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. Lynn

    Simply put, does a house spontaneously build itself or does it need an intelligent designer and a builder to have and implement the concept and actually build it. Go ahead throw a pile of bricks and wood and wires in your yard and wait forever..,its highly unlikely you will get a house that way. How much more so complex is the Universe and life itself! Did anyone ever think that the "order and complexity" that we see in the Universe & that science has-(not invented-but discovered-because it existed there to find), actually comes from a loving God. Science doesn't have to dispell a belief in a Creator. Rather the "science" we often count on in everything supports the reality of a Creator. Instead of all things being spontaneous and completely random, they are in fact able to be counted on and predictable. And if there was no Creator and things just happened to come together, then is it likely they also just happened to develope into intellect or emotion or love...things that exist but are not tangle in a lab? .Did it ever enter Mr Hawkins mind to thank someone for his so called genius? We are not mindless robots as some would have you think if you believe in a God. Rather those who do so, believe in reason and hope and purpose and are given strength to endure by faith and appreciation in something greater then ourselves. Which motivates us to think about others and our planet, instead of just ourselves. Mr Hawkins has seemed to be a man who has accomplished a great deal in life but missed out why any of it matters. Everyone can look out there window on a star filled night and see the stars and planets with the wonder and amazement they offer.Then ask yourself why you stop to look at something you have seem hundreds of times yet still find beauty in if it has no significance? And then breath and remember how that makes you feel. The science of a Creator helps us to realize we can look up every night and count on those things being there. Appreciation for a Creator is why we keep looking in awe!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  2. Peter Hay

    A very unscientific statement from a brilliant scientist! Seems to be happening a lot lately,

    May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  3. Janet

    No one needs 'evidence' for the statement 'there is no god' - one needs evidence for the obverse. One also doesn't have to account for the invisible turtles 'all the way down'.

    Nothing is much more obvious than that the religions that exist on earth serve the interests of those who created them. This doesn't mean there is no god - that is impossible to prove, but it is pretty obvious that if god does exit, it is not the god obsessed with what primates on the third planet from the sun do with their crotches that seem to dominate most earth religions.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  4. malcolm in St louis

    we should be who we are and believe if we wish in God because we choose to do so while we are here on earth. Not because we will burn in hell if we do not.

    Morality and honesty is a good way to live in its own right, not because it has the force a god behind it.

    Hawkins has a phenomenal mind trapped in his body. His best selling book Brief History of Time is incredible.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  5. JustWondering

    Well then who/what created the universe? And if you know the answer to that one, then who/what created the thing that created the universe? There are some things that just cannot be explained by us mere mortals.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      you are free to make up whatever fairy tale keeps you from wetting the bed at night

      May 17, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  6. Greg

    There is not a single human on Earth who knows the grand truth. There might be a Buddhist monk who has been in solitary meditation for 30 years who might know but nobody that takes religious texts at literal face value has any idea. They may think/believe that they know, but they do not know.

    Religion is a coping mechanism for people who are afraid of the unknown. They gain comfort from thinking "everything I need to know; all the answers are in this book."

    Once you embrace the idea that there is no possible way for anyone to know any truth beyond what they have been taught, you can focus on what really matters; helping your fellow man, making the world a better place than how you found it and teaching your kids to do the same. Do that and you'll pass muster with any god that man can imagine.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  7. Dan N

    Sadly, Hawking is right – for him there will be no heaven given his current beliefs. But rest assured, he will experience the opposite – hell. But it's never too late, with God's help, perhaps even Hawking will come around in time.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      dan you are a great huge dumm!e
      heaven and hell is lame as sh!t
      you are a fool

      May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  8. anon

    maybe he just wanted to shake the proverbial tree....maybe there is no GOD the way most modern religions try to define HIM...maybe he knows more than you think...We are not separate from HIM or any other part of the universe, we are all connected and since he has hypothesized alternate dimensions and has tackled the GOD idea in the past maybe all you who act like fundamentalist, hypocritical, children can grow up and stop anthropomorphizing the idea of GOD...GOD is a word that denotes an idea which is a collection of thoughts around a central theme that's it...just a label... to think a fish could possibly understand what the idea of water is, is about what it is like for humans with they're limited linear thinking to understand the actual concept of GOD really is...Just go outside at night and look up at the vast array of stars and try to feel how insignificant we are and at the same time so important is the first step towards true understanding. I like Mr. Hawking and I respect his immense effort to understand what is this thing we call reality...bravo and keep trying...

