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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. Peter Torskyj

    To make such claims as Mr. Hawkins does, I suppose one must have 100% of all the knowledge past present and future, if he has 10% he would indeed be the most knowlageable man that ever lived, but there are still 90% (or more) he has no knowledge of. So it seem to me he can only claim to believe that there is no God. Welcome Mr. Hawkings to the band of believers. I prefer to trust and believe in the creator.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • f

      Back in the 1920s some famous guy ( I forget who – doesn't matter really) made a famous remark that every invention has now been invented by man. Uuuuuhhhh, yea right. Steven Hawking thinks that all knowledge ends with whatever he says.. Uuuuuhhh yea right.... Please find God before you die. After is too late.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
  2. RaKa

    There is absolutely no proof that Stephen Hawkins exist.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • f

      All I have ever seen of Steven Hawking is a photograph. I think this photo was photoshopped. Steven Hawking does not really exist. His theories are put forth by the liberal/socialist/government media complex. They are trying to kill God. Beware !!!! LOL.....

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  3. virginia

    who created science anyway?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • f

      Man created science because he could not figure out God.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  4. Neil Smith

    Anybody who bases their opinions of God and an after life on Stephen Hawking's opinions of God and the after life might be very sorry should this miserable, long suffering so-called genius be wrong. What could Stephen Hawking create from nothing?
    Not a d*mn thing of any use to anybody.What he is really saying basically amounts to blasphemy and the hope that when everybody dies,we're all just nothing. I suppose that would be fine with him because of his long suffering. I guess he doesn't want to be disappointed in the after life as well. God isn't a man in the sky. God is beyond the realm of comprehension, therefore, incomprehensible to the human mind. It's called faith.If you don't have faith, so be it, but don't be in a position as such and try to tell people about something you can neither prove or disprove. I liked him better on Family Guy

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

      Your affinity for "Family Guy" places you in a demographic with little credibility on scientific and philosophical matters.

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

      OH NO!!! Another one of those "god's gonna get yu for that" suggestions. Exactly the reason I quit religion. IF you "christian" folks think your going to scare us non believers into thinking your way... Guess What.. It isn't working.. IF we all think the middle east has dictators that rule their countrys then what is god and his (HIS) wonderful kingdom? Prepair your selves chrisitans but remember Jim Jones and HIS kingdom. Isn't it interesting how we all hear so much about the religious belief's and how they ALL come from the middle east? Never Europe or the far east or or or...... Always the middle east. Just wondering.. Just asking..

      May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Hitch

    James,

    ‘ Atheists so intolerant and bitter.’

    Being critical of your beliefs, especially when they’re paraded openly & held with such fervor in sake of contradictory evidence isn’t being intolerant. You’re mistaking critical analysis & questioning dogma for being tolerant. One can be respectful & still question said religious beliefs.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
  6. Brandy

    I seriously can't get my head around this idea of something being created from nothing. Hawking is brilliant, but like a lot of scientists (and relgious leaders), I sometimes wonder if they have any idea of what the hell they're talking about. Socrates said it best, "The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

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

      Interesting thought Brandy but, don't you have to know SOMETHING to know you know NOTHING?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Ladyoftheday

      True.... If we were created from nothing, how in the hell did everything else get here? Seems to me a God had to make us as he said from him own image. And everything else he design and made like trees, flowers, fish, animals and so on. This guy if he dont believe there is a heaven then hell will be his eternity.....

      May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  7. Miguel

    Hawking is probably the smartest man alive but he's still a man. Not only was he stricken at a young age with a seriously debilitating disease, he went through two divorces, one of which, he was supposedly abused by his wife prior to their separation. He's human afterall, and perhaps these tragic experiences have had an effect on his perception of God. If I'm not mistaken, wasn't he a believer in a Creator at one point in his career? 10-15 years ago? It seems as he gets older and death draws nearer, I see more quotes of him denouncing the existance of God and now of heaven...hmmm?? Is he becoming more bitter? more of a pessimist? Intelligence doesn't excuse one from the frailty of being human and how emotions are affected by our experiences...just some food for thought....

    May 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  8. The Janissaire

    "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail, tThere is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

    I guess he's never heard of recyclying.

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

      Recycling? Then that throws out the argument against abortion, the argument that all life is sacred, and is beloved by god.

      Recycle = "start over button for life". That is an abhoration to fundamental teachings of the worlds religeons.

