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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. Frank_Robinson

    This is disappointing news for Islamic jihadies.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • pdikeman

      WHAT????....No virgins?
      Damn it!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  2. PeaceAndLovetoALL

    I am a Christian who happens to have Atheist, Agnostic, and Wiccan friends among others. We agree to not discuss religion and respect the beliefs of the other. I do not believe that God is asking us to shove or demand our beliefs into fruition. He tells us to teach and love. He asks us to love eachother as He has loved us and to love the sinner, hate the sin. Which means: love EVERYONE regardless of whether you agree with their choices.

    I also find it rather hypocritical of the the people without faith here to put down, name-call and laugh at all the people with faith (of any religion). You are doing EXACTLY what you claim we do to you, but yet "justifying" that its ok for you because you have "logic?" I am a logical intelligent person who went to college and studied history and I have learned that religion has been around as long as man, and that it has played as intregal a part in shaping the world as science has. You can actually believe in both science and religion if you look at it from a non-fanatical point of view.

    It is the fanatics in any religion/society that make a bad name and label for the rest of us. The majority of people have their beliefs and quietly go about their lives not enforcing the rest of the world to conform to their way of life. Those that feel threatened by things they fail to understand lash out and make hypocritical assumptions about the rest of the world without real proof they know the rest of the world's thinking.

    Live and let live.....for EVERYONE of all races, religions and creeds. We dont know what will happen, its not our job!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  3. Fred

    Is everyone ignoring one of the fundamental laws of physics? Matter, regardless of its state or form, has to come from somewhere. Period. Something cannot just randomly appear out of nothing.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  4. The Loper

    I sink, therefore I am?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
  5. Josh

    Bottom line...the man is right.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • pdikeman

      I have to agree......

      May 17, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  6. D

    Cletus
    Science is the quest for evidence. Faith and religion avoid facts and evidence. Facts only hurt faith. That is why the more faithful you are the more fanatical you are and also pretty darn ignorant, typical traits in blind followers.

    -

    This is a common misconception. That faith ignores facts. As a man of faith, the problem with these "facts" is that they are often not FACTS. They are "theories". Faith allows me to realize that we will never have all of the facts. Facts do not hurt our faith, actually, the fact that all of these so called "facts" keep changing as we learn more really helps my faith. It lets me know that no matter how sure we are of ANYTHING we really aren't SURE. I am a computer programmer. I love science, I believe in the scientific process. However, I take it as that, a process. It is not fact. The one source of facts that have never been proven incorrect is the Bible. Not Einstein, not Newton – the BIBLE.

    What really irks me about people who claim to KNOW that there is no Heaven or Hell, or that there is no GOD, and who claim that faith is ignoring the facts – is that they always start their theories with some sort of Faith based evidence. Or some fact that they can not prove (which is essentially Faith but just Faith in science). Hawking claims that the universe will form itself from nothing IF – i said IF – there is gravity. Where did gravity come from? Where did the dark matter, or real matter, or whatever scientists start off with come from? Now, those against Faith, will ask "well where did God" come from? That is not a question that persons of Faith can answer. We will never know everything, that is a Fact. I sure hope Hawking acknowledges God before it's too late, b/c i'm sure he is a good person. I am not God, and I don't know for a fact how God judges good people who don't believe, but all i have to go on is the Bible. And that book of facts tells me that those who do not repent, and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, will never reap the benefits of Heaven and salvation.

    One thing he may be right about, unfortunately is that there is no Heaven, but that's only if you are him b/c with his current beliefs, according to my book of facts, he will never see it so I guess he can say it doesn't exist. "if a tree falls in the forest...." But he will realize eventually that there is a Hell, which is unfortunate.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Mike

      The thing you are misunderstanding is your so-called book of facts. Science is a never ending quest to find answers. How you mention that science continually changing only reinforces your opinion on religion. Well if you look at the history of religion it is constantly changing and there are several different sects. To me polygamy and Latter-Day Saints do not seem that different. You continue to believe that women are only existant because men gave up body parts and I will continue to believe that woman exist because of changes in their DNA that are essential to human survival. Its nice to think that your not alone in this world and that if you follow the teachings of a book all of your short-comings will be forgiven. I hope for your sake your right, otherwise you wasted alot of your life believing a book written 2,000 years ago holds the secrets to life. I will continue to pioneer and innovate and come up with medical practices that dont involve opening up a persons head to release their demons.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  7. David

    God is there. Everything relates. Hawking got delt a bad deal and may shun any idea about God.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • Jerry

      I got a fantastic deal. Beautiful wife, three kids, great job and hung like a baboon....and I'm an atheist.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  8. RaKa

    If you even mention the word God, atheist come crawling out of the woodwork. You see they are scared. They are constantly earnestly searching whether their be a God. This is why they can never leave the God subject alone. It's as if they know their time is short.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Mint

      I have a hard time debating these complex topics with people who don't even know the difference between "there" and "their." So go ahead, believe in your fairy-man. You are the one who is scared. Nothing else on this Earth is assumed until it is proven, yet we assume their is a god continually and reject every attempt to prove otherwise. Maybe you WILL disappear on May 21st. I can tell you we'd be happy.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Jerry

      LOL! Hawkings says there is no heaven and literally THOUSANDS of believers come here to berate him, and it's atheists that "come out of the woodwork"??

