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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. tim

    He is a brilliant mind, but I believe him to be one of those idiots who think their own misery in life means there cannot be a God.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • steve88

      hmm, i interesting. i didn't interpret it that way; kinda saw it as, you can gives the time you have the value you decide it is worth to you, while rejecting the need for theism .

      May 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  2. Jackal21

    I pray for all unbelievers.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • steve88

      I still have hope you theists will still come around eventually. lol. =P

      May 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  3. maude

    Allah Agbar to all !!
    Salam ali coom !!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Emily

    While Stephen Hawking may be the most famous theoretical physicist, my understanding is that he's not the highest regarded by his peers. Consider the Hawking paradox - Hawking originally theorized that all information sucked into a black hole was lost, yet that goes against the fundamental belief that information is never lost, it only changes its states. He came back twenty years later and said that the information DID still exist - in another dimension where there wasn't a black hole. (This is my basic understanding of it, but I'm by no means a scientist.) Hawking seems desperate for attention and to boost his own ego. There's no other reason for him to try to debunk the theory of God and Heaven. He knows there's going to be a debate about it and he will be in the limelight for a little bit. Perhaps he could use his intellect for something more worthwhile. Lord knows there are many more significant problems in the world that need to be solved.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  5. Rod

    I don't have a heaven or hell to put Mr. Hawking in so I refuse to judge him. I love God and I live by faith and I believe God love him also. I hope and pray that God reveals himself to him. I know one thing is fact is that we all must die and we then will find out who is telling the truth.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  6. Primum movens

    1. There exists movement in the world.
    2. Things that were set in motion were set into motion by something else.
    3. If everything that moves were caused to move by something else, there would be an infinite chain of causes. This can't happen.
    4. Thus, there must have been something that caused the first movement.
    5. From 3, this first cause cannot itself have been moved.
    6. From 4, there must be an unmoved mover.

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

      I've never heard this theory before! I like it!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
  7. Chris

    Whether there is a God or not, volunteer. Help someone out. Smile. Do something positive. Make a difference in what's in front of you. That way, if there's a God, you'll probably be a-ok. Otherwise, you'll at least live forever through the positive thoughts that others had of you, and that's not too bad either.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  8. Nurse Lisa

    god and science dot org has answers for atheists...

    May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Roberto(Legal)

    Can't wait to be there to hear Hawking explaining this to God some day!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:11 pm |
  10. Mensa Cast Away

    I would agree with Mr. Hawking, but then...

    We would BOTH be wrong

    May 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Ian

    A fun case to discuss regarding religion is the Shroud of Turin. It's pretty interesting if oyu want to wiki it. Long story short, this "relic" was a complete hoax, debunked by carbon dating. It's one of many cases in which science punks religion.

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

    Touche'.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Babyboy163

    God is my daddy

    May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  14. Roberto(Legal)

    Hawking is a great human mind. I admire his intellectual capacity. I enjoy reading him, but must admit that much of his work is way above my comprehension level. I am very excited when I think about witnessing the conversation some day when he explains this to God!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  15. excentrix

    Where there is hope, life springs eternal. I hope you are incorrect about this God thing Stephen.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  16. Dragomir

    Evidence of "something" we call a God is obundant everywhere and cannot be explained by our lack of understanding.
    Matter is created out of energy so what force ordered creation by exact rules? Why some quantum states do not survive in higher world? Why gravitation only pulls?

    It is easy to say there is a law that keeps atoms and molecules of, let's say wood, together. But who established and enforced that law. It is self organizing scientist would say. Than at some point in time we would become able to create these fundamental laws ourselves. Then we become gods! I doubt it though.

    Now who ever or whatever established these rules of universe and keeps them going is a God and is creator. If there are no rules universe might exist but if would be a giant chaotic soup of nothing if anything.

    God might not be a papettier or looking like us or being alive for that matter but He/She/It exists and we need to be blind to not see it.

