Why Rumours of God's Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated; Physicist Stephen Hawking Has Declared That 'God Is Dead' - Laid to Rest by Science's Discoveries on the Birth of the Universe. Here Bishop Gregory of St Asaph Puts His Side of the Argument

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Byline: Bishop Gregory

"God is dead." I was thrilled when I first heard that phrase. It was coined by a German philosopher 128 years ago, but the phrase is still reworked from time to time as if new.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going" is the most recent version. Some say Professor Stephen Hawking is the cleverest scientist since Einstein, so what he says must be right. What both Hawking and Nietzsche (the German philosopher) are arguing is essentially the same: as science explains more and more of the workings of the universe the concept of God becomes a fairground sideshow - either unbelievable or redundant.

Now, as a bishop, I'm not likely to buy that line. Readers will expect me to argue for the existence of God - to which you may either raise a cheer (as believers) or send in letters about my ignorance (as atheists). But I'm not afraid of the debate; indeed I welcome it. The more discussion, the better. Richard Dawkins, another advocate of the "God is Dead" argument, suggests that religion wants to stifle free thinking.

But not me, and not, I think, the Christian Church of today. There are questions to be explored, and let's debate them. Strangely, it is the secularists who often want to shut the debate down.

I welcome debate, but I must admit that some caricatures of religion irritate me. "Religion is a crutch", says one. But my faith is not because I'm afraid of death - or life. If anything, my belief in God is challenging because it calls me to a higher standard of behaviour than I would choose for comfort. I came to faith not because I worried about death, but because it seems the best way to understand my existence and experience.

Debate... Bishop of St Asaph Rt Rev Gregory Cameron "Religion is only used to explain things that have now been explained by science" is another. I love science. It tells us truths about the way the universe works. However, God is not a "god of the gaps" to explain the otherwise unexplained. Rather, as a seventeenth century scientist (Johannes Kepler) wrote, science is about thinking God's thoughts after him, working out how he did it. More discoveries about the universe don't push God aside for me, rather they affirm the laws by which he sustains the universe.

Do I think that the idea of God is necessary? I agree with Stephen Hawking.

Not for a scientific explanation perhaps. However, I don't think that the real argument is about science.

Faith approaches the universe from quite a different direction, and there are some questions which deserve a different approach. When we see a birthday cake, the explanation which makes sense is not the chemistry and science of the cake production process - however accurate. …