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Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says
Stephen Hawking at the World Science Festival in New York in 2010.
May 17th, 2011
01:44 PM ET

Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail," the physicist said in an interview published Sunday in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Hawking, who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - a terminal and debilitating illness that causes loss of mobility and impairs speech - at age 21 and was not expected to live long after, also talked with The Guardian about his own mortality.

"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years," said Hawking, 69. "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."

In a book published last year, Hawking wrote that God did not create the universe, in what he said was an attempt to banish a divine creator from physics.

Hawking says in the book "The Grand Design" that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

"Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he wrote in the introduction of the book, which was published in September.

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper (fuse) and set the universe going," Hawking wrote.

CNN's Richard Greene contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Britain • Death • Heaven

soundoff (4,469 Responses)
  1. Ian

    God is what people turn to when they reach a point where they can't or (more often) don't want to research further. Even Issac Newton hit a wall and played the God card. Kudos to those who will never use the "God did it" way out of things.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • redragon

      Yeaaaa!!!! Kudos!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • Mike V

      And kudos to those who are not so emotionally weak that they'll sacrifice intellectual honesty for the sake of comfort.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:52 pm |
    • Wade

      Stating the God did it isn't a way out of things moron, it's simply the truth. Only eggheads like you feel the need to always have answers to questions that are logical, try a little faith dude, you'll feel better.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Sam

      Gosh, Wade! When you put it that way, it sure makes just about anyone want to listen to you.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Timetraveler

      Hear hear!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • future's in the bag

      I feel sorry for those of you who think believing in God is emotional weakness......how sad for you

      May 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
    • Jim Neumann

      ACTUALLY... Isaac Newton believed in God from the get go, not just when he hit a wall, and largely abandoned his work in mathematics and physics halfway through his life because he got bored with it; he then studied the Bible for the rest of his life. One of his most famous quotes was this:

      "Atheism is so senseless & odious to mankind that it never had many professors." ...Newton's words, not mine...

      And, yes, Newton is often considered the most intellectual man in history, not that it means much becuase I'm not sure how you can really quantify that statement.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:14 am |
    • JohnR

      Actually, the main reason that there has been a relative dearth of people professing atheism, especially in the periods up to and including Newton's time, is that the always influential and sometimes ruling priestly classes would kill you if you did. It's just like professing the "geographically wrong religion", only that ALL priestly classes react with horror towards atheism, as it would put them all out of their jobs and their positions of influence. That said, there have been strains of eastern thought which at the very least down-played the role of god or gods, eg confucianism and even buddhism.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:31 am |
  2. Pastor Carlton Evans

    All things are only possible to those who believe. Therefore, for the unbeliever you are correct there is no Heaven, but as for me and my house we do believe and we will serve the Lord Jesus Christ!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • YaThink

      "All things are only possible to those who believe"

      So I want to believe that I can have a mansion on mars, with a beautiful gardens, waterfalls falling from the sky, purple clouds floating by in shapes of animals. Ahhhh it's such a wonderful place.....I think I can...I think I can....I think I can.....

      May 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Lowpro

      Religion is for people who pray for parking spots, their team to win, and for a winning game of Golf. For everything else, there's reason.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      beelzebub ~ that is who I am pastor carlton evans ` and tonight I come for you and your family 666

      May 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • TheOracle8191

      Say what you will, everyone, and have your fun if that is what you really want, but the time will come when every single person will bow down to the King of Kings and declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Atheist_Free_Thinker

      Ok pastor... answer this question without the typical "god has a special plan for ______"

      WHY DOES GOD NOT HEAL AMPUTEES?
      He supposedly cures the sick, the blind, the deaf, etc. but have you ever seen – or heard – of an arm or leg growing?
      No, of course you haven't.

      I would like a legitimate answer.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • joeNYC

      @ Pastor Carlton Evans

      I challenge you to prove that this is the case. Just evidence.. something that we can see or touch or read.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Really? Jump off of a cliff, believe you can fly. Do you believe in physics, or is your faith in god not strong enough?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:01 pm |
    • dont worry

      All of the atheist responses to the pastor are pretty weak. Is that all the better you can do?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      dont worry – well, he didn't give us a lot to work with.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      doesn't it say in the bible that god treats all people the same and all are equal and fair? your statement is like one from hitler, you dont follow our beliefs and ideals we will throw you in the fire (for the jews,gypsies and gays it was an oven at a concentration camp for us non believers its hell) its an eliteist idea do you think that a believer is better or above a non believer? if god exists and this is what he preaches i choose hell and i would vent my opinion to him to his face and demand he stand down for doing a crap job

      May 18, 2011 at 1:07 am |
    • Nathan

      Who are you speaking to when you quote scripture like that? Are you applauding yourself or expecting those you condemn to do that for you? If you cant say something useful to for advancing the kingdom you should atleast stay nice. You might retain some value to others that way.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:10 am |
  3. I BELIEVE!!!