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

      That was an awesome post you really put it in perspective

      May 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
  17. Evidence for Afterlife

    To both sides: For a nice summary of the scientific evidence for the afterlife, look up Victor Zammit's website. It's all laid out there.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  18. kurtinco

    You so-called "believers" are weak minded fools who more often than not use your gods to explain what you cannot otherwise grasp or to justify your actions even when they fly in the face of human decency. Need proof that your gods are imaginary? Ask 10 different people what does god wants of us and you'll get 10 different answers. My god wants me to wear blue because it brings out my eyes. Oh yeah, my god also wants me to kill you if you don’t believe in him. And every 10 years, by the light of the full moon, my gods wants us to read scriptures, dance barefooted, and eat the flesh of the first child born to my tribe that year. Your god just wants you to believe in Adam and Eve or worship the jacked up words of the “profit” Mohammed, or of Abraham. Common, give me a G D break.

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

      and you "non-believers" are even more ridiculously idiotic for fighting so hard to get people to believe in nothing, such as you... So why don't you show a little bit of respect to the "believers" like myself.

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

      Since when is wearing blue hard to grasp or flying in the face of human dignity? The comment above is definitely in the running for the most incoherent comment of the day award!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • Ryan Scharrer

      If you are correct and I am wrong...we both just die. If am correct and you are wrong, you will be in hell and I will be in heaven. I like those odds hater.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Amber

      No, I don't need proof that my God is imaginary. Believing in God requires faith, not proof.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Mary Beth

    What does it hurt if I live my life according to the teachings of God even if there is no afterlife. At least I have treated others with love and kindness and have done my best to live a good life.

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

      There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. What is wrong with the idea of heaven, hell, blah blah blah is the people who wage wars, kill, maim, insult, and otherwise try to impart their way of life on others all in the name of religion. Whats wrong are the christians who think its ok to tell gay people they are going to hell, or the muslims who blow innocent people up because they think its what allah wants. In my opinion this world would be a lot better off if religion didnt exist and we all lived our lives by a simple and clear code of ethics. There is nothing wrong with well meaning religious people, but when those well meaning people become so lost that they become completely obsessed with their own ideas they cease to be well meaning.

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

      Mary Beth, Religion and a belief in a GOD has caused wars, death an suffering. Why would you give up reason for a false comfort that has been responsible for so much pain. Live your life, be ethical, do no harm. Don't rely in being saved, just do the right thing in the first place. If you fail, make amends and do better.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Chris

      Well put, Krispy. Mary Beth, you are right too, understanding though that others can treat others with love and kindness, and not necessarily be religious.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Craig

      It would be safe to say that the majority of Atheists have no issue with you believing whatever you would like to believe, however the majority of religious based folks expect others to obey or at the least acknowledge something that cannot be proven without faith. Do you honestly think that people cannot be good without religion? I think not...

      May 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • Judy

      Well put Mary Beth. Living your life with love and kindness to others is to me the most important point. I happen to lean more towards Stephen Hawking's theory on creation, BUT, I also respect the fact that others' believe differently. It all comes down to respect for each other's beliefs. Why does it always have to be an argument?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
  20. Kevin

    If there MUST be a creator due to the belief that the universe could not spontaneously create itself from nothing than there absolutely MUST be a creator for that creator.... if nothing can exist without being created how can god exist without a creator?

    To believe in god one must suspend all intelligence and logic

    Only those who cannot stand the thought of living, or dying, without a heaven and god can deny this logic

    May 17, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Bob U

      Perfect!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • actually

      so where does that leave us, at a stalemate?

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

      Mr.Hawkings presumes gravity arose from nothing. Each theorist supposes the a priori existence of something, leaving unresolved its origin.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • Tim

      They way I see it Before you were born (or conceived if you want to go back another 9 months LOL) you did not exist.
      After you DIE you go back to that same Situation (Non Existence) SO if you are not staying up late an night worried about your NON EXISTENCE Before you were born then why Worry about the very same NON EXISTENCE after your life ends?
      People need to relax and DONT FEAR THE REAPER 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • aacon

      God is existence itself.More or less...Not counting the universe.What Steven Hawkings does not understand is that the universe expands against infinity which IS God.At one point the only thing to exist was existence itself.This lone existence / infinity has an intelligence.It created the universe and all things within.The universe expands against it.The universe does not expand against nothing as Steven Hawkings suggests.Think about it.It is the only way for God to not have a creator & where God resides . And is.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:27 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.