I HEAR YOU STEPHEN HAWKING, AND…

How serendipitous! The BBC news agency published an article on Sept. 2nd relating that Prof. Stephen Hawking, in his latest book The Grand Design, has concluded that God was not necessary to create the universe. Among Hawking’s statements: “It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch-paper and set the universe going”…”The Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics”…and finally, and for me, most importantly, “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”

In my August 31st post entitled “Awe…some”, I was offering a different way to think about God, using new language to include God in the discussion with a wide swath of people with variant viewpoints.  It was not the anthropomorphic construct of a Father or Lord with flowing, shimmering robes and a long white beard.  Rather it was “God as the ultimate mystery of things, as the serendipitous creativity manifest throughout the universe…through which new forms and configurations of reality and life have come into being.” (Thank you Gordon Kaufman).

Spontaneous creation says Hawking, Serendipitous creativity says Kaufman.  Scientist, Theologian.  To my way of thinking, the more that one wants to separate these two fields of inquiry, the closer they appear to fuse.  Science and Religion are compatible. They need not be at odds with one another. Whether we are referring to either science or religion, we must be willing to expand our vocabulary, to open our minds to ways of seeing the world, the universe, in ways that to previous generations seemed unimaginable.  This takes both a willing faith to jump into the unknown as well as all of our faculties of reason to make sense of our new discoveries.

The prevalent worldview is that there is only “this”-the space-time world of matter and energy and whatever  other natural forces lie behind or beyond it.  This modern, nonreligious construct has no foundational place for tradition notions of God.  It thus makes the reality of God problematic.  For some, it leads to rejecting the reality of God, or at least to serious doubts about God, and thus to atheism or agnosticism.

And for those who continue to believe in God, it changes how God is thought of.  Many Christians basically accept the modern worldview’s image of reality and then add God onto it.  God is the one who created the space-time world of matter and energy as a self-contained system, set it in motion, and perhaps sometimes intervenes in it.  God becomes a supernatural being “out there” who created a universe from which God is normally absent.  This is a serious distortion of the meaning of the word “God”.

For me, God always points to something greater,  a “More” and an “And” . Why can’t God be Creator, Spontaneous Creation, and Serendipitous Creativity? We can live out of our imaginations. The vision of reality emerging in postmodern physics does not settle our understandings once and for all.  Religion and postmodern science alike both point to a stupendous “More.”  

 People throughout history and across cultures have had experiences that seem overwhelmingly to be experiences of the sacred.  There are also the quieter forms of religious experiences that happen in the dailiness of our lives.  We witness natural disasters and unmitigated tragedies, and we then we see nature growing and returning to burned forest or flood damaged lands. We hear stories of hope and compassion, beacons of light that rise up when the odds would bet otherwise.   While these experiences can’t be quantified, they can be qualified.  Existence refuses to quit creating.  This experiential base of religion is quite strong; it is ultimately what I find to be its most persuasive ground.

In closing, some words from Marcus Borg: “Finally, no story can be told about the truth of God. It can’t be argued or televised.  And witnesses can’t prove it exists.  Yet the truth of God brings peace instantly.  There is only one unchanging truth about anyone and everyone.  None are left outside of the warm assurance and gentle rest it offers, because God’s truth is Love.”

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10 thoughts on “I HEAR YOU STEPHEN HAWKING, AND…

  1. Dear Nun Tuck,

    I am referring to you by your blogname, because I have just finished watching Russel Crowe’s Robin Hood. I am afraid I didn’t like it. Found it rather difficult to sympathise with either Robin or Maid Marianne. The roguish friar was better, and I thought Prince John was funny in a two dimensional sorta way.

    I have not read Stephen Hawking, although I managed to struggle through Richard Dwarkin’s book ‘ The God Delusion’.

    I think the main issue is not about the contest of knowledge, but rather the contest of egos. It is about listening and understanding, and ultimately sympathising with the opinions of people who may disagree with you. So ultimately, it is how we feel and react, which creates our worldview.

    Believers generally have no issues with atheists, so long as the discourse is kept polite and tolerant. It is however the superior and condescending tone of some writers which is a little grating. I think it is basic decency to respect another person’s belief system. It is sad when this rule of engagement is not respected. Then it is all about my will over your will, and the overbearing desire to convert… That is just sad.

    Anyhow, we are all part of the story, and I always thought that a belief in the non-existence of God is simply another form of belief. So its all even and square.

    Yet, I think we have a lot to thank the atheists for bringing ‘no-God’ into the public forum and debate. Even in the negative sense, God remains relevant.

    Hehehe.

    I started writing this comment feeling kinda irritated with Stephen’s remark. But now I feel indebted to him.

