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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. s1

    I agree with the above posting by Nurse Lisa. until it's the "Law of Evolution", then both sides cannot really prove their claims. Some believe it all God's creation, others believe it's science, others believe one (God) created and controlled the other (Science). I personally believe in the 3rd. Science is basically how God allowed humans to comprehend God's creations.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  2. 2Cents

    Choose to believe God than Man.........

    May 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • josh

      and in the beginning, man created god, and the fools followed.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  3. BabbleOn

    Hawking's quotes are from an interview earlier this year that has already been ranted and raved over before. His assertion that in the presence of the force of gravity a universe may emerge is an accurate and casual observation. Using this one observation to reach his ultimate conclusions proves nothing except that people like me like to type.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  4. 2Cents

    Choose to believe God than Man.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  5. ian

    Did Mr.Hawking say his proof of there being no heaven is because all this (creation) came from nothing.Did any of you ever leave an empty water bottle sealed tightly and come back a year later and see different things in it.Let me know 'cause i could do with some cash. These scientists,.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  6. Liz

    Thank you Mr. Hawking, for one man's opinion. As a scientist, you should know you have to be able to prove your
    hypothesis. I can't prove there is a heaven, but you can't prove there isn't. Right? And then you need to define heaven.
    Many, many religious people believe the soul survives. Call it heaven, or call it a soul or spirit that surrounds us all. Heaven as a distinct 'location' is different than after life of the soul. Thanks for the laugh.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
  7. Peter

    Believe in the afterlife has always been a construction of our minds. Afterall, our subsconcious mind works hard at doing whatever it takes to keep us alive, e.g. breathing. So, I think our nooddles needed to dream up an afterlife. This way, our mind does not have to accept oblivion. It is wired to survived at all cost. So, no big deal that we dream up some fairy tales. It's just a very convenient and comfortable way of dealing with death.

    But then, who really knows? ... For example, I'm hiding under my desk while wearing an aluminum hat. I don't want a vengeful God from striking me dead with a thunderbolt! 🙂

    Hey, do I still get 75 virgins if I don't belief? ...

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

      Peter,

      The desk is not going to cover you. Think aluminum foil WALLPAPER. @_@ ...it's helped me.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  8. kilmo

    I have to admit, it kinda sucks to be aware enough to realize there is no chance for a God. I am not too scared about death, but think how much easier it would be to believe after death that we go to heaven and get to hang out and do what we want for eternity? I wonder what it is like to be so crazed in the belief of 70+ virgins, that you are ready to end your life. These religious fanatics must be psyched they are bout to blow up a group of people and will suddenly be surrounded with virgins. And Christians must be so excited when they get to trample and and destroy another mans religion, in the name of their own mighty God. Oh dear Humans, please come to your senses and save what we have left of this Earth. It is all we have for CERTAIN.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  9. kilmo

    I have to admit, it kinda sucks to be aware enough to realize there is no chance for a God. I am not too scared about death, but think how much easier it would be to believe after death that we go to heaven and get to hang out and do what we want for eternity? I wonder what it is like to be so crazed in the belief of 70+ virgins, that you are ready to end your life. These religious fanatics must be psyched they are bout to blow up a group of people and will suddenly be surrounded with virgins. And Christians must be so excited when they get to trample and and destroy another mans religion, in the name of their own mighty God. Oh dear Humans, please come to your senses and save what we have left of this Earth. It is all we have for CERTAIN.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
  10. pointless1

    It doesn't take a physicist to tell me this...

    May 17, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  11. Mana85

    all this arguing over nothing is so ridiculous. whether you are a believer or a non-believer..it shouldn't matter. we should all accept the fact that we are all unique and have our differences.

    Whether we have a purpose living on this earth or not, we’re all sharing it. And as long as this is so..we should all just appreciate the fact that we are alive. We should also figure out ways to get along with one another without a god or physics. When it comes down to it, it’s really just us human beings who will make or break this earth.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  12. 2Cents

    Choose to believe God than Man

    May 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
  13. everyone

    "Religion has actually convinced people that there's an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever 'til the end of time! . . . But He loves you!"
    —George Carlin

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

      Well, That's quite cartooning a far greater concept of justice...and God's Love to us

      May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  14. Jeff

    It's quite bruising to the old ego to hear that, in the grand scheme of things, your life means nothing and that when you die, you'll just rot in the ground. People will believe (and have believed) about anything in lieu of accepting that. From worshiping nature, to graven images, to Jesus, it's just all in an effort to evade this blow to their ego. And yet, they criticize Steven Hawking's arrogance. It's laughable.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
  15. Ladyoftheday

    Thank God for science and medicine, because all those like Steven Hawking would have been gone long time ago. Cause if you ever experience pain and suffering and had nothing (medicine) are no one to call on.. what in the hell would you do. But one day medicine want help you. Thats when you can rely on God to be there waiting on you with open arms. Seek God Steven, time is running out...

