Assuming, no doubt, our anxious world could use a good laugh, Stephen Hawking undertakes to provide one. He says the universe created itself.

The theory itself isn’t the joke. The joke is the dogged persistence of atheists trying in the face of common sense to persuade the world as to the wisdom they see in their every utterance. Another way of putting it would be, atheism is the joke.

The likes of Hawking, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins—how, by the way, does Britain, the land that bred Lewis, Chesterton and Wesley, manage to produce so many certified atheists?—Hawking & Co., I say, want everyone to see God as, I guess, some sort of celestial intrusion in the affairs of intelligent men and women.

Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, (written with one Leonard Mlodinow) argues that “the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

I suppose the intent of such stuff is to render non-atheists, Christians especially, mute and fearful. Which is more than a little bit odd. Who is likely to grow mute in the face of a bald claim that the universe more or less invented itself? Was Hawking there with his camera? That would be the first question. Soon other questions would follow. The vast variety of life—that was spontaneous, too? The human organism—the brain, the eye, the ear, the digestive tract—just sort of, you know, happened? The sky, the seas, the seasons, not to mention human reproduction—those things, too? And the greatest minds of history failed to catch on, century after God-fearing century? That or they practiced denial? Uhhhh … yeah.

There is a poignancy to the atheist fixation on showing up God. What’s wrong with these people? Many of them are technically intelligent (Hawking is routinely labeled “brilliant”), but they swallow with satisfied smiles the intellectual bilge called atheism. They’ve been doing it forever—so long indeed that taking an atheist seriously requires a leap of faith so enormous that no one, least of all the atheist himself, can see from jumping-off spot to landing point.

The atheist mode is pure assertion. It’s, shut up, listen here, I’m giving you numskulls The Facts. I imagine there have been, here and there, pleasant atheists. If so, one rarely runs across them. They’ve all got some Hawking, some Hitchens, some Mencken or Shaw or Robert Ingersoll in them: the desire to strut before the Stupid Masses; to show off a bit; to puncture the illusions of folk less enlightened than themselves, pinned down by the weight of superstition and terror. What a bunch of rubes and yokels, these believers! Not that they don’t come in handy as rhetorical foils and customers.

It’s really all too funny, as things tend to get when certain people—over and over without pause—do the same stupid things. Such as instruct the whole of human history to get off this God thing and start believing in spontaneous creation. I can see it all now, can’t you?—The Church of Spontaneous Creation; services whenever you’re feeling spontaneous; come feel the creative power surge through your veins; learn to laugh at fools and frauds and idiots stupid enough to disagree with the doctrine of “It All Just Happened.”

It is funny: like W.C. Fields assuming the posture of sobriety, Malvolio the pose of Lady’s Man. The obverse of Reality is the Ridiculous—that which makes itself farcical precisely by taking itself with deep earnestness.

If, against the testimony of civilization, the atheists ever find anything new or remotely plausible to say about God, that would be a red letter day in the history of the world. While we wait, how’s about a story? This atheist, see, walks into a bar …