      Hilarious.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      That's a bit ridiculous. The fact is atheists and agnostics have grown exponentially while Christians and other religions continue to erode in numbers. We aren't 'coming out of the woodwork', we are just a growing number of realists who understand we don't have to blindly accept something like sheep just to fit in with the flock. We aren't the one's who are scared. We don't plead to the nothingness everytime we hear a bump in the night.
      Oh yeah, most of us didn't blindly believe in the WMD's either....

      May 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  9. Tony

    Mr. Hawking, I'm an agnostic. And I'll be the first to say, shove it. All the calculations in the world can't tell you what happens when you die. If our brains function via electrical impulse, and energy never dies, then the big question is does that energy remain coherent in some form. No one has the answer to that, not me, not the religions of the world, and not even you.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Jerry

      Firstly, the chemical compounds that create those electrical impulses break down and go off to form other organisms.

      Anyway, I'm curious. Are you an agnostic about the Tooth Fairy? Or Santa Clause?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  10. Husker Steve

    All of this speculation is a waste of time!
    What I fear is eternity.
    I don't want an eternity of ANYTHING!
    Religion was created by man to take advantage of and control weak minded individuals who fear death and do not want to believe that when they die that are DONE!
    The things that individuals and societies have done in the name of religion and some god that they cannot touch, see or even comprehend is utterly ridiculous.
    The universe is an amazing, awe inspiring vastness that man will NEVER fully comprehend. Maybe that's the way it should be.
    Keep asking questions, but do not be gullible to those that would invoke a god that they has absolutely NO scientific proof or any other proof actually exists except to believe the lies and fairy tales they have been feed by those that would use religion to control them.
    Religion attempts to control people and blind mankind from the truth!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • chefshack

      Well said!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  11. Keith

    For anyone to suppose they know anything about God or the lack of God on behalf of all people is mere ego. Faith is an amazing thing and should not be discounted out of scientific curiosity. There are a lot of unknowns out there. Belief is a personal choice. I choose to believe that there is a benevolent spirit. I also cannot fathom the meaning or mind behind God. I do not believe that anyone, no matter how brilliant or famous, should spread personal views as if they are fact. Why move to control others when a step toward faith is so much more satisfying.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • pdikeman

      well said!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:34 pm |
    • Chris

      Yeah because religion doesn't control its followers at all. Lets just blindly follow something without actually thinking or asking questions. Enjoy blissful ignorance.

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

      And yet, if I go around telling people that I believe invisible furry monsters from Pluto are controlling my mind, I'd probably be committed.

      Funny how the acceptance of beliefs is a mere popularity contest. If enough people share the delusion, you aren't insane.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Ol' Yeller

      I agree... no one, no matter how famous one is they shouldn't put forth their views as fact. Like Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, the Pope, Ghandi, etc...
      C'mon, the guy has the right to say what he believes. The problem has been that for centuries one did not dare question the Church for fear of retributions such as torture, death, or having to watch the View. Galileo and Copernicus crossed the Church by putting forth their ideas/theories which went against the Bible and teachings of the Church. They turned out to be right, but they had to publically deny their theories at that time and apologise; or face the consequences. Nowadays people are starting to understand that they have the right to exercise their disbelief just as much as the biblethumpers have a right to exercise their beliefs. The biblethumpers don't like it, because they used to just mob up and kill the heretics. Times they are a changin' and religion is going the way of the myths (the old ones about Zeus) because that is all they are, just new ones about Jesus, David and Goliath, Noah, etc... just myths. Peace. We are learning we don't need fairy tales to keep us in line (like they ever did!)

      May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  12. wendy555555

    i just googled this guy to see what he is famous for; he is a theorist that means guesser to me; and he is also famous for his debilitating condition he has; black holes well they no nothing about black holes really other than they consume things and guess what my theory is maybe people just feel sorry for him;

    May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Git back in yer trailer.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Chris

      How did you not know who Steven Hawking was until this article? You're either 10 years old or have never had access to a TV, the internet or books before...

      May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • DDDD2222

      If you had to google Stephen Hawking to find out what he's famous for then you need to get out more.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • wendyisahick

      you are a hick w

      May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • who is that

      wow you are ignorant. i guess news of the greatest scientist on the planet can't penetrate the force field of dumb around religion. and as for theorists as "guessers": i suppose that is somehow different and less trustworthy than a man at a pulpit relating fairy tales from a few millennia ago to life today. don't take physical pot shots at a guy for dedicating his life to science and the pursuit of universal understanding. go back to home school where you can echo your mindless thoughts off of other hollow skulls.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Darth Cheney

      If you believe a theorist is a guesser, then you have revealed a great deal about yourself and why you prefer religion.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
  13. nOT Trash

    Thank you Mr Hawking.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  14. fierybuddha

    I agree there is no afterlife heaven, but rather it exists right now – right where you are. Or perhaps instead, you've manifested your own hell.