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

      Nice one, man. Yours is the best reply ever!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • TrueBeliever

      @Fab: Who? Me or Janissaire?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
  9. TrueBeliever

    It is funny to see people debate the existence of the one true god, heaven, hell, etc. Consider the following:

    1) Most people do not realize this, but the people who eventually became the Isrealites (eg: Jews), were actually the poverty class of the Canaanite civilization. As member of the Canaanite society, they were POLYTHEISTIC.
    2) When the Canaanite civilization was overthrown, the Isrealites still were POLYTHEISTIC.
    3) The name of God, translated into Greek as Jehova, and in ancient texts is spelled YHWY (pronounced Yahway), was actually "borrowed" from a city-state named YHW. In this era, most city-states had a patron deity, in this case the city was named after it. The Isrealites "embraced and extended" this deity, but they were still POLYTHEISTIC.
    4) Proof of POLYTHEISM is found in archeological sites throughout modern day Isreal, in the form of idols to the goddess Asherah. Early Hebrew writings describe her as YHWY's wife.
    5) If you look CLOSELY at the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:2-17 "Do not have any other gods before me", and in Deuteronomy 5:6–21 "you shall have no other gods before me.". This is further proof of POLYTHEISM, in that if there was only one god in existence, why would you command that he be the only god that is worshiped?

    All of this points to the fact that the root religeon that forms the basis for Abrahamic religeons (Jews, Christian, and Islam), was much, much different than what most people believe.

    And the sadness of this is the fact that all those that claim their religeon is the only path to salvation clearly have no understanding of what their religeon is.

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

      You should get your facts straight before you start posting all of this. Most of your points are just opinion. Anyone can worship something and make it an idol or god. Can you blame God for being jealous when people worship stupid things like athletes who hit a ball, when he created everyone and everything around us. Read a bible more and you will discover the truth.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • TrueBeliever

      And another thing Jeremy, before you ask, I am indeed an ordained minister. My point is that we can all be served by understanding the origins of our beliefs, and the fact that the 54% of the world's population (Jews, Christian, Islam) all share alot more in common with each other than people think.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  10. blogger1

    Something from nothing? Surely Mr. Hawking realizes that would violiate the Law of conservation of Energy?

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

      Yes, I'm sure one of the great physicists of our time needs lessons from an anonymous creationist internet commenter. Stick with your book of myths, and leave the science to the scientists.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  11. Brittney

    stupid, ignorant.. blah blah blah <- Unfortunately, we can't seem to have an engaging dialogue without referring to others in the manner that schoolchildren do.. Do we really have to wonder why there's so much bullying?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
  12. Michael

    If you stop fearing the flames of hell, your life will take an immediate turn for the better. After you stop feeling guilty for no longer believing in hellfire, it feels even better. Soon you find yourself thinking clearly and freely, and you have found true salvation – from fear and ignorance; from being manipulated by others for their own profit.

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

      Perfectly stated.

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

      You should write a book my friend. Your ideas speak more true then those in the bible these days.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  13. NYCMovieFan

    Boy is he in for a surprise! Heaven is very close to what we have here, except we have less limitations and more choices. The idea that we just blink out at the end is very unlikely – we have evidence from reliable mediums and paranormal investigators that we do in fact go in in spirit. And the idea that the brain is a computer is also outdated – current research suggests that it is more like a radio, receiving transmissions. It is no good promoting outdated ideas,CNN, no matter who is promoting them.

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

      "Reliable mediums..?" How do you test their reliability?

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

      Oh my, why aren't you world famous with all of your knowledge?

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

      Casper the Ghost isn't real. There is absolutely no credible evidence for any of that claptrap.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
  14. Fr33d0mhawk

    Mr. Hawking is at the end of his career, but he is so used to the spotlight he now feels he must make public declarations of the sort that will gather media attention. I would be more impressed with Mr. Hawking if he did some more work on cosmology or physics. I do not go to soon to be retired physicists for explanations of an afterlife. Mr. Hawking is fully aware of the holographic nature of the universe, that we exist on the cosmological event horizon billions of light years away in the past present and future, and we also exist in the 3-D universe as a projection in the present moving along with time. Since time and location are so paradoxical and relative, how can Mr. Hawking be sure that there is not some form of afterlife that could include a heaven of sorts? NDE's cross cultures are so far not entirely explainable, but it appears at some level we may create our own afterlife reality, perhaps on our expectations, good or bad. Our conciousness on the cosmological event horizon might exist in all time frames at the same time, meaning there is no end of conciousness, or I could be wrong. The point is, Mr. Hawking has not studied this aspect of existence at any great length, so why bother with the troll comment that heaven is a fairly tale? Answer- because Hawking is virtually retired from physics but still yearns for the limelight. Its like listening Chuck Norris about Obama's birth certificate.

