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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. Amir1

    I think Hawkins is full of it....we all exist in the Matrix ;-).

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  2. FWFLOKI

    Who are all of you to question why your God does not want me to believe in him. The Bible is a story that has been told many times over in history in different cultures in different times. It was written in a time when people thought the world was flat and the Earth was the center of the Universe....I think everyone understands now that the church attempted to destroy all record of the other Gospels which paint a very different picture of what the church assembled as "God's Word"......I think Mr Hawking is spot on...

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  3. IronRider

    That is Stephens's opinion. Want to know mine after seven (7) near death experiences? Doesn't matter, for most of you you'll have to experience it for yourselves before you believe what I would say anyway, so best of luck to you.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Sam

      Whatever you're doing in your life that's caused you to nearly die 7 times, I hope you give it up soon. Either that, or learn to duck, man.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  4. stephen king

    aethiests...

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  5. Brent

    Hawking has just destroyed his credibility by declaring the absence of Heaven. How can anyone still living know the true answer to this question? It's just not possible. It's why people of different Religions have what is known as "Faith". It cannot be proved or disproved. I will no longer put any stock in what this guy has to say. Either his ego has gotten the better of him or he's losing his mind. Very sad.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Southerner

      Using your same argument, then anyone who has claimed the PRESENCE of heaven has also lost all credibility.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  6. mine

    When he dieds he will wish he was right but it will be too late

    May 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Corey

      Can one still wish when one dieds?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  7. Glen

    Hawking is on the right track. Religion, or faith is conjured up from the beginning of time and is the root of all evil.
    Do you see any signs that there is a God?, other than what is written in the bible ( a best seller from way back)
    Everyone wants to believe so badly that there is a God. Religion is a power tool used by non-believers that want the power for their own personal benefit..

    May 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • Amir1

      "In a book published last year, Hawking wrote..."
      says it all doesn't it?

      It probably takes as much (or more) faith to believe that everything just happened randomly. Just look at the complexity of something as outwardly simple as a blade of grass.

      Regardless....
      Hawkins preaches a world of no ultimate accountability....as long as you can get away with it, why not do it!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  8. Mort

    lol which god are we talking about? lol

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  9. the_dude

    Everyone says hawking does so much with his mind. What has he done exactly besides come up with unprovable theories? Where hawkings real talent is the ability to fool so many people into thinking he is somehow correct. In that way he is very close to god and the devil.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Corey

      "ability to fool so many people . . . ." That about sums up Christianity!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  10. VishaNu

    Hawking said: "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

    Spontaneous creation does not answer the question of why humans and the universe exists. It, perhaps, answers the question of how humans and the universe exists. Using spontaeous creation to explain the question of why we exist is like Joe Dirt's dad saying, "It just does."

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  11. Osama Bin Laden

    Dammit, where are my freakin 72 virgins!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • Steve

      They're all lining up behind you and unzipping their flies waiting for their chance to lose their virginity.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  12. Steve

    Nothing a human being says will ever convince me that there is or is not a God. I suppose I'll find out soon enough, but I'm not in any hurry.

    I'm surprised that Hawking is making this pronouncement without the science to back it up. The existence of gravity is a given, but Hawking, Green, and the rest of them haven't figured out why it exists. Heck, they haven't even resolved the theoretical conflict between Quantum Physics and Astrophysics. I had hopes that CERN would provide a few answers but I haven't heard much...it's my understanding that a supercollider the size of our galaxy wouldn't be of sufficient size to get the answers they're looking for.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  13. lulu

    People who admit they talk to God and burning bushes today are labeled schizo, nutso, wacko and locked away. How come those guys in the bible got away with it?

    May 17, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
  14. Lori

    Spontaneous creation huh? Sounds like an oxymoron to me, but consider the source. Since when was ANYTHING every created without someone to create it? Maybe if I get lucky and wait long enough dinner will create it's self tonight. I doubt it, so until then, I'll believe in God and my ability to mix together the ingredients needed to feed my family something palatable.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Southerner

      Then who or what created god?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Steve

      Who created the dinosaurs? Who created the apple I ate for lunch today? Who created the empty space between your ears?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Anon

      Maybe God will cook it for you if you wait patiently...

      May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Kev

      ok......then.......who created 'your' god genius?
      oh wait.....he's always been there huh? kinda contradictory to what you JUST said

      May 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • AO

      You're saying this probably because you don't understand his science.
      Spontaneous creation probably refers to the idea that neither space nor time existed before the Big Bang. Since time didn't exist, the idea of "cause and effect" is inconsequential at this level, to my understanding. Spontaneous refers to very little or no time. This is possible in a place without time, i.e. a "universe" pre-big bang.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  15. anonymous

    The other day I went home with this beautiful blonde. I assure you, heaven is not a fairy story.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
  16. Yrek

    This may be the grumpiest thing I've ever heard Stephen Hawking write. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still think he's brilliant and enjoy reading his work...but this is a hard line and I'm not sure where it's coming from. It could be a response to the fact that he's been called "agnostic", which to me doesn't seem at all insulting, but Dawkins holds near murder in his hierarchy of evil deeds. It just seems like things that don't need to be said; the people who are the most likely to listen to him had their doubts about Heaven, anyway. It would be like telling a room full of loggers that logging is really awesome...the idea was floating around before it was said. All he's really going to do is further alienate people who LIKE having ambiguity at the fringes, who want to believe that there is room for God in science.

