Jonathan David Carson (The American Thinker) complains about how (in his view) there is an established religion in America today: Scientism. The essay cites some ancient sources, notably Lucretius' veneration of Epicurus, and includes the wonderful solecism(/wordplay?) scientismists. And don't think for a minute that Hillary Clinton isn't part of the conspiracy. Here's an excerpt on Hawking:
An unintentionally revealing article in the June 2002 issue of Scientific American, one of the holy books of the established religion of the United States, begins.... [quotation suppressed here]
Hawking, the rest of the article informs us, is not only God, a saint, a writer of epistles, and a Christ-figure with multitudes of apostles, but also “the Delphic oracle” and a “shaman.” He gives authoritative answers to questions of “theology.” He has a “transcendent mind.” He preaches “sermons.” He is the apotheosis of a “modern incarnation.”
Veneration of atheists is not new. Some of the schizoid attitude of scientism, at once materialist and New Age, is captured in a curious incident recounted by Martin Rees in Before the Beginning:
“When Hawking received an honorary degree from Cambridge, the Orator quoted the encomium of Epicurus by Lucretius: ‘The living force of his mind overcame and passed far beyond the flaming ramparts of the universe, traversing in mind and spirit the boundless whole.’”
Who the “Orator” is, Rees does not say, nor why he deserves capitalization, but what we have here is the praise of one atomist (Epicurus) by another (Lucretius) echoed by the praise of one materialist (Hawking) by another (Rees), with atomist and materialist praised with what can only be religious fervor.