    There are some very sad people on here. I bet you pray your but off to God went you want something though...

    May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Andrew

      Nope, never. I don't feel the need to pray to "God", just like I don't feel the need to pray to "Zeus" or sacrifice to a Voodoo god. Each action gets me the same thing- nowhere.

      "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day.
      Teach a man a to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
      Give a man religion, and he will starve by the river, praying for a fish."

      May 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • Marc Benarrous

      No you idiot we dont pray at all- we may hope though- You keep praying – I'll keep evolving.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Ladyoftheday

      @Andrew if you dont believe in God then why are you living, what is your purpose for being here? Dont reply by sayin to be and idiot, because we already know that.....

      May 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Mike V

      Haha, funny. You really should Google the psychology term: "Projection"

      May 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • joeNYC

      @I BELIEVE!!! –

      Nope. I just work my ass off for whatever it is that I want.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      No, I don't pray my butt of when I want something. I work my butt off. I've evolved past being stuck in my child-mind waiting for my parents to do everything for me and making everything alright for me. I don't blame demons for my mistakes or ask angels to bail me out when I'm in trouble. It's this new level of human consciousness called, "personal responsibility." Try it. You may find it liberating.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:00 pm |
  4. TheRealTruth

    The real fairy story is believing that water, sunlight, and now gravity (according to Hawking) gave rise to the existence of life including humans. I feel sorry for Hawking that such a bright mind is locked inside a broken body, but the bitter sarcastic suffering of this man should not be heeded.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • whatsthat

      You are right on the money

      May 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • steve88

      the fact of the matter is that deities and religions are likely man made, and are inherently improvable. Hawking was saying you can give your own life, and the time you have here, the value you decide it is worth.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • da13ca23

      So you would believe that a supernatural being stuck his finger is some mud, created a human being, loosened a snake that charmed a woman created when this being yanked a rib out to take off her clothes and seduce a man who then commits incest to create more humans??
      Nice bit of mythology but that is all it is.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Mike V

      Wait, are you saying that it's unreasonable to believe that complex physical processes caused life to originate; and instead "magic" is the more likely hypothesis?

      If so, take a look at our entire human history for countless examples of physical processes causing things that we used to think were magic. Now count the number of things that were proven to actually be caused by magic (hint: the number is 0).

      May 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Ian

      as opposed to the invisible giant man in the sky who snapped his fingers and earth appeared.

      I guess your theory works more.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      it doesnt just come from water the sun and gravity they help out a lot but water and the sun were created the same way. everything is made up of atoms (don't believe me do some research) its the different variables of heat and light and things like that that cause different reactions to make different things and these things when they interact can create something completely different and you and slowly the process of mitosis or miosis starts to work and form stuff hell i learnt that in high school and it was a catholic one at that a millions of years ago i bet the universe was completely different and had things in it that our minds cant even imagine that have since changed over time from action and reaction to what we have today and in another million years who knows with all the different gases we pump into the air and the weather getting more intense on both ends of the scale life as we know it will be different the human race will have to evolve to survive and will probibly form into a slightly different species hell maybe well evolve into 2 different species like in the movie time machine

      May 18, 2011 at 12:57 am |
  5. Colin

    Mr. Hawkings is arrogant and bitter not to believe in Leprechaun Heaven.

    I do. I believe in Leprechauns and their heaven. I believe that the Leprechaun King created the entire Universe about 6,000 years ago. I know there is a substantial amount of evidence suggesting that the Universe is significantly older than this, but I think a lot of that evidence comes from bad science, or from a worldwide conspiracy of scientists who want to deny Leprechauns. I know this because it is written in the Leprechaun Chronicles, a book cobbled together from various authors, most unknown, by our church during the Dark Ages.

    The Leprechaun King lives in Leprechaun Heaven, where he busies himself answering prayers, running the Universe and recording the lives of humans for their final judgment before him. He is surrounded by an entire society of magical beings – his son Merlin, the Holy Leprechaun Spirit, the good fairy Mary, thousands of other fairies, pixies and the souls of many millions of dead people.

    Each Leprechaun pixie has a special task. For example, Saint Christopher is the patron-pixie of travelers and it is his job to intercede with the Leprechaun king on behalf of travelers to keep them safe. Most countries and professions similarly have a special Leprechaun who pays them special attention – even lawyers. There are strict rules governing the roles, responsibilities of the various Leprechauns, elves, pixies and other heavenly beings.

    I believe that the Leprechaun King loves me and hears my prayers. He intervenes in my life periodically by saving me from various ills. All I have to do is think to myself and he reads my mind and answers my prayers. He loves me and when I die, provided I have lived a good life, I will go to Leprechaun Heaven, where I will live happily ever after with all other humans who have ever led good lives.