    We choose, every minute of every day, which we'll exist in. Consciousness is real, whether Mr Hawking wants to acknowledge that or not. Consciousness brought this universe into being, whatever that great unknown 'force' is.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
  15. dan

    There are so many comments here, im not sure why i even bother. I believe that no one knows if there is a god or not, even stephen hawkings. Believe what you want to people but just quit killing other because they dont believe in what you do.

    MORE WARS HAVE BEEN FOUGHT OVER RELIGION THAN ANY OTHER CAUSE! I think religion was just made up by man to control large numbers of people. I think its possible there is a god holding everything togeither but we will never know the truth.

    Christianity didnt start getting big until France united as one country because of christianity. It helped them become a country by uniting them and to defend their land....that is when they realized the power of religion. Then christianity spread like wild fire. It probably would not be the main religion of the west if it wasnt for this case. Those who win wars are those who create/dictate history.

    Im not saying theres not a god. Im just saying no one truely knows the answer and if you say you do then you are ignorant of the facts and have been brain washed by your parents or your community into believing there is a god.

    How can so many follow something so invisible? Yes, lets call it faith, but how can you actually believe in something that has never shown its face.

    I will believe in god when god decides to show himself, until that day comes I will be a caring, naturing person trying to help as many people as I can get by in this crappy world we call Earth.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • jinxgt

      More wars have been fought for power and wealth...religion is only a scapegoat.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  16. jserbus

    Jesus christ, people, how can the "after-life" still create this much discussion?!?

    CNN should just post topics denouncing heaven, they'd probably see a surge in web traffic and ratings.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
  17. andrew

    if you were to understand GOD's views and purposes and reasons for doing things than he would not be GOD, how can you possibly think that all of this world and the people in it was just a accident?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      Big universe, chance rules all.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • Jerry

      If I capitalize my name – JERRY – does that make me a GOD?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  18. Caleb

    Oops –

    The FOOL has said in his heart...

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

    @Pasqui,

    So one example of a planet supporting life and having an elliptical orbit proves that God exists? So if that's the case why do Pluto and Neptune's orbits cross each other. If I was a "divinely perfect" being why makes something so messy? Wouldn't you just make each orbit slightly outside the orbit of the one previous?

    As for evolution being proved false I'd like to see your evidence.

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

      You do realize Pluto no longer has Planet status. (But I do agree with your point.)

      May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Chris

      Ryan,

      Why don't you provide proof that evolution exists? Or better yet define what you call evolution, which is really a catchall for all things unexplained. Evolution is the religion of the Aethiest with less proof or backup.

      Explain human life. Start with the ear. How did the ear form? The ear is far more complex than man's most advanced computers. It required mutlple componets put together in a precise way so that the gift of sound would be formed. This was not accomplished by luck or chance, but with specific, intelligent design. It is statisically impossible evolve by chance.

      The giraffe did not grow a bigger neck because of the need to reach food nor did animals just develop a nose because of the need to smell. If you say it was because of a genetic mutation, WHAT CAUSED THE GENETIC MUTATION?!!

      You may believe a Monkey was your uncle, but I know I came from humans.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  20. LOLgimpy

    Hm, Steven Hawking is arrogant and thinks he knows everything. There is no scientific contradiction to prove his theories, so he is kind of coming up with hocus pocus nonsense himself. the definition of religion is something that cannot be unproven by science. I find it rather hilarious that someone who is so intelligent can be so sure about something that he cannot see. It's not wise to say something isn't there, because if there is, then Steven is gonna have a lot of explaining to do, and his PHD won't do him any good in that situation.

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

      I guess it doesn't take a PhD to be arrogant.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
    • nOT Trash

      The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods
      – ideas about the relationship between science and religion
      Details of belief as taught or discussed
      – when the school first opened they taught only religion, Italian, and mathematics
      A particular system of faith and worship
      – the world's great religions
      A pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance
      – consumerism is the new religion

      May 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • Darth Cheney

      Keep it classy, "LOLgimpy." And rest assured that Steven F'ing Hawking knows 1000 times more about pretty much everything than you ever will.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jessica

      Gimpy, Conversely religion can't be proved at all. When religion says that the earth is only 10,000 years old yet science can prove that there are fossils more that 250,000,000 years old religion doesn't look so correct to the person that can think logically.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Eoman01

      Just as much as you want there to be evidence to prove that he is right, you fail to ask for or look for evidence for your own belief in a god! What evidence do you have that there is a god? NONE! So quit being a hypocrite and trying to have it your way or the highway! Those that want to believe in god only want a tool they can use to suppress others into believing what they believe! We all need to ask for proof no matter what we choose to believe in! How is it that there is no god but yet Stephen Hawking is alive with a disease that should have killed him 40 years ago? It is because it is something else that has nothing to do with a god or superhuman being-quit with the lame stories you were raised with, they are for children!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:39 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.