    May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  9. joe

    How bout them Miami Dolphins! lol

    May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  10. Jenna Talia

    Hawking says, "that given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing."

    Then who created gravity? The universe? Or even, 'nothing'?

    If there is no 'heaven,' just tell me where all of my dogs have transcended to... that's where I want to be...

    May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      they are cosmic dust and you will be with them

      May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  11. GG

    tell me this if Adam and Eve had two children Cain and Abel, and Cain killed Abel, how was it there were any more people after the three were left.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      incest is relative as is gravity

      May 17, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
  12. Barney

    .....also irony at its best. One of God's greatest minds doesn't even recognize God. Wow. But, that's the way God rolls. If you know Christ and God, you understand that last statement.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:30 pm |
  13. TXcinderella

    Typical scientist jargon. God will forgive him for saying that as he stands before him to be judged.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      people from texass are jack@sses through and through and up and down

      May 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
    • Brian Holbrook

      Lemme see here, according to your holy book your God personally ordered more infant killings than all American abortion doctors combined, ordered the annihilation of half a dozen civilizations, routinely taunted and tortured humanity, introduced evil into the world then blamed the things he created for it (even though he's supposed to be omniscient and omnipotent), then abandoned humanity for at least a couple thousand years while making plans to come back and slaughter 2/3 of Earth's inhabitants so that he can judge them and throw most of them into a torturous hell for all of eternity... for not being able to overcome the nature your book says he gave them... Just so he can have non-free will-having cloud gnomes sing his praises for eternity. Your God can take both his judgement and his forgiveness and cram them up his holy anus.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  14. zelda

    Mr. Hawking is right..........Christians will never believe other than their own doctrine...nor will the Taliban.....or Muslims...........or Mormons ......or Catholics.....or or or or............religions are man made from the get go.
    Education is the key to truth............try it.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Doug

      Is your statement an example of your education, if so, I'm thinking I'll take a pass. Thanks though.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  15. John B

    Hawking's theories are brilliant in many ways...but this does not mean he is right. Perhaps the fact that he has survived so long could be considered an act of god...perhaps not. Personally I've always felt that "God" and religeon is simply a way for those who wanted power to obtain it.

    Perhaps I am a bit jaded...but I've seen too many good things happen to bad people..and vs versa... to believe that there would be anyone in charge of it all.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  16. John Richardson

    Everything you see is evidence of a creator.
    You see a building, you see evidence of an architect.
    You see a watch, you see evidence of a watchmaker.
    You see the Universe, you see evidence of a ........?

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Corey

      Actually with buildings and watches, there is usually a team of creators. There is obviously more than one god than. We should return to our original Pagan beliefs.

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

      evidence of gravity.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • Mike

      You see a building and assume a creator because you have EXPERIENCE with what humans can create. You have no EXPERIENCE with something that can create universes. So your analogy is bogus

      May 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Lowpro

      I love how the God of the Bible, who's performances have nothing to do with the subatomic level, has been reduced to as such. Believers grasp at the God of the Gaps (because we don't know, Goddidit) because he's been driven away from everything else. There is no God, there is only belief in God, and belief means nothing.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • CTEd

      But a watchmaker has parents, and so does an architect, so in your view, The creator must also have a creator.

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

      cTed, no the analogy is bogus, now you are making a separate analagy. And if you follow your mindset it will continue into infinity, the creator will have had a creator, the creators creator will have a creator, ad infinitum; aka worthless hypothesis

      May 17, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • Pope Higherthanmost

      You see evidence of something mysterious. But science leads the way explaining what the universe is and how it came into existance.