    I know there is not a lot of evidence to support my beliefs, but that is just the point. The Leprechaun King wants us to have “faith,” so he never reveals himself. To make an unambiguous appearance and settle once and for all the question of his existence would deprive us of free will and, even though he is all knowing, he would not know who his true believers were. In fact, I believe that the Leprechaun King is “beyond understanding”. He is “outside the Universe” and any time I am faced with something about my Leprechaun belief that makes no sense, I don’t dare question it, I just close my mind and tell myself that "the Leprechaun King moves in mysterious ways" or that my mind is too small to understand the greatness of the Leprechaun King. These answers are satisfying to me.

    Some people, called “atheists,” are skeptical of my belief in the Leprechaun King. They point out many inherent contradictions and unsupported assumptions that underwrite my belief in Leprechauns. But, they can’t prove he doesn’t exist, so he must exist. They also can't definitively explain where the Universe came from or how life on Earth first started, so it must be the Leprechaun King.

    And so what! Even if I am wrong, and go my whole life believing in nonexistent Leprechauns, I have lost nothing. However, if they are wrong, the Leprechaun King will send them to hell to burn forever in the presence of the Evil Ground Troll.

    Am I convincing you to believe in Leprechauns yet?

    May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Corey

      This is brilliant. Although it does conflict with my belief in the one true god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Perhaps we should settle this violently.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Sam

      This was fantastic! Hilarious and a very good analogy.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Brian

      God made idiots too.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • crucified

      Hawkins believes in Aliens from another planet also....too much genius milk...I see the devine punishment of God all over him.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:36 pm |
    • Rico

      crucified – I see a scared little person in you...scared of the darkness that is inevitable. Just think you will be in darkness forever...and ever...and ever without an end and all alone...scared yet? You should be because there is no Gog.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • da13ca23

      WOW! I am impressed with your statement. In fact, I am going to copy this and send it to all my contacts, many of which believe in god. Maybe I will be able to at least change someones mind. Brilliant!!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
    • felixblock

      In many more words you are restating Pascal's bet (Pascal was a French phylosopher) he said that faith is a bet.
      You lose nothing by believing and win infinitely more.
      Roughly speaking

      May 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Mike V

      Heretic! The Leprechaun King is surrounded by the souls of *billions*, not mere millions! You will burn for eternity for your sacrilege!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Evil Ground Troll

      Muwahahahahaha.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:45 pm |
    • Timetraveler

      Colin and Corey,

      Nice try. Everyone knows the One True God is none other than the Invisible Pink Unicorn. All you have to do is search deep in your heart and pray and His Pinkness fills your heart with his presence.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • dont worry

      Hey Rico... shut your damn pie hole!!!! it's crap like that starts all the fighting. There is noting to be afraid of with death either way!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • future's in the bag

      No....and you're an idiot....shut up

      May 17, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      best comment by far sums up the irrational thinking of religion perfectly

      May 18, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  6. whatsthat

    He is saying that because he knows he is on the way to hell and doesn't want to admit it.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • stejo

      that makes absolutely no sense. And since when did God give YOU the power to judge who goes to heaven and hell?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  7. Sam

    4 days until we will be able to laugh at all the religious people claiming the end of the world is on May 21st!

    May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Brian

      I'm pretty sure that not 'alll the religious people'.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • GG

      no, 4 days until judgement day and then 5 months until the end of the world. I can't wait to find out when the next end of the world is, always so much anxiety waiting for it.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mike V

      Right Brian, it's completely unfair to label all religious people as believing in the May 21 nonsense.

      But you know what? A giant percentage of the population actually believes that, even if it won't happen May 21 of this year, it will happen *some day*. I think it's hilarious and sad when people criticize the May-21st'ers when they themselves have an equally ridiculous belief.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
  8. Jenelle Clark

    Personally, I believe in an afterlife. I don't believe it necessarily because I was raised that way, but because I believe, deep down, that there has to be something else besides this life. My hope is in Christ and it gives me great joy to know that. It really saddens me that Hawking, who has been in pain his entire life, thinks that after he passes he will just dwell in darkness. You would think he would look forward to a greater life than what he is currently living. That is his belief however, and I am not going to sit on this ridiculous blog and try and argue my own beliefs. God bless, Hawking. I truly hope that the remainder of his life is fulfilling and that one day he can have the hope to know that after he passes he will be in a better place 🙂

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • stejo

      I don't think he believes he will dwell at all.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • frink

      "Personally, I believe in an afterlife. I don't believe it necessarily because I was raised that way, but because I believe, deep down, that there has to be something else besides this life."