    160. Whatever Turns You On
    They dislike calling a spade, a spade.
    But what they call “chance”, “nature”, “love”
    “supreme alien” or “fate”
    Only serves to disclose
    Some of His limitless Attributes.

    May God bless atheists, evolutionists,
    New age geeks and muslims alike,
    For in spite of not really understanding God,
    They acknowledge Him in their blundering
    Ham-fisted ways.

    (from the chapter “Dam.Munir.Ana”)

    Oh no! I am as guilty of being patronising! But I mean well (i think). Whatever your creed, belief in God or no-God, I hope each shall grow to be the best according to their light and ambition.

    I am hungry. 5 hours to go before breaking of today’s fast…

    Take care, Catherine. You have been rather prolific this week! And I think God appreciates that too.

    Salam,

    Taufiq.

    p/s
    I may not be voicing the majority view of Muslims, but in my opinion, if there is great objection to the building of the Cordoba Centre / Mosque near Ground Zero, then we should just forget it. If the building would cause animosity, anger and hate, then just don’t do it, I say.

    This is why – It is easy to be tolerant to the tolerant. Harder to be tolerant to intolerance. I think Muslims should take the harder path. I think it is the best path.

    Well, that’s my two cents worth…

    Salam again.

    • Hi Taufiq, I didn’t like the Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie either. It wasn’t true to the folklore that we have all come to know and love (whatever that means!). It just didn’t ring true somehow.

      I hope this moment finds you well, with the feeling of content that some sustenance can bring. I admire (in a good way) your persistence. I told you that I have tried fasting; and instead of making me more spiritual, only makes me cranky (I only weigh 117 lbs….I don’t know what that is in kilograms, but I am little!)

      Your fatalistic and wise approach to the building of a mosque at ground zero I fear is a wise one. I think it would be very healing and noble and good to build a Muslim house of worship in a place where those who used the name of Allah and Muhammad to murder and maim would be mocked and scolded and put to shame. America could then see their fanaticism and ignorance of the Quran as an aberration, instead of normative. However, politics being as it is, and prejudice being as it is, I don’t think a lot of good will come of pursuing it.

      I would like to share with you a poem by a favorite of mine, Walt Whitman (1819-1892), who your poetry reminds me of, an American beloved, in his classic collection Leaves of Grass, this one is entitled Kosmos:

      Who includes diversity and is Nature,
      Who is the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of
      the earth, and the great charity of the earth, and the equilibrium
      also,
      Who has not look’d forth from the windows the eyes for nothing;
      or whose brain held audience with messengers for nothing,
      Who contains believers and disbelievers, who is the most majestic lover,
      Who holds duly his or her triune proportion of realism,
      spiritualism, and of the aesthetic or intellectual,
      Who having consider’d the body finds all its organs and parts good;
      Who, out of the theory of the earth and of his or her body
      understands by subtle analogies all other theories,
      The theory of a city, a poem, and of the large politics of these States:
      Who believes not only in our globe with its sun and moon, but in
      other globes with their suns and moons,
      Who, constructing the house of himself or herself, not for a day
      but for all time, sees races, eras, dates, generations,
      The past, the future, dwelling there, like space, inseparable together.

      Keeping you company during Ramadan, Nun Tuck (aka Katherine)

      • Dear Catherine,

        Thank you for your kind solicitations.

        Firstly, I am amazed by the poem, Kosmos. And I may finally agree with you that Walt Whitman’s writing does resonate with my poorly thought verses. I do not believe in coincidences, and perhaps after I have finally left my mortal abode, I may meet Mr Whitman on Mount Qaf and we can chat!

        Secondly, Kosmos reminds me of some writings I have done pertaining to God, Time and us. For I was told that if I take a moment in time as one cartoon caption of myself at that point, God has the view of the entire cartoon caption, and I like to imagine Him as reading my life in the comic centrespread of a divine newspaper.

        Thirdly, Whitman’s usage of the word “Who” would trigger an immediate effect on the Sufis, as they often like to refer to God as “Hu”, which in arabic translates to “He” or “Who is “. As in their plaintive cries of “Ya Hu!”, which roughly means “Oh He!” or “Oh Who!”. Similarly, the more common “AllahuAkbar” would then be translated to “God, He who is great beyond mortal understanding!”

        I will let you in on one secret (or maybe it is no secret at all!). THe Sufis treat all that is beautiful, lovely, merciful kind and true as one of them. You are us, they would say. And we are you. Like what Whitman said, “…like space, inseparable together.”

        Hehehe.