    May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • sigh

      Good Grief.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • Jeff S

      Ah, there's a typical Christian. Use fear to seek God because "time is running out." Seek logic.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
    • will

      pppffffff

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

      hey, there's an easter bunny too. how do you think the eggs get to be all those crazy colors?

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

      You should educate yourself and stop cramming religion down our throats.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • Rambo

      A couple of things... If God exists, is this almighty powerful being that stuck on people "believing" that he will actually deny good people from eternity? Which God should he believe in - we have quite a few in worship today... What if you happen to pick the wrong God, will you be denied eternity? What if you were born and raised and have only been taught Allah is the God? Or, Jesus is God? See, this is the huge flaw I see with fundamentalists and I have never heard a reasonable answer. The argument that you must believe the way I believe OR ELSE... Then there are millions who are doomed simply because they were born in the wrong locale. Now, if we throw that out, that you don't have to choose your God, I would say, even atheists would be accepted into eternity. Refute please.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  16. Eoman01

    Mr. Stephen Hawking is not only a genius, but wants to go places others would never think of going-a place ruled not by mysticism and witchdoctoring, but to one of individual free thinking and logic-a true Vulcan here on Earth!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
  17. Bruce

    So there really is no beer there?

    May 17, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  18. Wade

    Mr. Hawking is correct. All you people who believe in God are just fooling yourselves
    and I think that deep down you all know it!
    I

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

      A lot of people either use religion to get something or are simply hedging their bets and won't admit in public that they don't really believe. It isn't politically correct in American society.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm |
  19. Jon

    Funny, for a while people actually believed the Earth was flat. Then, astoundingly, the spirit of discovery prevailed and man actually LEARNED something – that the Earth is in fact round. Hmm.. for a while there SCIENCE was actually teaching us that Pluto was the ninth planet. In 2006, some astronomers changed the classification of Pluto as merely a "minor planet." Again, interesting how we continue to LEARN new things. Of course, that isn't surprising since SCIENCE assures us that we only use approximately 10% of our brains anyway.

    And yet, this FOOL has the arrogance to declare unequivocally something he couldn't possibly know.

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

      And why did it change our belief? Because SCIENCE provided EVIDENCE. We had REASON to believe the earth was round, not faith that the earth was round.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • jeff

      That 10% thing is a fairy story just like heaven.

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

      The same scientists of their day called Galileo a fool for saying earth is a globe. Science is relative. It would be honest on Mr. Hawking's part to say that he does not understand about heaven than to deny.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • JustPlainJoe

      The logical burden is on you, who claim that something exists, It is not those who say there is no evidence for this or that belief and hence do not believe with you.

      May 17, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • RUkidding

      OR I could JUST capitalize WORDS in order to SOUND smarter than I AM. BIG words are IMPORTANT words!!

      May 17, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • allen

      fool? I think not.people like hawking,einstein etc all seem to discount theology and they are the greatest minds our world has known.My money`s with the smart guys

      May 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • Noah

      Actually, people do NOT only use 10% of their brains. Read more books, not more internet.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • josh

      you are declaring something that you cannot possibly know as well, how bout this, you disprove all other thoughts/ ideas/ religions, without disproving your own... science is the closest anyone can get to this.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Marilyn

      I think the word is arrogant. None of us know anything for sure. There are infinite possibilities.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • will

      We use our entire brain. The 10% number is the frontal lobe, which is our executive function, but not our consciousness. We can live quite well without the frontal lobe, but we are more prone to less self control.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Bob

      Did you seriously call perhaps the most billiant scientist since Albert Einstein a "Fool?" That's pretty arrogant.

      Disagree with him if your faith tells you tool, but you only demean yourself when you call Stephen Hawking a "fool."

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

      But fortunately you do. Phew.

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

      Valid point. However, Hawking bases his belief of what we know and extrapolates knowledge to draw his conclusion. Religion is based on books and stories written by man passed down from generation to generation. Science books evolve and change based on our human knowledge. Religious books change based on the politics of the day in order to get followers. Of course, there is no certainty that God doesn't exist. However, there is also no evidence that God exist either. If one reads the Bible cover to cover, it is easy to find a significant number of contradictions. If that book was created by an all powerful, all good, and all knowing being, wouldn't it be perfect? A higher power may exist, but then again, we all may be living in the Matrix. We have to evidence otherwise.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Rambo

      I meant to say "We have no evidence otherwise." I was typing too fast and clicked post.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Kaelen

      Jon,

      Regarding our brain matter, where does SCIENCE state that we only use 10% of our brain? Can you point us to a direct excerpt or two regarding this? The statement is a myth born from misinterpretation and propagated by advertisers. Do some research. There are numerous articles from numerous sources to be found on the Web regarding this. Here's one from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-we-really-use-only-10

      I do think, however, the statement "99% of people use, at most, 1% of their intelligence" may be true.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
  20. DDDD2222

    We're all in the Matrix!!

    May 17, 2011 at 5:47 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.