says:

    Rick, has your due diligence answered the question as to why ‘God’ had a child by a married woman called Mary, she being unfaithful to Joseph ?

  16. Dave Reckonin says:

    The bible says that Jesus claimed “My Kingdom is not of this world.”

    So whose kingdom is of this world?
    Satan’s ?
    No-one’s ?
    It would make ALS seem more logical if God played no role in this world.
    He’s clearly not interested in diseases of this horrendous barbaric nature and the toll they take on ordinary people.

    Radicava and Riluzole might slow down ALS progression, but ‘the God’ won’t.

  17. Dan Stevenson says:

    Thank you Rick for your article. I am three years into ALS and I don’t know how I would do this without God. If you want evidence of God I can tell you how to find him. He will reveal himself to you if you will accept his invitation to “Come follow me”. If you will experiment upon His words by praying, reading scripture, and trying to do what’s right God will reveal himself to you. If you do those things long enough you will come to know God. He will guide you, comfort you, and help you find happiness during this difficult time. Jesus Christ understands pain and grief. He also knows us and loves us.

  18. MJ says:

    While I applaud your right to believe and am truly happy for you to have that comfort in good and bad times that are thrown our way as life progresses- I do request more understanding and tolerance from the believers toward the non-believers. We are doing just fine and do not need to change. Stephen Hawking had the right to his beliefs about this issue and so does anyone.

  19. Patricia Riascos says:

    I was looking forward to read all these responses and just today I was able to take the time. It is a topic that I was eager to read to find out how some of my fellow PALS feel about God.
    It is very subjective topic
    I kind of envy the strong believers that can go through pretty much every thing sustained by their faith. I have always found out many holes in religions, so many of them and each of their followers is convinced that theirs is the true religion and true God. How could this be? who is right? Those who follow the bible “to the teeth” and find solace on the readings have found a source of strength and I vote for what ever helps a person to go through difficult times.
    The bible was written thousands of years ago. We now days have difficulty discerning what information is true from days ago. I have no doubt that the bible was written by very pious people wishing to do well.

    What does it mean when people say “I am praying” for you? “I have my congregation praying for you” Has any ALS sufferer cured by prayers? The more people pray together the more ….possibilities for a cure? how about cancer?
    Yesterday there was a terrible shooting in California. All the news anchors start by sending their prayers. Does that even alleviate the sorrow of a mother loosing her child? I find prayers a very nice thing to say to a person just as you say “have a good night”. When you receive prayer wishes it shows that the person cares, and I gratefully receive their wishes.

  20. Dave Reckonin says:

    “I’m praying for you” (the ALS sufferer)
    Surely by now people with at least two brain cells realize that prayers achieve nothing, and that the claim of praying for a pALS is just a glib, meaningless platitude; it’s virtue-signalling, so it is, in effect utterly vacuous.

  21. Fred Hoffman says:

    I am a skeptic but do not preclude the existence of God. Stephen
    Hawking was an atheist but was able to live his life with ALS (for 55 years!) because his life had meaning, in his case, extending our knowledge of the nature of the universe. He also had a ferocious determination to live as much like a normal person. In later life, despite being severely disabled, he continued to teach, write, and travel all over the world. A belief in God is not necessary to find a reason to live despite severe handicaps and pain.

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