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. BL

    This is it. This is all there is, right here and now. There is nothing else. There can never be anything else and there never was anything else. Timeless and eternal. And it's amazing.

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

      Sounds kind of lame to me.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  2. SoSad

    Stephen will know God when he dies. All you need to do is read those stories of Life After Death experiences. These people did not make these experiences up, they truly are affected by these experiences. I know Stephen will go somewhere with God, plain and simple. He's a good guy, just into computers too much.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  3. Mooms

    Look up astral projection and practice it...also read Our Ultimate Reality by Adrian P Cooper. That will answer everything you need to know.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  4. Punchmaster

    You Christians are going to find out how wrong you were when, at the moment of death, you find yourself kneeling at the feet of Batman in the Batcave.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
  5. BP

    It makes me very sad that Mr. Hawking does not know Christ and will miss out on eternity in paridise. Even more ashame is that people respect his opinion and will question their own faith based on his baseless statments. I know God and expeirience God in my life everyday...the Lord is as real as the gravity he created.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  6. MikeS

    Can Mr. Hawking explain how something came from nothing? Gravity explains why matter is drawn together in space, but doesn't explain where the matter came from. When was matter created? How? And how does Hawking explain the beginning of time? What happened before that? The universe may not require a match to start it, but science can't even begin to explain anything before the big bang. So, at first there was a void, nothing, and suddenly there was matter? That sounds like magic to me. Does the universe require a magician?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Believer in something

      So everything that exists must have a creator? Does that not also apply then to the creator? If not, why?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
    • Gary C

      Actually, yes he can if you read some of his research.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  7. Angel

    No heaven? Well, not for Stephen Hawking... I don't imagine. It seems kind of odd to me that people who don't believe in God or in Heaven make such a big deal about it. If you don't believe in it, then why don't you spend your time talking about what you do believe in and trying to make your world a better place? It's going to be the only world you will ever know.

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

      Not believing in god counts as a belief. And he breaks no law telling others his belief. If he can't do that, we've got problems.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  8. Al

    "may GOD touch you in a way that you know it is him otherwise you will wander aimlessly for the rest of your time on earth"
    Like some priests or Ted Haggard likes to touch young boys? Sorry, not interested!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
  9. Astrophysics-ism

    Thanks for the update, Stephen Hawking. Please explain how objects become animated. What is the scientific process of breathing life and consciousness into an inanimate object?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • G

      nothing creates life by breathing into an inanimate object to make it animated. Hawkings doesn't have to explain this science and evolution of plants and animals already understands how. The planet is alive and she spawns off energy (life) in many different shapes and forms. Many many many cells work together in order to keep us humans living. The same is of plants and insects etc. These million, billions of cells live within humans off of oxygen. They are alive living inside us...a universe all their own. If these millions and billions of cells fail in there endless activities which keeps us alive it could lead to minor or life threatening results for us. Like our cells we are many. When we work together we will become more conscience beings. More whole. We will completely be disciplined and need not be "GOD FEARING" for we will only want to do good and not evil. Religion was created to control people. A way to lure people together and told what to do. To bring order. Religion was humans first form of Law and governing system. As people gain power priest, kings, and nobles would all share the profit. They would also be the educated and would not allow the masses access to higher knowledge. Its suppression at its very best and never question the higher authority. Our gov't or gov't body is like the human body. We humans are the cells. We all have a job to do. We all have a roll to play in our gov't. If we don't pay attention to the local, state, and federal politicians who run a muck, like our cells that dysfunction we risk the chance of having our very own gov't run free and wild. One day and i'm positive ppl will be willing to not have to be FEARED INTO DOING GOOD. And no i'm not an atheist. I belive that all life is tied together. We are all made up of energy. Deep in this shell of flesh and bone our conscience is evolving. This energy is learning. Whether its good energy or dark energy is up to how u live ur life but it like ur flesh and bones will be consume by mother earth to recycle. And if i'm wrong about god i'm sure God would know that i love first and i never needed the fear of god to be driven into me to understand how to love all that has been created.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
  10. 2Cents

    Don't use the bible if you don't want to believe in it. Its personal if you believe in Heaven or not.
    I don't see Hawkins saying "Muhammad" is fairy story. MAN AND WHO CARES WHAT HAWKINS SAYS lol.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • 2Cents

      People would rather believe Hawkins than the bible.
      Choose to believe God than Man.
      Hawkins seems to have a personal issue with bible than any other religion.

