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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. Jesus

    Heaven is as real as the flying spaghetti monster.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • nino

      AMEN!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • SamIam

      I guess some ungrateful turds can't see the forest for the trees.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  2. Diane

    I believe the Bible. I believe God created the world, and the universe. I believe that He loves everyone, and communicates to us via the Bible. I believe that Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Those who believe will spend eternity in heaven. Stephen Hawking doesn't believe what I believe. If he's right, and I'm wrong, I have lost nothing after I die. If I'm right and he's wrong, he has everything to lose after he dies.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Other Human

      You may have lost nothing after you die, but you would have lost things during your life that you would have based on non-truths. Maybe you hate gay people for no reason, etc. etc.

      And you're betting like a trillion to 1 odds on this.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • Madtown

      Ok, but you're just succoming to the fear tactics. They've got you right where they want you. What if another religion has it right, and the religion you were indoctrinated into has it wrong? Then, I guess you lose everything after all.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • LogicalThinker

      Me thinks you have already lost your mind dear.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  3. the servant of the Lord Jesus

    As Christians we love Mr Stephen Hawking but disagree with his opinion on the existence of God and heaven or hell. Hell is hot and life is short. It is an irony that mere human can do total inference like that on God and his realm. The bible says regarding our friend Mr Hawking:
    "But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man." 1Corinthians 2:14 and 15 (K.J.V.)
    So please Mr Hawking and supporting commenter look at yourself and meditate on that: who created you and the universe and read the scripture and ask yourself: Who can predict the future from the beginning? (read Daniel prophecy for example and you will catch the point). Who can create all things around us with such outstanding similarities as if by one and yet great creator? Therefor it is a message to REPENT and BELIEVE (TRUST without SEEING) in the LORD JESUS as the ONLY SAVIOR in this soon falling world.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • MM

      Really? I bet he has far more facts to base his claim than you do yours. Religion is for sheep. Baaaaaaaaaa!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Delly

      The absolute truth is that religious leaders ovr the years have misrepresented God for personal gain and control.
      Science explains all that is physical. Science by even mental standard is limiting. Science can not explain love, fear, anger, cannot determine what is a mans mind. You see the mental state is above science. Mans mind can only half be controlled or dermined by science as teh soul and body are close. The Spiritual state can only be understand by mental soul, so you need, faith, love ec to move in the spiritual. body-mind-spirit. The spirit needs the soul, as the soul needs he body, but dont get it twisted, you will never be able to explain anything spiritual with your body, matter of fact when you die, only your soul and spirit will face the afterlife, as you body will jsut degenerate. if you refuse to believe in spiritual things good for you, but at least consider your soul. Do you for one moment think that your mind is completely physical. if it were, why can I hack into it as i hack in to a computer's memory. For Steve Hawkins to compare the mind to a computer is so misleading. Even psycologists will tell you that all can not be determined by physical means. (Sorry for my spelling mistakes, using wrong keyboard)

      May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  4. realistic

    I detect some bitterness from Hawking. Maybe he blames God for his condition and this is how he is lashing out. We can agree to disagree but I just lost a lot of respect for him.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
  5. SamIam

    I say put your money were your speaker is and test the theory.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  6. Michael

    You know, it is more sad than funny reading the comments from religious extremists. They know at some level that everything they have been taught their whole life is irrational, but they are scared sh!tless that their loving Father will torture them eternally without any hope of reprieve, forever and ever. So they refuse to use logic, miserably knowing the whole time that freedom is within their grasp but they are too afraid to take the key. Fundamentalists are truly a sorry lot, no matter what the religion.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  7. Ryan

    @Manner V,

    1) You missed the point as I do not claim to have any proof that he was or wasn't. The original poster has made a claim and I'd like to see the proof of it. Without proof I cannot assume something to be true.

    2) If we followed the Bible's "advice" that those that believe things without proof are "blessed" means that I could tell you that if you run up stairs fast enough you would be able to make it downstairs. No proof required right?

    "Ryan read a history book and tell me how many times Science has been wrong."

    It's been wrong a lot, except when science is wrong it amends itself. This is the whole point. When religion is wrong believers make up reasons why it's still correct.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • Jonathan

      Shame there ain’t no Heaven but I’m glad there ain’t no Hell.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  8. Joesufus

    People got mad when someone brought up the idea of the earth not being the center of universe once. and look how that went
    this is same thing, not what u want to hear but closer to the truth then dino riding

    May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  9. fairy-tale's

    Penrose a friend of Hawkins stated that the odds of the "Big Bang" accident is 10 to the 10nth to the 123rd.
    So how can you Atheist set there and say that we believe in a fairy-tale when you are believing in something which odds are against. It would seem that you are the ones that are believing in a fairy-tale

    May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Joesufus

      hypothesis vs wishful thinking

      May 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • MM

      It is called fact (science) versus fiction (religion). crazy that in an age of uber information, people still buy into the heaven hell gig. If you want to live in fear and be controlled by relgion, so be it, but keep your values off of my family.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  10. GG

    I have more questions, does God have to eat, and if so what? Just more things to keep me up at night.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • nino

      Where do you think all the dead's souls go? those are God's food...........He's a soul eater

      May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  11. Alex

    If there is a God, than I say there are Aliens too because it is pretty arrogant to think that a God who crated the whole universe with all it’s complexities, would only select one lonely plant out of a billion and crate beings that a self-aware.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  12. Dick Hertz

    The Scare Tactica just don't work any more. Caveman and Dinosaur bones are more believable than The Spirit in the Sky. At least to those of us with a brain anyway.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
  13. Obai

    Mr. Hawking is a man in a wheelchair. We are men in wheelchairs. We don't see very far.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
  14. Man In The Moon

    The theme of Hawking has been "trust me" the past 20 years. Basically his ego has grown so large, he is demanding faith. In a man. In himself.

