In my view M-theory will continue to develop until it becomes a proper theory. It will likely, eventually incorporate equivalent mathematical models that may or may not “look” like strings and branes
The essential thing to understand about Hawking’s stance on God, is in the equations and the philosophy of the scientific method. God will never be added into any of the equations.
There are entities in the Universe, and every entity has attributes associated with it, otherwise it would not be something new. How would a “God of Abraham” factor ever fit into such a system? What about just a Creator entity? No, because that is just jumping to a goal post, without knowing how you got there. It could turn out that we live inside of a simulation with a sort of creator. I tested this theory, and the simulator did not respond. I think we have a long way to go before we can determine whether or not we live inside of a simulation though, so I think we should stick to science.
It would seem that the universe bubble that we exist in, is but one of an infinite number of possible bubbles, all existing under the same laws, but exerting different values for their particle/strings to “settle” within a given set of fields.
There are hills and valleys upon where each of the fundamental particles can land to rest or actually vibrate.
It may turn out that waves push the particles around, and that an equivalent model, or a more accurate model could be built up from that.
Penrose has a “twister” model that may prove more accurate. There are many other theories.
The “why” questions tend to get almost answered by a never-ending series of how questions. The Godists seem to insist that we solve everything at once, and reach a false goal line that was invented by man.
Mathematics in conjunction with science works. It may not ease your soul, but it does fine by me. The universe is a great and wondrous place. Reading about it from authors such as Hawking, Pinker, Dawkins, Greene, V. Stenger, and many others, gives me great joy. Many doors have been opened for me by these great writers.