        As to the proposed Islamic centre in Ground Zero, I thought you might agree with my view! I too am glad that the issue has forced islamophobia out into the open. Do you know that I often check on “progressive” American websites like the Young Turks and Keith Obermann and frankly I am amazed and deeply touched by the (now) many, many Americans who are rising up to speak up for the freedom of religion in the States. It is deeply moving to me, and I envy you Americans for having the forum and freedom to debate such issues in the public arena. It puts back my faith in human nature and the intrinsic essence (which we call ‘fitrah’) of goodness in man and woman. God bless… It makes this Ramadan, special to me.

        We will be celebrating Eid this coming Friday. I will thank God for all he has given us, including Mr. Whitman and his prose. Ok, I really gotta get back to work!

        Salams, and may the Cosmos treat you well this day.

        Taufiq.

        p/s
        I drew a cartoon posting yesterday. Do visit. I think you will like it!

  2. In “The Grand Design” Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics…the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

    In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

    Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (fx raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

    • Dear Ron, Thank you so much for your comment. I say a hearty amen to the insightful quote you include by Einstein in your e-book. Now I am going to have to read it (and very much look forward to it!)

      It is especially poignant as I have never seen so clearly the connection between Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Aristotle’s understanding of Essence, combined with the more modern…Freud and beyond, understanding of consciousness. I think I understand it…but “in a mirror darkly”!

      The only two places where I may diverge, are this:

      …to me, the third and fourth power are both human in the most essential way. Mystics do not relinquish the rational, but rather include, and expand their understanding beyond it (in my very human opinion). They are us…only when we are able to relinquish some or much of our second power.

      Secondly, I absolutely believe that there is a divine formula…I have never seen it fail. The words, the language may differ, but there is a sense of Unity, Oneness, and underlying connectivity that all mystics, religious, shamans, etc. share in their understanding and description of the divine. The formula contains a letting go of the ego, a compassion for the other and the self, and an impulse for action to alleviate the suffering of both. This formula would expand to include one’s relationship with humans, animals, and the environment.

      Again, I thank you, Ron. I think there are far too little minds thinking on thoughts that may improve our lot here on planet Earth.

  3. Eid Mubarak Catherine!

    You have been silent for 10 days! Caught in a mental/spiritual roadblock? Or just too darn busy?

    Hope to read your writing soon.

    It is 5th day of Syawal now, and I have let myself go and ate too much. I think it is a net-gain in the poundage area. Hehehe.

    You know, I can be too exuberant in my writing. If I have been overboard in my comments, I do apologise. It is congenital problem I have. Ramadan is (well, was…) not only a month of fasting, but also the seeking of forgiveness. So I thought it would do me good to say I am sorry for my past and future contratemps. Really am.

    Salams to America!

    The talkative taufiq.

    • Blessing to you Taufiq!!!

      YOUR CARTOON IS SUPERB (YOU ARE A MULTI TALENTED INDIVIDUAL) AND YOUR COMMENTS WERE ESPECIALLY POIGNANT AS IT WAS POSTED ON ONE OF THE SADDEST DAYS FOR AMERICA, SEPTEMBER 11TH. FOR A SINNER, YOU DO MANY SAINTLY THINGS!

      I miss my blog so much! I have had so many ideas and they are backed up. I just began a new job two weeks ago, writing communications for the Unitarian Universalists, a perfect gig for me, don’t you think, but it has been a whirlwind of activity from sunrise to well after sunset. I hope to be back at it in the next couple of days, but writing my blog is a joy for me.

      AND, PLEASE, PLEASE, DO NOT STOP WITH YOUR WORDS, YOUR VOICE, YOUR OPINIONS, YOU ALSO A JOY TO HEAR FROM….ALWAYS. The spinning Nun Tuck

  4. You quote Marcus Borg ‘no story can be told about the truth of God’. That seems to me an odd statement. I should have thought that stories are in fact the only way we can talk about God’s truth.

    • Hi Tim, I totally agree with you. I think what Marcus Borg meant (I don’t want to put words in his mouth!) or what I meant, is that not ONE story can be told about the truth about God….getting back to my blog after too long away, Cheers, Nun Tuck

  5. Dear Nun Tuck,

    Be careful with your spinning. Don’t you ever get dizzy?

    Your new gig with the Unitarian Universalist do sound that it was fated for you. I believe you will do great good and pray that words will flow from you like a flood rushing down a mountainside.

    But I also hope that you shan’t neglect your blog for too long, and can divert some of that textual torrents down this way!

    You are of course too kind in your compliments. But when in doubt, praise (God)! That is not a simple throwaway thought, but cuts to the essence of living/worshiping, don’t you agree? Hmm.. I think i will share this (Nun’s) habit, and i would like to compliment God now for His wonderful rendering of the sky today… bluesy and not too warm. Just nice.

    On that note, I wish you a good day too, not too busy, not too lazy, not too hot and not too cold, but you know… just nice!

    Salams,

    Taufiq.

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