      Why? Why does there "have to be something else"? I think the reason for you is the same as everyone else, we are an egocentric species. We WANT to believe there is something else, but that doesnt mean there is. This is clearly the biggest problem of sentience. I hope for an afterlife, but I dont believe in it.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:42 pm |
    • GG

      you already did sit on this Blog and tell your thoughts

      May 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Sharon

      Jenelle, based on your statements, I think that you don't actually believe. You just want things to be a certain way, and you can't accept that they could not be that way. That's basically an instance of the fallacy of wishful thinking.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  9. PulTab

    Albert Einstein: From a Jesuit Viewpoint, I am an Atheist
    I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist.
    – Albert Einstein, letter to Guy H. Raner Jr, July 2, 1945, responding to a rumor that a Jesuit priest had caused Einstein to convert from atheism; quoted by Michael R. Gilmore in Skeptic, Vol. 5, No. 2

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Tim

      Albert believed in God and was a christian before he died. He found solace and truth to the fact that there is something else out there other than us and once we die, we go to another place.If you believe that once you die, your essentially worm food, then so be it, your choice, but Mr. Hawkin, albeit a genius, so was Mr. Einstein and i have to side with Albert on this one. There are so many people that were non-believers that have searched and found reason to believe.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • stejo

      Tim, that's completely inaccurate, aka, a lie. Along the lines of urban myth. Einstein was never a Christian. Didn't believe in a personal God. He defined "God" as the summation of all the laws of physics.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • frink

      Tim, dont you know that your lie makes baby jebus cry?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • GG

      tim, and plenty that once believed that do not now. Like myself

      May 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Drinker

      He was not a christian and did not believe in a personal god. Very easy info to find.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • Dharma

      Actually, Einstein was a Buddhist if anything. He said that Buddhsim was the religion of the future and makes the most sense. And although I'm sure you may not be aware of this, Buddhism is not a nihilistic spirituality, quite the oppposite.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • Jason Gwell

      Seriously? Christians argue that he did believe and Atheists claim he didn't. How do any of you know? Did you ever meet him? Even if you did, and I know you didn't, do you really think you would know if he did? Even if he said what his belifes were, how can you know he is not lying? A man and his belifes are his private knowledge, I also think that whatver he thought of God I really do not think he would be happy with people using his name to insult other people regardless of their opinion. Why do people fail to consider the effects of what they are doing when they fight so hard to be right?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  10. Sal

    And you often hear how those still living say they will meet their parents, children in heaven after they die too. I remember my mother telling me, "but how will my mother recognize me after I got old."? That's a good point and therefore I don't believe in a heaven or a hell. It's just a good story.......

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Brian

      That's the worst argument for their not being a god I ever heard. God wouldn't have thought of that people getting older thing right because that's too difficult. Not like bringing his son back to life then.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • f

      You idiot! Your soul goes to heaven and you will be recognized for who you truly are to all who ever loved you. Not your face, you self-centered shallow pig. Grow up and face God. He is waiting for you. You don't know when your time will come.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Mike V

      While the people explaining away how heaven actually works are completely baseless, I agree that once you accept "magic" as a premise, anything is possible. Unfortunately (or fortunately), an intellectually honest person won't accept this as one.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      f – what if I don't want to see my parent's soul for all of eternity? Is there a way I can keep them from visiting?

      May 17, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  11. carloman

    The idea of god or gods is a leftover from the Paleolithic Era. From the Enlightenment onward the idea of god or gods has been entirely discredited. As an epistemology, belief has properly been replaced by empiricism. –Carl V. May

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  12. I BELIEVE!!!

    I am sorry I never payed much attention to this man and THIS is why.....HE may not believe so why shove that down the throats of those who do. You take your beliefs and we will take ours.It is mighty funny that when people did believe and had this to hold onto the world was a much better kinder place to live.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • stejo

      He shoved it down your throat? Wow...such a drama queen you are.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • Southerner

      Seems to me that there are more religious billboards, TV ads and propaganda than there are atheist ones. Why is it ok for one group to push their beliefs, but not the other?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
    • frink

      As soon as you are able to quiet the hoards that are loudly, publicly and constantly claiming the existence of god, hell and heaven then I assure you I will attempt to quiet the two or three people who publicly state otherwise. Until then, lets have debate on the subject.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • Cletus

      You Believe!!! You are also stupid!!! When was the last time you had a non believer come to your door with a pamphlet. When was the last time a war was started between to separate factions of non believers?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • GG

      You chose to read an article, how is that shoving it down your throat.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
    • da13ca23

      More lives have been lost and evil done in the name of god than any reason. Have you ever heard of the dark ages, the inquisition, or the christian and muslim wars, the Irish catholics and protestants, I could go on but fingers are getting tired.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • lokiman301

