Feedback on Hawking's God Includes a Prayer for My Soul

Two readers sent quick responses to the column today examining whether there's anything in cosmology to suggest design in the universe. One suggested I read Bertrand Russell, the other, the Holy Bible.

When I started reading your article in the Philadelphia Inquirer I realized where you were going with it by reading the first few paragraphs.  Words, like "gleeful, gloating, and chest-thumping" were not really necessary to describe the other point of view.  In my opinion, who cares what people say about God, especially in this day and age.  I do not need anyone to confirm my beliefs because these can be confirmed by the Bible, where in many instances were confirmed by more learned scholars.  If you were to read it, you would find that "in the last days scoffers will come" (2 Peter 3:3). 

I would like to believe that you would spend some time reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

Anyway, that is my prayer for you.

Thanks for the prayer. I have read some of the Bible in a wonderful Bible-as-literature class I took as a journalism fellow at the University of Michigan. There’s much to appreciate for its literary merits.

I understand that I am at some risk of hellfire and all that. In fact, Christian kids once brought up this matter in third grade when they discovered I hadn’t been baptized. I went back and checked with my mom, who said that since I wasn’t about to die, I should think about it. In the end I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. I was contemplating Pascal’s Wager, but I didn’t know it at the time.

And I offer you this question: What if you found there was some other religion that preached you would suffer eternal torment because you didn’t worship its version of God or follow its rituals? Would you worry?  

Here’s another reader with a reading suggestion on the other side of the fence:

Faye, nice article in today's Inquirer.  Sorry to see that you have been relegated to page 2 for a second week.

Coincidentally (or not), I am reading Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian.  Notwithstanding what you described in your article as science's current inability to explain how the universe originated, in 1925, in reference to "cosmic philosophies" (that existence was created for humans), Russell wrote:  "All such philosophies spring from self-importance and are best corrected by a little astronomy."

In 1936, he wrote:

"The world in which we live can be understood as a result of muddle and accident; but if it is the outcome of deliberate purpose, the purpose must have been that of a fiend.  For my part, I find accident a less painful and more plausible hypothesis."

It was cosmology vs. cosmetology in today's Inquirer health and science section, and cosmetology won. Hey, I don't get it either, but at least I wasn't assigned to write anything about skin creams. 

Back to this question of eternal damnation, at least I'll have good company. All the fun people will be at the other place. In addition to Russell I might meet Voltaire, and of course Christopher Hitchens. What great parties they must have! And since Christian heaven doesn't allow non-human animals, I have a better chance in hell of being ultimately reunited with Higgs the cat.   

On Russel, I'd say the one phenomenon that doesn’t seem like “muddle and accident” is the lawfulness of the universe. The fact that laws of physics exist doesn’t mean they were set up for our benefit, or course, but they are astonishing nonetheless.