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

      better than being so desperate as to post an inane response to him that gets lost in the ether of the Internet....

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

      There is no proof that the God exists. The church and all other religious organizations tried along the history to sell their fairy stories to control and manipulate the uneducated masses and their leaders.
      There is no proof that such thing exists whatsoever.
      Religion is mambo jumbo. Mambo jumbo for gullible.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
  15. Ann

    “In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?” A month later he confessed: “I don’t know the answer. That is why I asked the question, to get people to think about it, and to be aware of the dangers we now face.”—THE GUARDIAN, BRITAIN.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  16. required

    life after dead will be just like life before conception.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm |
  17. Gregg

    We are all seeking. I know I am grateful for all of you...your passion and energy...and for this journey, today, right now. Here's to Light for us, and to occasional places to rest. Roll on Stephen, roll on Tomorrow. As I see the next bend in the road, I'm glad you're here to see it, too.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
  18. Ed

    The greatest thing about the earth is we can all have a different view. He has his I have mine. I am a Christian but I can't prove 100% sure there is a heaven or God. And neither can he the opposite. I have faith and he doesn't. I hope before he dies he does believe in God because just on the off chance Christians are right he might want to be there instead of the alternative. God Bless

    May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Tom

      How many times have I seen this stupid comment from believers? Assuming God is rational, the assumption we can make is that he would be more offended by your bet-hedging over someone's genuine honesty. How do you not think about these things? If these observations never cross your mind, can I not conclude that non-believers (humanists, agnostics, etc.) are more intelligent than believers? Do you intentially avoid making these observations because the idea of a heavenly father is comforting to you? Or did you really never think about this?

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

      You were doing fine until you threw in Pascal's Wager at the end.

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

      Ed–WELL SAID!!! You speak the truth

      May 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  19. God

    The kingdom of Heaven, along with everything, exists completely within each of you. We are all one.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Corey

      Except for gays and women who have abortions, right? There's always a catch.

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

      If the Kingdom of Heaven is a metaphor for basic chemical elements, then sure, I guess so.

      Why do we need the metaphor any more though?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  20. Guest101

    Who will you choose to believe? God? or this little man? How can he know? He is nothing!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Rico

      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 God

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

      Since God doesn't exist, I'll go with Hawking.

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

      I think I'll believe the one that I know actually exists and has made accurate predictions about our universe as opposed to a book that was written by men and can be shown to be false in many ways.

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

      To be fair Rico, he really has nothing to fear as there is, quite literally, nothing to fear. NOTHING.

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

      Someone is afraid of dark....

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

      At least we don't have to keep 'updating' the stories in Hawkin's book when technology proves them to be untrue. The bible has had dozens of it's stories and 'facts' changed and altered over the centuries when they've been proven wrong (Earth is not the center of the Universe, the sun doesn't revolve around US, we aren't on a flat planet, etc, etc, etc.) How long until they're all proven wrong.
      But, that said, don't let his book scare you. Life your life to the fullest and it won't matter what happens after you die.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • Bilbo2001

      @ Ryan HAHAHAHA. You mean that you choose to follow a book written by men about a magical story of magical birth, magical resurrection, and miracles, as opposed to one written by the premier intellect of our time, based on scientific observation and fact. HAHAHAHA

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

      GOD does exist cause there is no other way to prove how perfect the universe actually is. There is no way that the earth's orbit is so perfect that we don't freeze or burn.
      And those who say the Bible is false don't know what they are saying because the Bible has never been proven wrong (unlike evolution).

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • utahsang

      Atheists have been saying this for millenia so what this article is boring. Man has free will to either believe in God or not . The Bible says " the wisdom of man is foolishness to God".

      May 17, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Ryan

      @Bilbo2001,

      You might want to reread what I wrote. I'm glad to see your English teacher did a good job.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • James V.

      People claim that, having attained entrance to heaven, they are rewarded with an eternity of bliss – albiet most of the time will be presumably spent prostrate in worship of god, but bliss none the less.

      I was once asked by a professor back when I was young "What could possibly be more blissful than nonexistence?" I didn't have an answer then but I think the answer is now as clear as it is literal – nothing.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:23 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.