      I agree wholeheartedly. I wish that the middle ages were back in vogue. Maybe I could go on a crusade and kill as many non christians as i can with Gods blessing. Also, dealing with women would be so much easier, as they are regarded as chattal. One more point about the idealistic past that you refer to, I would be allowed to have slaves legally. These are all great things that the west has lost over time with their godless culture. Let's all pray that our next leader will lead us all into a God fearing future. Amen!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • SDN

      For the past several decades, he's not been able to shove anything down anyone's throat – even his own.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Mike V

      Wow, is this intentional irony? Have you taken a look at the world lately? If anyone's shoving beliefs down people's throats, it's religious evangelists who go out of their way to try to convert people. Hawking was just doing an interview in which he made this comment.

      And regarding religiosity making for better society, take a look at the Dark Ages. Or Iran.

      I am inclined to believe you are just joking around to get a rise out of people; Poe's Law is in full effect.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • larry c. lyons

      so why shove your religion down our throats.

      A point to consider. What shoving happened. YOU chose to read the article. It took conscious effort for you to read it. So no viewpoint was shoved down your throat. You chose it and stuffed it down your own throat quite willingly.

      So what your complaint again?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
  13. Rick

    It's a sad reflection on society when someone stating the obvious becomes news. That anyone actually believes in fairy tales like heaven and hell shows how ignorant people still are in this day and age and also shows the capacity for religion to mass brainwash people.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Liberator

      Could not agree more Ric. Well put.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Mike V

      Yes, the comments are even more sad. Look at how many people attack this completely benign and obvious claim...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • JB

      On the contrary, it is a sad commentary on human kind when they no longer think they need their creator. The is why we are given free will in choosing to believe. Just wish you would give God a chance, Have you ever even heard a good presentation of the Gospel? How can you make a good decision without even hearing both sides? That is why they call it faith!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Curt

      Your comment is a perfect example of brainwashing. Try thinking for yourself.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  14. Donna

    I am not inclined to get into some long philosophical debate with the man..but consider this. I'd much rather spend my life believing, living my life as if there IS a heaven as a reward, having the comfort of thinking that God will be there when I draw my last breath, and being comforted with the thought as I watch the world go to hell in a hand-basket....and not be aware after death that I was wrong because, as Hawking says..my brain is just "a computer which will stop working when its components fail"..then to not believe, not take comfort that there is a better place waiting for me, denying the existence of a Supreme Being..only to die and end up in hell because 'Blessed will they be who have known me; woe to those who have heard and have not believed!" I feel sorry for this man.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Ron

      If there is a god, it knows you are just hedging your bets.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Temperance1

      The fact that there is no afterlife is a comfort to me. It makes my time on Earth much more precious, and my relationship to my fellow human much more meaningful. If I screw it up, it is my fault. If I touch someone's life, I have lived better than most.

      And it makes me appreciate my life with my only son much more meaningful to me. That I will "never be reunited with him" in an afterlife makes me appreciate my time with him much more precious.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Andrew

      How about living your life by what you know inside to be right, and leave a reward out of the equation? You don't need God to be good, you are that all by yourself.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:33 pm |
    • Donna

      No Ron...I am a believer. I was just trying to make a point albeit badly..*shrugs*

      May 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • GG

      So you don't really believe, you are just making sure incase you are wrong. That will get you in to heaven.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • da13ca23

      You obviously don't get it. If there is no heaven there is no hell. If there is no god there is no devil. "God" did not create man, man created god in an effort to understand (wrongly) the world around them. We are finally starting to wake up to the fact that religeon is another method to control the masses. More evil has been done in the name of god than any other cause.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Mike V

      Don't feel sorry for him; I'm sure he feels sorry for people who are so emotionally weak that they will willfully lie to themselves for the sake of comfort.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Marty

      Donna, the reason that people are so critical of religion in the scientific community, is often based in very logical reasoning. I often hear the argument that believing in god does no harm, and if they are wrong, then no harm done. The problem with this logic, is that less good was done. As a follower of jesus' teachings, you are more inclined to help those around you. Sadly the church often takes advantage of this by taking your generous offerings at the plate, and wastes them. Imagine that instead of the money going to the church, it went to help cure cancer. Or take that money and time, and bring joy to an underprivileged child with a visit to the zoo or just some good quality time that they be missing out on. The problem is not what harm it does, it's what good it derails by individuals claiming that going to church and putting money in the plate will help the world somehow.... The reality is, your money goes to the Vatican, and google pictures of that place, then tell me it's what Jesus intended....