    Hawking's premise is "given the existence of gravity....blah, blah, blah....I think the universe created itself." It's a leap of logic (or a leap of....faith?). Why state that the existence of gravity is a "given." That would be considered a failure as an undergraduate paper. Any purported theory that begins with an assumption (and a rather humongous one at that) is doomed at conception.

    I think if Mr. hawking were honest (or more self-aware), his actual premise would be "given that there is no God, there therefore is no God."

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

      Haha this is a riot. The theme of RELIGION has been "trust me" for thousands of years! It offers no evidence or proof. You simply must have "faith" and trust that god exists. Trust me!

      May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • James

      Wait, gravity hasn't been proven to exist? Has anyone told Newton yet?

      May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • airwx

      What you speak of is called the arguement of first cause. If something must preexist to cause the universe, then where did the preexistant whatever come from. You then must answer the question again and again in an infinite linear regression... rather than simply say " I don't have a clue"

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

      You must admire Man in the moon. He’s obviously not intimidated by intelligent thought, reason and the exclusion of factual evidence.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  15. Robb

    I think he needs to get laid. Keeps me from wondering about this stuff.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  16. jim

    Oh so smart, oh so brilliant – not even a good theorist. Well, Mr. Hawking, there will certainly be no heaven. For you.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • steve88

      what makes you so sure jim? you know there is a heaven? and you know who goes and who doesn't ??? What the,, when did this happen..... -_-

      May 17, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • jim

      I am sure because I have had a personal encounter with the Living God. I am sure Mr. Hawking has not by his own admission. Those that He does not know, do not go.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • MM

      Jim,
      if God and Heaven exist, how can you be so sure that he will be denied? Isn't one of the basic teneants of Christianity, forgiveness? Regardless, science is based on fact and religion is not. that being said, one of the most intellitgent men that this earth has ever seen seems to think there is no scientific evidence. Since I believe facts, and not fiction – I'd say he is onto something. BTW – religion creates sheep and since America has far too many sheep, this is a great article for debate.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • nino

      Heaven is waiting for you. You will be on the first row. Send me a card when you get there.....

      May 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Indigo

      Jim it is not your right to judge whether he will go to heaven or not. Only one person has that right.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • jim

      MM: I used to be an atheist, too. I thought it was all a fairy tale. I did, however, try to keep an open mind and investigate. If you do so as well you will learn that, using science and history, it takes way more faith to conclude that it's a fairy tale than to believe. Many, many very smart people investigated; instead of just running their mouth – like Hawking just did. By the way, speaking of Hawking, he wrote a book a long time ago called a Brief Moment in Time, or in History, – something like that. Today, it is considered mostly gibberish.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • steve88

      Just because you have an claimed to have an encounter with spirits, aliens, angels, demons, god(s), elves, monsters, does not make it true or likely. Can you reproduce this ? how likely was this an effect of the brain? how long ago did this happen? any pictures? any evidence? does it happen often? could it have been a prank? perhaps a realistic dream? false memory perhaps? were you on medication? seizures? brain aneurysms? other medical conditions? Good sir, Jim, There are a host of other possible explanations which are more probable then; "magic, therefor I feel it to be true. " There have been a lot of supernatural claims made by man, and Burden of Proof should be satisfied by the person making the claim,,, ect.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • jim

      Steve, there will never be any proof. If some could be had, it wouldn't be called faith now would it? That in itself should cause you to pause. Faith (belief) however, is a gift. It is all nonsense to one who has not received it.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Delly

      Sometimes I wonder about how low we get to.
      If we can not explain or determine the thoughts of a man, how do we find it so prplexing hat we cann not explain the spiritual.
      There are 3 states, the physical, the mental and the spriritual. Just as we have bosy, mind a nd spirit. You cannot explain any spiriual state through phisical means, although you can mentally reach a spiritual realm.
      But what baffles me more is that Man has not created a device that can physically determine the thoughts of another man, but we find it strange taht we have not been able to determine spiritual existences with physical tools. Steven quit being Stupid. I admire your scientific advancement, but science is not God. Science is a toool for determine all that is physical. It has not even elevated itself to understand all that is mental, yet you think you can determine spiritual things with physical methids?
      Plain foolish

      May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Delly

      Sorry for such bad spelling mistakes every one. lol

      May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  17. Ted

    What an incredibly arrogant proclamation. Who does this Hawking fellow figure himself to be? Exactly? World's most accomplished astrophysicist/scientist or not.. he's guessing, just like everyone else..... and, I mean EVERYONE.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • nino