    Also, the whole "gravity creates the Universe" thing is easy to write down on paper and tell everyone about, but so is "magic beans created the empire state building". The difficult thing is explaining where all of the energy came from in the first place, or where the law came from and even why it continues to enforce itself. There is this arrogant idea that a question like "where did gravity come from, then?" is plebeian and not a question a REAL scientist would ask. Saying that gravity has always existed and always will is no more rational than to say "God has always existed and always will". They both require leaps of faith.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Southerner

      t is aso no less rational. Yet I suspect you don't call people mean spirited or angry when they say there is a god.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Jason

      This is brilliant. I think you should be a contributing editor for CNN, lol. I got more from your comment than I did the featured piece on Stephen Hawking. I totally agree with you, by the way.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • tashakitty

      WELL SAID. You hit the nail on the head for me.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  17. Nurse Lisa

    He can deny the truth, but it doesn't make it less true. It may be due to his failed body that he has reduced his value to temporary mind power alone. Due to his scientific genius I find it hard to believe he cannot imagine eternity and that he does not recognize God's hand in the cosmos and creation.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Kev

      you gotta pick a god first honey!........but don't worry! there's thousands to choose from!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • JMR

      But he's not denying the truth, he's just denying the fairies in your garden.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  18. keith

    In his mind there might not be, but doesn't mean the rest of us think the same thing. This is non-newsworthy

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • Kev

      you're right.....this is not news-worthy.....
      it doesn't (shouldn't) take a super genius to figure out that all the religion/god BS is just that......Bull S*&T.

      Hawking saying it, should at least make one go out there and find out for him/her self. it should provoke 'some' though, in those who believe in the non-sense and maybe.....just maybe, they could see the 'reality' that's out there.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • SDCyclist

      It's very newsworthy. He's an important, respected, and venerated mind. He's very special. Unique. And the things he has to say should be taken that way – with respect. You don't have to agree. But don't disrespect one of the greatest scientific minds of our times by simply dismissing him because you don't agree with him. That only proves your own closed-mindedness.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  19. Jackal21

    The proof of God's existence and the reality of God's Word resides in the historical, factual account of Jesus' resurrection from the dead. No scientist in the history of the world, from now through eternity, can explain that. This is what the entire Christian faith is based upon. Hawkings is wrong. I pray for him.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • JMR

      Good luck with that.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • Corey

      Send in the Fail Boat.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • adrienne

      Agreed!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • joe

      "Factual"? Do you believe everything that you read??

      May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • Alan

      Nikki Six from Motley crew came back from the dead also after a drug induced death/coma – The jesus thing is very easily explainable by modern science and to simple minds back then it was and could only be the work of a god. people need something to beleive in but acting as mindless sheep is why we as a race are still in the stone age....

      May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
    • SDCyclist

      Oh really? Maybe Jesus never really died? Maybe he was buried alive and that's why he got up after a few days. Maybe there was no Jesus... maybe that's also just a fairy tale. Maybe he was a magician. A huckster. A snake-oil salesman. Maybe, maybe, maybe... I live my life in reality. Not in a world of maybes. And I don't need myths and fairy tales to be happy. All I need is to recognize that happiness belongs to everyone and it's found in doing good for others. Religion didn't teach me that. It's just the right thing to do. People who need a "god" or a "faith" to tell them how to live a good life are sad, weak, and stupid people. They're also most likely morally bankrupt because they can't self-regulate and think for themselves. So sad.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • InSense

      I appreciate your conviction. And as equally I appreciate Steve Hawkings. He derived his opinions based on scientific study and theory, not blind faith. Whereas you are basing your opinions on blind faith alone and proclaiming it as fact. Why is it so difficult for (most) Christians to accept that most people in this world of 7 billion have stayed beliefs other than your own? And these same people are quite happy in their own religion or non religion of choice. I think by you praying for Mr. Hawking is more for your benefit than his – because he could care less about Jesus, or the interpretations that Man/people/humans made of flesh have made about him.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
  20. TechTalkGuy

    I have always believed that we shall return where we came from (the world of nothing).

    Before my birth, I was not in pain. I was in "heaven", although I had no knowledge of it.
    After life ends, you return back to the dark universe and all of the fairy tales that you wasted your life worshiping was nothing more than pure entertainment.

    Right now, Osama bin-Laden is in a dark universe of thoughtless despair.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
    • Greg

      If there is nothing, then there is no "despair". Get it? Thought not.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:14 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.