Liars for Jesus: In a pathetic attempt to prop up their corrupt religious superstition, some Catholics claim Stephen Hawking converted to Christianity after a blessing from Pope Francis before his death.
It is an all too common story: Christians often lie about a prominent atheist or freethinker experiencing a deathbed conversion after their death. For example, in 2016, Christian apologist Larry Alex Taunton claimed atheist Christopher Hitchens contemplated converting to Christianity on his deathbed.
In fact, the same sort of false narratives have been told about Charles Darwin, Oscar Wilde, and countless other freethinkers and atheists.
So it is not surprising that the faithful would attempt the same sort of smear after the death of legendary British theoretical physicist and intellectual giant Stephen Hawking.
And right on cue, Catholics Online, a large and popular Facebook page for Catholics, declares:
(Before he died, Stiph [sic] Hawkins [sic] who did not believe in God requested to visit the Vatican. “Now l believe” was the only statement he made after the Holy Father blessed him.)
The claim is obviously false. The fact that the Catholics running the Facebook page could not even spell Hawking’s name correctly is a good indication of the intellectual abilities of those running the page.
A disreputable Facebook page engages in a time-honored ritual — the phony deathbed conversion of a prominent unbeliever.
Hawking was a longstanding and prominent atheist who often wrote and spoke about the origins of the universe and his views on the notion of a divine Creator (or rather, a lack thereof)…
There is no evidence that Hawking deviated from those lifelong views before his death, and he did not make any declaration of faith after a meeting with Pope Francis.The photograph in the Facebook post shows Hawking and Francis together at the Vatican in November 2016, the last time the two men met. Contrary to the claim, Hawking did not request a private visit with the pontiff; rather, he traveled to Rome for a scheduled meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Speaking at the 2014 Starmus Festival at Tenerife in the Canary Islands, Hawking clarified some previous statements he had made about God. In so doing Hawking clearly stated, for the record:
I’m an atheist.
In the past, there had been some ambiguity concerning Hawking’s attitude towards God. In his landmark work “A Brief History of Time,” Hawking wrote that the discovery of a unifying set of scientific principles known as the theory of everything would enable scientists to “know the mind of God.”
However, in his follow-up book about the quest for the theory of everything, titled “The Grand Design,” Hawking said the mechanism behind the origin of the universe was becoming so well known that God was no longer necessary.
When asked about his previous references to God, Hawking responded:
Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.
And in a 2011 interview with The Guardian, Stephen Hawking said that heaven and the afterlife is a “fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Also in 2011, during an episode of the Discovery Channel program Curiosity entitled “Did God Create the Universe?” Hawking declared:
We are each free to believe what we want and it is my view that the simplest explanation is there is no God. No one created the universe and no one directs our fate. This leads me to a profound realization. There is probably no heaven, and no afterlife either. We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
And while some deluded Christians claim Stephen Hawking experienced a deathbed conversion, other equally deluded Christians take pleasure in the idea that Hawking is now burning in Hell.
Bottom line: Stephen Hawking lived and died an atheist. The claim that he converted to Christianity is a deplorable smear on the good man’s name, and only serves to demonstrate the moral and intellectual poverty often associated with religious superstition.