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The most brilliant theoretical physicist of our time is gone. Stephen Hawking died last night at the age of 76.

How many people will ever be able to say they educated the world on the Big Bang theory and black holes and while also guest starring on The Simpsons and being the inspiration for an Academy Award-winning performance?

There are many obituaries worth reading, so I’ll just focus on the religion aspect here. Hawking was never a firebrand atheist. He wasn’t a vocal atheist at all, though the label was often thrust upon him. He just stuck to science. Even his books often alluded to knowing the mind of God, allowing that ambiguity to satisfy religious readers. He didn’t definitively say he was an atheist until 2014.

But it never should have been in doubt because he was committed to finding natural explanations for what we didn’t know. If God exists in the “gaps,” he spent his life trying to close as many as he could.

Even when his brilliance went over the heads of most other people, his life itself was an inspiration. After receiving a diagnosis of ALS in 1963 and given only two more years to live, he didn’t hit the pause button on his life. He kept studying, kept asking questions, kept trying to make sense of the world around him until the breakthroughs finally came.

We can all learn that lesson from him. We’re lucky to be alive and it’s up to us to make the most of it. Even beyond that, the world is more beautiful and wondrous than anything a god could have created. There are so many discoveries waiting to be found and it really is possible to know so much more than we do now.

Hawking will be remembered not just for his scientific contributions, but for his triumph over perceived disability. By all accounts, he lived a full joyous life. And his contributions to science were rarely matched.

Hawking once wrote a book called On The Shoulders Of Giants, all about the lives and works of brilliant scientists of the past. Whenever someone writes a revised version of that book, there’s no doubt Hawking will be one of the subjects.

It’s amazing that we’re able to say we were alive at the same time he was.

(Image via Shutterstock)

Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.