      May 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
    • Curt

      Donna, your point was very clear. These people are just being jerks. Good comment.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Epicurian

      5

      " Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able, and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God. "
      -EPICURUS-

      May 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      to be honest id much rather there wasnt a heaven because id probibly get quite bord there with no actual physical body to do anything. i dont understand what religous people really believe is waiting for them in an afterlife when we know for a fact that the body doesn't go there and the fact that animals apparently cant go to heaven because they have no soul is well thats just good old conceited man made rubbish that is everywhere in the bible and before i get attacked i was raised religious and got very religious for a few years till i actually thought about it and applyed logic to it after that the whole concept of religion made me feel sick

      May 18, 2011 at 12:22 am |
  15. Democritus

    lol – Oh, well that settles it, doesn't it? Thank you Mr. Hawking for enlightening us!

    May 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  16. Ian

    I'm disturbed to see that this still has to addressed. If CNN is going to post something about Hawking, it should be about his brilliant work, not his opinion of a made up place.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • superman

      That is a good point. I totally respect Stephen Hawking but his views on religion is hardly newsworthy, even though he does explain his thoughts from a scientific perspective (thoughts not detailed in this article).

      May 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • Scott

      Disagree. Brilliant minds trying to push the human race to evolve away from believing in fairy tales is important work. If you think about it, religious beliefs create conflict and hold the human race back more than anything else on this planet.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • Mike V

      Yes Scott, a major cause of conflict in the world stems from two opposing sides who have different viewpoints and (more importantly) believe that their viewpoints are objectively, absolutely correct.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Exactly.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • Curt

      I'm pretty sure that is his "brilliant" work. He sure writes a lot of books about it. I think he's obsessed with God.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  17. Steve

    Hawking can't even explain dark matter. He talks about there being no God or Heaven so much because he requires demonstrable proof when the Truth is staring him in the face.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • stejo

      You make it sound like YOU can explain dark matter...so go ahead...we're waiting. Oh...

      May 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Rick

      As with most zealots, you use the word "proof" incredibly loosely.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Corey

      I love this.. "can't even explain dark matter." Maybe you could do so friend?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Cletus

      ...and you can't even explain God.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • da13ca23

      Wow, what an incredibly inane statement. Your bigotry is astounding!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • f

      @stejo – Heaven is on the other side of one of those famous Hawkings Black Holes............

      May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Mike V

      Nah, there's zero evidence for the existence of any deity, sorry. There's much more evidence for dark matter. Of course, that doesn't take much.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • conrad

      I think he means that since science hasn't yet been able to 'describe' everything how can it then be used to come to such conclusions as that 'God' or 'heaven' isn't real?

      Science clearly disproves some aspects of the bible, and some takes on evolution but the bible never claimed to be a 'scientific proof for the existence of God' it was meant as a blueprint for how to live so that you may experience God directly.

      It also isn't the only thing that compels people to believe. Some people have direct experiences first that lead them to later investigate religion to help frame and understand what they've seen.

      Most religions were founded on revelations that have been verified by other people having the same experiences – which are recorded and then form a body of wisdom teachings. The teachings were put into memorable 'tales' as you call them because most people didn't read thousands of years ago – they were teaching tools and they were never intended to be examined literally. For example, it's more memorable for a child to hear that Sodom and Gamorah were turned into pillars of salt for looking back at the city of sin they were leaving behind than it is to say 'If you dwell too much on your past you won't over come it – or that even the thought of an act is the act itself'. Someone might keep the story in their mind and later in life through experience finally understand what it means – and tell it to their Grandkids.

      It isn't good reasoning to just dismiss what many people throughout history have experienced as real and meaningful, just because you haven't.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Mike V

      Right conrad, it's better to understand why people have these experiences - and by now we have a good, solid understanding of the fallibility of human reasoning, and the pitfalls it leads to.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      The difference is, scientists are actually trying to either prove or disprove dark matter. They search for ways to test theories and verify facts. They don't just blindly accept that dark matter exists and then spend the next 2000 years building alters to it.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
    • Curt

      It was pretty obvious what his comment meant. I find it interesting that people of no faith immediately start with immature comments and name calling. One person even called him a bigot?!! Are there no people of maturity who don't believe in God?

      May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Curt

      The way I see it is that people who don't believe in God are like blind people arguing that green doesn't exist. I suppose if you are blind then green doesn't exist to you. I'm just glad that I can see. If you want to see all you have to do is ask God. But asking him does require faith.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      @curt what exactly do you see? calling someone blind because they have different views is a bit silly i could say the same thing about you. as someone who was raised religious and was rather religious in my teens i can see where people of faith are coming from and how you can get caught up in it but as soon as i started to apply logic to it i struggled to find any truth to it to me its to man made and the whole concept to conceited i mean apparently animals don't go to heaven because they don't have a soul....... thats ridiculous when you consider how insignificant mankind is to the rest of the galaxy let alone universe let alone whats beyond.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:10 am |
  18. Pat

    Not only do I believe all of existence came to be without the help of a conscious being, but I believe that "right and wrong",
    "good and evil", are made-up concepts by humans in an attempt to objectify their viewpoints.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • David

      So what keeps you from murdering people? What keeps you from doing what most sane people see as bad?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm |
    • Mark

      Each culture certainly has its own mores and definition of 'right' and 'wrong'. Yet I think it's fair to say that there are some innate wrongs that guide all cultures. Certain behaviours are universally detrimental to a species survival and as such should, at some level, be biologically 'programmed' in to humans, and reflected in our socio-norms.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • stejo

      David – you answered your own question: "sanity".

