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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. Abishai

    The person who can explain to me clearly and, dare I say, scientifically, how the universe came into being from ->nothing<- must be.... you guessed it, God.

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

      YEAH, look sorry but it was all BS.

      😀

      May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • samonight

      anyone who believes in god is a..... you guessed it, inbred jack.a.s.s

      May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  2. kilmo

    There have been so many times that I get into arguments with people of faith. And I am not really the one arguing back. I tend to state my opinion, and the people of faith have to feel sorry for me,, and many will say they pray for me and for God to forgive me. You people really do have some nerve! I live my life treating others as I would want to be treated... I don't need a God to help with this. It is something that is ingrained in the majority of human beings. You know the most dividing thing in the world is religion, next to race. Naturally, we should treat others as we would want to be treated, but since we have different Gods, we feel we have to curse others that do not have the same faith. There are many good things that come from religion, but in our lifetime,, it has easily fallen short of the bad things religion has done. Most of you believers are so blinded by your belief in YOUR God, that you fail to see the harm it has caused and will quickly blame anothers religion for starting the problems.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  3. Jon

    There is no such person as Stephen Hawking. He simply does not exist. And my saying so is all the evidence I need. After all, I have an over-inflated ego. Therefore whatever I say automatically MUST be true.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  4. Use Your Brain

    We cant disprove God – But that does not mean he have to exist. Science has kept pushing God away from the real world, down to the deepest questions... we no longer say that Thunderstorms is God's way of showing anger for example, we know exacly how they work and why they form. Science is the only tool we have to describe and investigate the world around us, and so far we have found nothing that points to any supernatural God. In fact, its rather the other way around.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • jinxgt

      Man in fact doesn't know how or why thunderstorms work as man has a very primitive understanding of the science of weather. The extent of man's understanding of weather is a series of correlations in which a meteorologist can make certain deductions with a level of confidence. Example, given certain conditions a meteorologist can say that it will rain and thunder with 70% confidence but there are several anomalies unaccounted for that are beyond understanding that can alter this prediction. The time may come and it may be sunny and not a cloud in the sky. This of course extrapolates to other fields of science, man makes observations and deduces certain conclusions from these correlations with each successive observation increasing the confidence in the conclusion.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • samonight

      @jinxgt

      man doesn't know how thunderstorms work? are you seriously that ret.arded? read a fu.cki.ng textbook and get your head out of your as.s. fu.ck.ing. moron

      May 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Jens

      Actually you are wrong. For all we know God does show displeasure through thunderstorms. We have figured out HOW some of what is happening is happening, we have no idea why anything would ever happen. If you try studying some hard sciences you will actually find that we only suspect quite little and know even less. There is no valid reason energy or mass should even exist without God. Hawking says "spontaneous creation". That's fancy talk for," it just happened". Which violates basically everything that science is since the entire discipline revolves around cause/effect relationships and proving hypotheses by REPRODUCING them and OBSERVING them. Hawking is preaching, not teaching.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • samonight

      @jens

      hows about you drink a nice, big cup of shut-the-fu.ck-up. got a problem with that? tell that god of yours. i'm sure he knows where to find me. and when He does, i'll be sure to shove a boot up his a.s.s

      May 17, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  5. MeatTreat

    I am beginning to believe the God spirt we conceive of is internal. Most American's are unaware of the work done by Dr. Rupert Sheldrake and his theory of 'Resonance'.
    Please make yourself familiar with it, if you are open minded it might just help you look at other possibilities other then the mainstream science and religion gives us.
    Personally I have no idea if their is a God or not. Many things seem to indicate that the Universe itself is a divine and we are a part of its own experience of growth.
    Do some research in to the work by Dr. Rick Strassman concerning Dymethyltriptamine (DMT).
    People who have spiritual experiences may be releasing this chemical naturally causing these experiences. We all have DMT in us.
    So many other reasons out there to not do some open minded research. I don't understand why religious people are so stubborn and why they won't bother listening to anything else. You are wrapped up in Faith which is just a basis for being a stubborn fool.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
  6. Maltheus

    He sounds like an atheist. And they are just like any other fundamentalists, certain of things they can't possibly prove. Hawking may be a physics genius, but he comes across like the people he disparages here in pretending like he knows more than he can. He hasn't offended my faith, since I have none, but he has insulted my intelligence.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  7. Jimbo

    "Professing to be wise they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptable God for an image in the form of man, and 4 footed anumals and crawling creatures, so God gave them over to a debased mind." The awesome nature of the invisible, incorruptable God that is only accessed by faith is for the foolish and ignorant of this world. Hawkings is a supremely wise astro physicist. His contribution to our speculative knowledge of the universe is to be applauded. However, his understanding of any matters regarding faith are those of a complete idiot. Its sad to see such brilliance so blind to the reality of Christ. But then again, it is the Creator Himself who gave us the freedom and independence to altogether reject Him. Choosing what to believe is part of God's plan. Choosing to believe God is everyone's own personal choice.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  8. Sell BOoks

    He just wants to sell his book. Which, in fact, is not very interesting

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  9. chester

    No god, never was, never will. Can't accept it. So what.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  10. GOD

    I CAN TELL YOU THAT MY PC IS STUCK ON CAPITALS.

    CAN ALSO TELL YOU THAT I TELL LIES AND DO NOT HAVE A TELEPHONE NUMBER...

    AND I LIVE IN A ONE BED APARTMENT IN DOWNTOWN NEW YORK...

