Yesterday, the human species suffered a great loss with the passing of famed physicist Stephen Hawking. An unparalleled paragon of scientific brilliance, he continued to push the bounds of our collective knowledge even after a debilitating disease confined him to a wheelchair and he lost his ability to speak. Mourning Hawking should have been a universal moment that people from both sides of the aisle could use to come together in celebration of human achievement and scientific endeavor.
Instead, a Republican decided to use Hawking’s death as an excuse to push his own regressive, religious talking points. Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain tweeted out that Stephen Hawking “now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made.”
It was a less than subtle and far less than clever jab at Hawking’s atheist beliefs, which he came to throughout the course of a long life steeped in careful consideration and academic rigor.
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Cain’s tweet was crude and ill-timed and a good example of the selective “morality” many far-right religious monsters apply to those with beliefs different from their own. It would have been far easier and far more kind for him to simply refrain from weighing in on Hawking’s death.
One also can’t rule out the possibility that Cain was making an oblique implication that the deceased physicist “now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made” because he thinks Hawking is in hell, a fate that many religious fundamentalists believe atheists inevitably face. It’s a disgusting message from the Republican lawmaker.
Stephen Hawking now knows the truth about how the universe was actually made.
My condolences to his family.
— Briscoe Cain (@BriscoeCain) March 14, 2018
Not surprisingly, many Twitter users swarmed Cain to criticize him for his heartless and unnecessary tweet. Hawking was a widely beloved figure, and since he can no longer defend himself, his numerous fans stood up for him en masse.
I know that deep down inside there’s a voice telling you to hate yourself and I just want you to know that it’s exactly right.
— strategy consultant (@neoliberal_dad) March 14, 2018
Congrats on being everything that’s wrong with Texas
— John (@vajohna) March 14, 2018
It must hurt to be reminded that there are people who are remembered fondly by millions when they die, whereas no one will remember you at all
— David Klion (@DavidKlion) March 14, 2018
Spiteful tweets make the baby Jesus cry.
— meh (@asthmaspore) March 14, 2018
My condolences to yours. They have obviously yet to discover what a dreadful human being you are.
— Kris King (@distant_angel) March 14, 2018
Another “Christian” proving to humanity that there are no worse or evil humans on Earth than the false worshipping, “Christian” politicians. #JesusWouldBeEmbarassedByYou #OneDayYouWIllBurnInHellForEternity
— Amy Jo Greenstoker (@MsGreenstoker) March 14, 2018
The American-Statesman reached out to Cain looking for an explanation for the reviled tweet.
“I am sympathetic for his family’s loss. Losing a loved one is difficult for everyone. My prayers are with them,” Cain began, before quickly doubling down. “While many see him as one of the greatest public intellectuals of the last century, and no one disputes that he was brilliant, the fact remains that God exists. My tweet was to show the gravity of the Gospel and what happens when we die, namely, that we all will one day meet the Creator of the universe face to face. Stephen Hawking was a vocal atheist, who advocated against and openly mocked God. Hawking has said, `[T]here is no god. No one created our universe, and no one directs our fate.’ And, elsewhere, `I’m an atheist,” Cain told the Statesman.
Shame on Cain and shame on anyone who pushes these kinds of hateful messages on those in mourning. Hawking should be thanked and honored, and his family given the space and time they need to mourn him in peace.