      May 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • K from AZ

      Everyone has a right to be stupid: you, however, are abusing the privilege.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Mike V

      Yeah, saying: "You don't believe in objective morality!? Then what's to stop you from murdering!?" is about as nonsensical as saying: "You don't believe the Earth feels sad when you pollute? Then what's to stop you from dumping your trash everywhere??"

      May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • djlockerthebrain

      There is no right and wrong. We are conditioned to do what is in the best interest of our society, for the most part, which is a survival instinct and a good one. I don't murder people because death causes pain and has an emotional effect on people and I do not enjoy hurting people. Just because good and bad have no moral basis doesn't mean that it's in your best interest to kill people. It's in all of our best interests that nobody kill anybody.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • djlockerthebrain

      @David:

      We are all just animals. Animals in the wild such as gorillas don't typically go on murdering sprees because it wouldn't be in its best interest to do so not because he thinks it's immoral and won't go to heaven but because of the realistic consequences. Just the fact that morals change from country to country shows you that morals are relative....man made.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • Curt

      It's interesting that all humans from all cultures pretty much share the same ideas about what is right and wrong, good and evil. Even when language barriers kept them from communicating. We didn't make it up. We just understood it. God make it up. But I do find it interesting that you don't have a problem anyone who wants to murder you, cause harm to your property or hurt your family. Pretty much everyone else on the plant would consider that to be wrong or evil. Have you considered the possibility that you might be a psychopath.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Nathan

      No good and Evil?? thats like spiritual darkness, saying there is no god is predictable and expected. Sayiing there is no good and evil is saying you dont understand in your relationships when someone does you wrong?

      May 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
    • Alyssa

      I'm in agreement with Pat. Humans decide what is right and wrong (or good and evil, if you prefer). 2,000 years ago it was acceptable for a girl to be married and to start having children as soon as her body was ready (typically 11 to 13 years old). In a society where she would not likely live past 40 and half of her children would die in infancy this was a good idea. Make as many new humans as you can before you die. Today we'd never condone the marriage and motherhood of an 11 year old because it makes no sense in our time when she'll live to her 80's and likely have all of her children survive. Murder is has definitely been condoned in past civilizations for things such as sacrifices to the gods. In their civilization this made sense. But in most civilizations state-authorized murder destabilizes the society, which is detrimental to the people as a whole. To answer Curt's comment: "But I do find it interesting that you don't have a problem anyone who wants to murder you, cause harm to your property or hurt your family. " Nobody is saying that we wouldn't have a problem with the murder of myself or others that I love. We're only saying that the notion that murder is evil is something that humans have created. It doesn't mean that we wouldn't feel ill effects from such a thing occurring.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  19. Alex

    If there IS no heaven, then I want to be reincarnated as a little lap dog that's loved as much as my two little ones are. What a "hard" life they have...

    May 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • Auloria

      I'm not sure I see the point of his stirring up controversy.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  20. Jaycool

    I didn't need Hawking to tell me this. "Afterlife" stories and religious books are all fiction – good stories – but fiction just the same.

    May 17, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
    • conrad

      Fact is, you don't 'really' know that and I doubt you've ever given it any true investigation.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • Mike V

      conrad, you're right that we don't know, just as we don't know that invisible unicorns don't exist. There's equal evidence for each, though.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • djlockerthebrain

      The only people who really believe in an afterlife are people who have no scientific background and know nothing of the reality of the universe. They are the same people who get really mad when you tell them that there is no heaven.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • jatrayu

      Fiction to you but not to billions of others...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      Fiction is fiction, whether billions of people believe it or not. Just ask the countless millions who believed the stars were gods or that giant snakes gave birth to universe. If you don't have evidence, or are in search of concrete evidence, you don't have a right to join the conversation. Go back to the kiddie table while the adults are speaking.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • James

      How do you know that God doesn't exist? Do YOU have an adequate understanding of quantum physics?

      I don't expect anyone to agree with the way I think but it is hilarious how faith plays such an equal role in science and religion. In all honesty probably .04% or less of the human population really understands Quantum Physics on a basic level, yet when someone claims to know it people agree with whatever they say as fact.