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

      "A Creator" doesn't necessarily mean the anthropomorphic God of Abraham. My parents are my creators. And if everthing we see is made by the theoretical God of Abraham, does that include gays, pagans, and atheists? Does that include the mythologies of the Vikings, Indians, Native Americans, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians and any other culture that florished before monotheism was thrust upon them at the point of a sword?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Nate

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime, give a man religion and he will die praying for fish!

    May 17, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
  18. Barney

    Actually, Mr. Hawking, scientists like yourself who have a fear of losing control and not being able to ever fully understand something are those that are afraid of the dark, not those with faith. You see, faith is like asking someone to think of the person they love the most, and then asking them to prove it. No matter how they try to prove it, they will never be able to. You just know it. When you take the open invitation to go beyond the physical and have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, you start seeing things without your eyes, and you begin to fail more and more at passing things of as coincidence. YOU JUST KNOW. But you will never experience it unless you give God a geniune chance and invite Christ into your heart. Actually, quite ironically, science is not about fact. It's about theory and speculation that continuously changes, and changes, and changes. I about laughed my face clean off when I heard a scientist said "We know what elements make up the universe". Still cracks me up. Talk about short-sighted and being afraid of the dark. You really think we know all the elements that make up the universe, of which we have only seen maybe .00000001% of, if that? And we have only SEEN it...not felt it, or smelled it, or analyzed it up close. God and science live together because God created it. He made us in His own image which is why we pursue the truths of how the universe works to the extent that we can. God finds it comforting, just as you would if your children wanted to figure out how you do things...whether it be baking a cake or building a computer. The burden of proof is most definately and obviously upon the scientist, not the believer.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • The Spiritual Leader of the Pagans

      barney is a gas bag

      May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • JM

      Actually, Barney, the burden of proof is on the believer, not the scientist. You see, there's two arguments here – the universe abides by natural laws and rules and is governed by relations, or the universe abides by natural laws and rules and is governed by relations which were created by an omnipotent being. You see how your stance (the second one) imposes one extra step in there? The burden is on YOU to prove that extra step is warranted. On the grounds of parsimony, you hold the burden of proof. But thank you for misunderstanding science.

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

      I feel sorry for you Barney...

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

      @spiritual leader of the pagans–you're a small minded little twit. Now take your meds and get some sleep,wienie

      May 17, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • Bruce

      Sorry Barney, but the burden of "proof" lies with those in the world like you who believe in something, whether it is Jesus or Allah, but have absolutely zero proof of it's existence.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • taffd

      and you,JM, it must be a burden holding all of that impressive brain power inside one ugly little skull. I'll bet you can eat a dictionary and crap a thesis!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:38 pm |
    • Pope Higherthanmost

      Dear Barney, You speak as if you know God and Jesus Christ on a personal level. No man can know what God is, if God exists, nor can a man really know what happended 2011 years ago when Jesus Christ lived on this earth. Interpreting biblical accounts of one mans existance and then speaking of absolute knowledge of who he really was is just guess work at best. You and other religiously handcuffed people stroke your own egos with such nonsense to the point of making a laughingstock of your beliefs and predictions. At least Mr. Hawking has concrete results of his work which is a lot more than I can say for you and people like you.

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

      It is great that you "know" that your church is true. While you "know" that your church is true and god has confirmed it to you, jihadists "know" that their religion is true and god has confirmed that to them too, and in North Korea all of the people "know" that their leader is the mighty leader and deity and their heart tells them that it is true because of their faith. So with all of these people's knowledge that their religious views are true, it confuses me. If you know for a fact that your religion is true, and jihadists know for a fact that theirs is true, and both sides have prayed about it and god confirmed that its true, then how can this be enough for the ignoranus of the world to believe in religion?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Baby Bab

      Amen my friend 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
  19. Alientech

    Hawking knows as much about afterlife as everybody else – NOTHING.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
  20. Nurse Lisa

    Hawking's misguided statements just go to prove there is a huge difference between having knowledge and having wisdom. His computer needs an UPgrade.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Mike

      I am never amazed at how little critical thinking skills some people in the medical profession ahve

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

      There definitely won't be a heaven for him, but he will certainly find Hell.

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

      You must have knowledge to have wisdom, believing in a book written by man and advertised as the word of a God does not make you wise, it makes you naive.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:42 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.