    GOD

    May 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • Darth Cheney

      I saw a message like this on a tortilla the other day! Praise be!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  11. Vic

    I believe anything this man has to say when it come to science vs any preacher any day. Rligion is a business!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  12. Billy

    Doesn't exactly take a scientist to work it out really does it? It's so obvious there is no heaven.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • You have no idea

      If you really believe that there is no heaven, then you have no hope. Sad, but true.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • samonight

      @You have no idea

      if you really believe in "god" and "heaven", you're a slack-jawed imbecile. sad, but true. now do what all you christians do best and stick your head up so far up the a.s.s. of that giant fairy in the sky you love so much where we won't have to listen to your bs anymore. Thanks 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • YaThink

      @You have no idea
      Not believing in heaven equals no hope? Seriously?

      I have hope for world peace, where we can all live together regardless of our differences – hey look no heaven, no God.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  13. Kevin

    From my observations, I'm pretty sure there is a "God", I am also certain that She is nothing like anything any organized religion preaches today....

    May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  14. Twocentworth

    He is makes a broad statement, writes a book about it, and then assumes that we should take a leap of faith and follow his beliefs.
    Sounds awfully religious to me 🙂

    May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  15. Joe

    one physics question. Are things being created as of this moment? I learned in physics classes that the total energy in the universe is fixed and only the forms of energy is changing. If more things are being created or will be created spontaneously, does that theory still stand? and if energy can't be created, how are more things created out of nothing?

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

      Any interpretation of God is an interpretation of that individual. Each individual will have thier own opinion, since all facts are just a matter of opinion. God only exits in the minds of the believers, he does not exist in the reality of the few that are capable of such transcendent knowledge.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  16. Brittney

    And so the hardening of hearts has begun in full force.. Just a matter of time now.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
  17. lancem

    Scientists talk about 11 dimensions, quantum mechanics were things are so weird that can't be explained, yet we know for certain there is no heaven or any afterlife?

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

      yes. yes we do.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  18. D

    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!

    ---

    You should watch "I Survived: Beyond and Back" and listen to some of the experiences of Heaven. There is no concept of time, or eternity, in Heaven. And if there was, from their experiences, and from what the Bible tells us, if eternity exists, you would embrace it if you were in Heaven. Now Hell is a different story. I do believe there is a concept of time in Hell. You will fully realize that you are stuck in the worst place you can imagine, FOREVER, if you do end up in Hell.

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

      So man can not possibly understand the vastness of the universe, yet you are completely sure that there is higher power? If we can not understand the universe, maybe we can not understand God. Maybe there is no God but maybe there is.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Joe

      at least I learned one thing with this article. The best ways to increase traffic in a news website: write about things that can't be proven or disproved scientifically, and people will gather and argue about it till there's no common conclusion... like the existence of heaven and which phones are better bet. iphone and androids.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • p1ratemafia

      @lancem
      I cannot disprove god, nor do I believe in one...

      The point is, God is not necessary for the creation of the universe. Existence is not proof of anything, as many have argued.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Doctordonna

      Well, thanks for proving NOTHING. You cannot base anything on the bible or on "first-hand accounts" of people whose brains went into safe mode. But if you'd like to argue your point further feel free to present me with scientific, unbiased observation.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
  19. NoDuh

    Heaven is a fairy story like oil in America. If I don't see it I don't believe it.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  20. Adam

    GOD is alive Heaven is for real and Mr. Hawking will get to find out just how hot Hell really is!

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

      """GOD is alive Heaven is for real"""

      And how do you know this, exactly?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • UncleM

      Um – no he won't. It's all made up.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Durh

      Uh, sorry Mr. Hawking, but you are an idiot. A computer might break down but the information stored on that computer is still intact, simply because the computer has lost it's power source doesn't mean the information is lost. More importantly, matter can not be destroyed, it just changes form. A physicist should know this and realize that, no matter what, we can't die, we just change forms. To say that our consciousness is destroyed at death implies that energy can be forever destroyed which even a black hole is not capable of. Hawking Radiation? Durh.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Howard

      Takes chutzpa to disagree with one of the most brilliant men who ever existed. I agree with Steve. Even if heaven did exist, it would be hell. No body, mind, no nothing, for eternity. I'd rather be dead and gone than in religions concept of heaven. God is an attempt to explain that which cannot be explained. However, I would never want to take anyone’s god from them as I would never want to tell a child there is no Santa Clause. You are lucky to believe in a god if you do. I'm not so lucky.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • JMitchell

      get bent you fu.ck.ing moron. god is just an excuse for people who can't take any responsibility for their own actions. a child gets ra.ped and killed: god works in mysterious ways. thousands of people lose their homes, jobs and lives: god works in mysterious ways. 9/11: god works in mysterious ways. i hope you get so.domized, skull fu.ck.ed and skinned alive you god fearing idiot

      May 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • jstsaying122

      @ Howard. Not all religions have a concept of heaven or the same concept of heaven. I happen to believe in an equivalent of a heaven, called paradise, but people don't stay there forever. Then there is something called spirit prison, which is kind of like a hell, but it isn't permanent either. Both are in what is called the spirit world, in my belief system. Unlike many Christian religions, I believe (and my church teaches) that we get resurrected, everybody does, even the damned. (There are three places or kingdoms that people go to, incidentally, in my belief system.) The church I belong to is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, known as the "Mormon Church".

      May 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • Gary C

      People still take this fairy tale seriously in the 21st century? How sad. Must be terrible to be living in fear of the invisible boogeymen.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:38 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.