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

      My friend, Hawking did say, there is no heaven of any kind. This wold leave one to believe he is referring to all religions. Not just a slam on Christianity. Right or wrong, he did not single out just the Christians.

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

      He probably didn't say Muhammed was a fairy story because he wasn't. He is a historical figure, who believed in religion. Hawking doesn't say Jesus is a fairy story because he isn't. He was a real person, who believed in what he was saying, that doesn't make it true. Go downtown and talk to all the homeless people who believe they are talking to god. I assure you they believe it, but we don't believe them do we?

      Heaven and the belief in god is what he is calling a fairy story. Heaven/paradise is the place where all those who were good go to in any religion, it isn't a christian specific notion.

      Read a book and learn about things outside of your own beliefs and you will be better off.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  11. Sandra

    This statement isn't a fact of science, it's a matter of his opinion. No one can disprove God, period. He certainly hasn't. It sounds to me like he has a grudge against God for his crappy life and is trying to get some digs in before he goes. Sorry, Stephen, you lose YET AGIAN! NO ONE is going to deny God because of your pathetic whining. Get the eff over it.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • K

      Might I add that someone saying God doesn't exist does not make God go away. He (God) is far bigger than an individual conviction of which His existence does not depend on.

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

      Don't forget the proof lies with the one making the claim. I'm sure you're familiar with the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Surf_Dog

      No one has proved that God exists either.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • SleepingSoundly

      You can't disprove the existence of unicorns, trolls, elves, Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc, etc, etc, either. Doesn't mean they exist.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Kris

      No one has proved that God exists either. So don't get all excited. Simply accepting the existence of some "superior" being because your parents and sodomist priests tell you to have faith is pretty stupid. If there was a god he wouldn't want sheep that just accepted his existence as fact because others tell you to believe. Yet this is what most people's belief system rest on. Faith instilled in them by parents and rapists.

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

    Hawking is looked on by the scientific community as a blow hard, money grubbing, fool.

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

      Thanks so much for popping in & setting the record straight. What is your contribution to science?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • casey

      Do you have any sources to cite here? That is a very outlandish statement. Even if you didn't just make that up (which I think you did) you should back it up with facts.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  13. djwazu

    anyonec seen my cat?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  14. everyone

    WHAT? There's no invisible man in the sky?? Gosh . . . what are we all gonna dooooooo!

    The first sensible thing on corporate media in AGES.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  15. GOD


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

      Hawking needs to get a life. Get out & get some fresh air. The brain God gave him is stagnating inside his skull.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  16. Mark-Canada

    First of all, its very unfortunate that Stephen has been dealt with this challenge! I'm sure we can't understand the nightmare that his has caused him and continues to as he ages!
    Stephen, please go visit the WORLD out side of books and computers and see, talk to and experience life with others....omg! You must get a life to experience a life...then write to us all again after your world tour!

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

      The probability that Steve has traveled more of the world than most is quite high.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  17. truth