      So which is it you have? Faith in your church or faith in what a Physicist tells you?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      James – Well, I'm proud to be in the 0.4% that you mentioned. However, it's really beside the point. The difference that you seem to be overlooking is that faith, or belief is only 1 step in the scientific method. Science goes further than simple observation and theorizing. It then takes the difficult steps of finding verifiable evidence to support that theory, which has to be able to be duplicated before it is accepted as fact. Even then, it's understood that it's only a partial truth. Newton's theory of gravity took another 300 years before it could be perfected. However, many scientific and astronomical advances could be made based on it's flawed math. Einstein's General Relativity theory of how mass distorts time and space was only proven a few weeks ago, but we've been basing advancements on it for the last 80 years.

      Religion and science both make observations as well as postulate theories. Only one seeks evidence to support their claims. Only one has led to the advancement of the machine that you are typing away at, in the house or office constructed around you, where your technological vehicle sits outside. If you want to be amazed at something, look around you at how science has made your life richer, and healed your loved ones. I'll take my chances with antibiotics over prayer any day. I'm sure you would too.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • James

      Ashrakay-

      It just really irks me to see people jump on the bandwagon because of a physicist. I appreciate science (believe me I do, I'm a programmer) but there are many different aspects to looking at something than theory. I've read some great books on philosophy regarding the creation/origin of life and read some really fascinating stuff written by people who question their own beliefs. (Both atheist,Christian, Catholic, anything you can think of.) What I found out to be interesting is that many of these great minds came to the relatively simple conclusion that in order for anything to move there had to be a "mover." I really think about these things quite often, about peoples beliefs versus other beliefs. For instance, I believe in God, or if not by that name I do believe in a higher power. I have experienced events that cannot be simply explained by science, or if they are I wonder how much of it is based off of theory? There also comes into play both sides who taint and change the evidence to support their outlandish claims. (And YES both sides do it)

      I guess sometimes it's humbling to sit and think about how many people believe in every different religion no matter how different they are and then science and accepting the fact that a HUGE majority of people are going to be right or wrong when they die and some people spending their entire life trying to justify or prove something that may be wrong. I really would like to think that in some way science and religion meet and tie in somehow. I would love nothing more than for everyone to be right in one way.

      I believe in what I believe due to life experiences and after massive (probably too much) research and reading. Not because I'm scared of not going to heaven, or feeling like I need to submit and worship a higher power. Doesn't science say that nothing is true until proven true? It just seems that people like Hawking ignore religion completely when a HUGE part of science is questioning all beliefs including your own which I don't think human beings do as much as they should, or respect other people's opinions.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • Tim

      With all of the interesting, exciting, huge mysrerties and how unique and strange the world and universe are, I find it really stupid that people have to immediately call people ignorant, uneducated or compare their beliefs (and intellect) to that of child, simply because there are some that say science answers all questions.

      Obviously, there are always new things proven by science that explain what people in the past have attributed to things super natural and they seem silly at this point, but that's not the case for everything. I would agree that beliving simply because science has not "yet" explained it, is also poor judgment, but to say that you know due to physics, is also silly.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • future's in the bag

      Actually, djlockerthebrain if you look at the university scientifically you will realize that the very first molecule was created by something much bigger than you or me because you can't create something out of nothing!. Oh and I don't get mad – I think it's sad that you think this is all there is but you go ahead and stay in your own dark little reality with Hawking...have fun!

      May 17, 2011 at 9:02 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      James,
      "Cannot be simply explained by science"? Or cannot be simply explained by science, yet? Or more diabolically Wont be allowed to be explained by science. There are things that happen on a quantum level that also cannot be explained by science. That doesn't mean we just insert "god" as a blanket explanation for what we do not know. Philosophy is a great thought exercise. I think science fiction is as well. In short, it's good play with ideas that confuse us, and make us ask more questions. However, before we present these things as fact, they must be verifiable. People in the science community that taint data are eventually found out and pointed out as frauds, or intellectually dishonest, or just wrong. The reason this is possible is because data must be verifiable. If it is not, eventually someone will expose it. It's a great system. Where would religion be today if it had such a system?
      Entropy and evolution are both driving forces. The mandate to live is a driving force. You seem like you're a reasonable person, so I hope you can hear this. God has imprisoned you. You're trapped by an idea. I can say this because I've been there and I know how tempting this prison can be. But, as a "seeker" of truth which your seem to be, what would happen if you for a moment let go of the idea of god, a higher power, and heaven? Would your world end? You say you are not afraid, so what is to stop you from holding onto these ideas for 1 week? After that, you can resume it. If god is real and as omnipotent as people claim he is, would your act really be resented? Does god fear if you question him? Do you get a bigger present in the end if you continuously believe as opposed to believing at the last minute?

      May 17, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.