      So, if we're GUESSING that means that religion is NOT the thruth. Thruth is not guessing.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • Tim59

      I agree but isn't it also arrogant for someone with religious beliefs to declare with certainty that God, and the afterlife exist? When people make statements one way or the other they should preface it by saying they are stating a personal and unprovable opinion.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Jonathan

      An which planet do you come from?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • Athla

      I read an interesting article a few weeks ago – most people, when they grow up believing a certain thing, will be believe in that faith whether atheist, theist or believing pigs can fly regardless of evidence or proof in either direction due to the way the brain develops! Really, the only answer is to live well, hope for the best and be nice to each other while we're here – including respecting other people's ideas, religious or otherwise.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
    • insuranceconsultant

      No, he is not arrogant. He said it because so many people have twisted his words over the years such that they insisted he believed in God (not just any God by the way like Zeus, or the Black Wolf Spirit, but THE God just like the gun-totin' southern Baptists do). Hawking apparently grew tired of this minor misconception and clarified that science is science and fairy tale is fairy tale. He was right to put the record straight. I wish all bright people would simply admit what they really think and not just what they think feels good among friends and may buy them some points should they die and wake up at the pearly gates.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • LogicalThinker

      How dare he!!! Makes perfect sense to me; one giant invisible man in the sky who has a dead son that talks to us. If we do not believe in him we go underground where it is very hot and a man with a pitchfork and horns lives there. What's not to
      believe????

      May 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  18. RiddleMeThis

    According to the Bible, God is all-knowing right? If that is true then He knows everything that you will ever think, say or do. If God knows all this then your life "choices" have already been predetermined (you have no free will). If you need to believe in God (and Jesus) to go to heaven then God has already determined if you will believe in Him or not and you will then either go to heaven or hell depending on what He predetermined.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • jim

      While you think that you have so easily dismissed faith, you have actually hit on one of Christianity's basic tenants, i.e., those He knew, He also "predestined" to be conformed to the image of His Son..." Predestination – check it out.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Names

      You're right about this, Jesus even teaches this in John 6:44

      May 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Michael

      jim, you are incoherent. You also confuse "tenant" (the one paying rent on a property) with "tenet" (an article of belief). You should try reading something written by an author who is not a fundamentalist sometime. If you can keep an open mind, so much the better. Once you can deal with the possibility of Calvin being full of sh!t, it starts to get better. Really.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Indigo

      No. You have that all wrong. He knows everything there is to know. You cannot know exactly what the is in the future. It is impossible. God does not see into the future. He knows every thing about the past and present. It is impossible to know the future because we do all have free will. Our futures are not determined in advance.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • RiddleMeThis

      So God created a bunch of people he knew would go to heaven and knew would go to hell. So...why wouldn't he just create all people he knew would go heaven?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • todd

      fallacious reasoning. people could have free will, and God simply knows how it will be exercised. to the extent your future is pre-determined, it is a function of your excercise of free will (it is just known in advance by all-knowing God - if you say God could not know that without affecting the exercise of free will, then you are violating the premise of an all-knowing/all-powerful God). If one accepts an all-knowing, all-powerful God as a premise, one cannot disprove the premise thru logic. So you are simply left with ... a question of faith. I understand how string theory harmonizes general relativity with quantum physics ... but still believe in God. (we'll see who's right)

      May 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • jim

      Michael, You are correct, I misused the word tenant.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • RiddleMeThis

      @Indigo – So God knows everything that is and has happened, but can't see the future? That seems a bit strange.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • jim

      I am not incorrect on the basic Christian tenet of predestination. He knew us before we were in our mothers' wombs. He called us prior to then and predestined those who were to follow prior to any of us drawing a single breath. Wide is the way and many are those that enter into destruction. Jesus did not come here to solve conflicts or get us to all get along. He is the cornerstone that is rejected by more than accept Him. He is the stumbling block that trips many to their peril.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • jim

      Very well said, God sees time all at once, not limited as we are.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Delly

      Hello Riddle me.
      For every spiritual riddle, including the god head, can be explained by natural things. Romans 1;20. All invisible things can be explained by the things that have been created.
      If you are to take a 1 bus that is destined to point B from point A, and you decide to come off half way to catch bus 2 destined for point C, this does not change the fact that bus 1 will get to B without you in it.
      The honest truth is that God said in Joshua 24;15:-I present before you life and death, choose which you want. Every time you make a major decision in your life, you alter the destiny that has been laid out for you. The truth is that God presents numerous buses to get to point B, but by the same token there are numerous buses going to point C. You can say that Destiny is for most of us a choice that is presented before.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • jim

      Indigo,

      You are totally incorrect about one thing: God DOES see all of time; he CAN see the future. Time is a physical thing – a dimension. God can open it all up and once and see it all. Time is finite. It had a beginning and it will have an end. God can look at it from cover to cover all at once.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  19. MP

    Well, thank god this is settled.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
  20. A. Watch

    hey john, read hat carefully again. do not be like replicacafe

    May 17, 2011 at 4:52 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.