    The question of whether or not God exists has far reaching implications. If such a creator exists, new questions arise such as, ‘why did He create us?’ Because the discussion of these implications is entrenched in questionable ideology to most, the initial premise of God’s existence is dismissed out of hand. So the notion that there is no proof for God’s existence becomes prevalent in an ungodly society. Of course such a notion is mistaken. Philosophical arguments to prove God exists are woefully ignored. Consider Saint Thomas Aquinas’ argument on motion. Motion Exists. Motion can only be caused by other forms of motion. If you go back far enough you will find a primary unmoved mover. This is God. The Cosmological argument is another simple argument. We know that everything that exists has a cause related to its existence. We know that the universe exists. Because it exists it must have an uncaused cause. The uncreated cause is God. Both of these arguments are dependant upon the universe having a beginning. If the universe is infinite, then a primary mover - a creator - has no place. However modern cosmology has determined the universe does have a beginning. The laws of thermodynamics have determined this. According to the second law of thermodynamics, we are running out of working energy. It’s obvious that things wear down. If the universe were infinite then we would have run out by now. The universe is drifting toward disorder. The question of how it became so remarkably ordered in the first place also points to God. As William Paley would suggest, if you see a rock on a beach you wouldn’t know how it got there. If you see a watch there you would know it has a designer because of the complexity and order of the watch. We can know God exists from the order and complexity of the universe. We can see remarkable order in physics. The law of gravity is perfectly fine-tuned to support the existence of life. The combinations of physical constants in our universe are perfectly set for the existence of life. Since an infinite number of combinations and values for the physical constants in our universe are plausible, we can safely assume someone set the conditions for life. And we know that it wasn’t aliens from the planet Zork from the 5th universe that set these conditions, as this would only transfer the problem to the planet Zork, who would require a cause. God is, by definition, that which is uncaused. Finally we find that human beings have an inward sense of morality. This presupposes an absolute value and standard to which we make comparisons, and this is God. This is how we apply natural law, and these values of right and wrong were written upon the hearts of men so that those who knew not the law were able to abide by the law. The one who wrote this knowledge of right and wrong on the hearts of men is God.

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

      Cut n' paste much?

      May 17, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Tim, San Diego, CA

      Based upon your rational it seems that something must have created god.

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

      Philosophic "proofs" of God are all based on mere assumptions. The prime mover and first cause are of this ilk.

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

      Very well written but...it misses the point. None of Hawking's argument is based in science. It's based in personal need. Hawking needs to grapple with these questions on God and heaven, because this is where all of his study leads him. It all culminates into the ultimate questions of why are we here, and is there a God? Much like a person studying an automobile, or a rocket, questions on how the design came about, and who designed it naturally flow. In Hawking's case, his naturalistic worldview that he uses to form his questions gets in the way. He thinks he already knows the answers, and he then uses his science and his training to "prove" himself right. This is a fallacy, and he ends up creating his own reality. Unfortunately, this means he cannot, and should not presume what he presumes. Hawking seeks to give meaning to his life, because he doesn't find it anywhere else. He must define himself by his ideas, books, and research. If he declares there is no God, he's still in business. On the other hand, if he declares there is a God, it's game over. There is no longer a need for him to fulfill his stated life long goal of finding a theory of everything, and at that point his life would have no meaning. Before we listen too closely to Hawking's feelings on God, we should read between the lines in his articles and books. The man is lonely, and he feels the only thing that gives meaning to his life is his work. He hasn't met God, and for this, we should pray for him.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • tonyboy

      You should never question God, why he made us? what greater gift can you think of than being human? that's how much he loves us. There's no other explanation. With God there's no conspiracies, no theories, no agenda's no deception.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • ELE "Everyone Love Everyone"

      Very well said. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
  18. Free

    "His God-given brain should have been used to fine a cure for his disease and a way to allow him to walk again. What a fool he is."
    He's a physicist, not a physician, and you have the nerve to call someone else a 'fool'? Yikes!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  19. Lou

    String theory and evolution has answered lots of questions and will continue to do so. Science will always win.
    Believe in yourselves instead of relying on something that you can't prove.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
  20. j noonan

    I have yet to be dead so I can not really claim to know what comes after life. No one else knows either. I do not prescribe to any organized religion nor do I believe that there is or has ever been a living person who knows exactly what is next or not next.

    I believe that Mr. Hawkings is simply choosing the most logical answer and feels strongly that he is right. And...he may or may not be.

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

      I concur.

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


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

      It's "logical" to assert a position you simply have no way of knowing is true or of verifying? Where did you study logical argument? Hawking is clearly making a personal judgment based on nothing more that his own biased worldview, and is using his celebrity and credentials to put weight behind it. His arguments are his own, and not based in any real scientific truth. It's a shame really that so many simply can't see that.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:53 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.