For any atheist who’s been raising an eyebrow at the recent antics of self-initiated atheism spokesperson Richard Dawkins, we’ve now got a better boxer in our ring. Theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking is an atheist, and he just made clear his previously ambiguous stance on his own faith. While it was safe to assume that this is probably the case for someone who has openly criticized the childish notion of heaven, Hawking has made a conscious effort in the past to leave some of his notions of a higher power up to speculation; and understandably so, as he has been the object of ridicule among the god-fearing for some time.
Recipient of just short of every prize for scientific research besides the Nobel, Hawking — a real face of ALS for the folks who recently poured water over their heads for the sake of social media mobility — has, against all odds, managed to alter our understanding of the universe and further, by a significant margin, the study of its origins. His life’s work include such major scientific contributions as "Hawking radiation," which seeks to explain the nature of black holes (which have been the crux of some serious scientific debate recently); marrying Einstein's General Theory of Relativity with quantum mechanics; and proposing the theory that our universe may be boundless, but finite in size. In essence, it’s safe to say Mr. Hawking has a firmer grasp on the origins of our universe than nearly any other human being, living or deceased. Below, we’ve compiled a list of his best quotes on god and creation.
On the fundamental difference between science and religion:
"There is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, [and] science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win because it works."
On why god isn't needed for creation:
"Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
On life after death:
"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."
On intelligent life beyond earth:
“We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
And for all of you John Oliver enthusiasts, watch Hawking and Oliver play a game of comedic banter in the below clip.