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. Roger

    He is a brilliant man, but his theories have been wrong before. One time, it took him over 20 years to admit he was wrong. He does have an ego and likes his opinions heard.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
  2. We're all going to be worm food

    Some people need something to believe in, others don't. As an athiest I don't push my beliefs or lack thereof on anyone. It seems I'm going to hell no matter what I do, so I might as well enjoy my life on earth while I'm still here.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • SurelyUjest

      My brother has condemned me to hell for years! no worries mate!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:18 pm |
  3. SATAN

    hey I want 50% of this too.........whatever is on offer

    May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  4. Wellllllll

    I read these comments and my head hurts. Science is as much a religion as anything else. You offer theories and unproven visions as if they were facts. All science has ever been is guess work. Even Darwin said that even though he didnt believe in God he fiound it hard to beliieve that all of this could just HAVE HAPPENED.

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

      Darwins wife would have cut him off from the candy store (if you know what I mean) if he hadn't! Seriously science and religion can work together but one has been tested and proven and the other is just a bunch of dead leaders telling us how to behave and stories of their tribes as well as some ravings about the future.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  5. jeff

    If you could reason with religious people there would be no religious people. – House

    May 17, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
  6. BOB

    Believers in God hold back society from progress. God creates limitations. You are limited to believing what you are told to believe. If you think otherwise, then attempt a rational thought that is not formed from earlier thoughts.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
    • airwx

      You seem to make broad statements. Science was held back by a believer proposing the Big Bang theory? Or something as simple as a believer inventing finger nail clippers? As for rational thought, you are injecting a subjective definition into the mix; rational to whom?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  7. bill

    Lou Gehrig's disease is the best thing that ever happened to Stephen Hawking. Without it, he would be just an above average physicist whose name no one outside of the discipline would even recognize.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  8. GOD

    Hey the 'other' god and his comments about parting the red sea is nothing to do with me....So I am reporting him


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

      Good job someone had to take some action here!!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  9. Edward C

    When are they going to start putting the Bible, Quran, etc., in the right section of the bookstore? I can't figure out if it would be more appropriate to put it in standard fiction, or the fantasy section.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
  10. Fiziks

    I honestly believe god, or any other religion's god, is nothing more the one's self conscience. Something inside telling you what is morally right and wrong. Thats basically what religion is, isn't it, do do good and not evil? Everyone has this inside them and people pawn it off as religion. Just something to think about. I know this post will not sit well with most, its just how i feel.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • b66

      Yep, that's all it is. Don't say that too loud, though. People might get angry.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Jeff

      As an atheist, I have no problem with that. If you want to call your self conscience god, you do your thing, but I have no problem with the sentiment.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  11. Mike

    This guy should have to serve a few days in jail for a verbal assault, racism. I find what he said to be un-called for and I might call 911 and tell them that I find this to be a racist attack on a group of peoples.

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

      nothing to do with race..race is genetic and physical, this is all mental.

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

      That isn't racism it is called a theological opinion one in which I hear everyday telling me that a God Exists and I should repent and believe.....wait...I am going to call 911 for singling me and all my Pagan friends, My aeithisf friends and Agnostic friends out....attacking us as a group..

      May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Nick

      Still as dumb as a brick, ehh, Mike?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Jeff

      Hey Mike, I'm going to go out on a limb here and tell you that there is also no leprechauns, Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy. Sorry to ruin it for you. Grow up.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  12. Dot8

    A genius mind has the right to fantasise as well as the regular mind, no difference.
    "God does not care about our mathematical difficulties, He integrates empirically" – Albert Eistein

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

      How did god feel about Einstiens extra marital affairs for most of his life?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
    • b66

      "A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death." – Albert Einstein

      May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
  13. LBD

    What if he is wrong?

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

      Then the purple flying man eating lovers of hell will decend on heaven and earth and destroy everything! .....Who cares your dead and if your god is so petty as to punish you for using the free will HE gave you then F-him anyway his little human experiment isnt funny nor will it gain him or us anything since the all powerfull God that he is ALL READY KNOWS what is going to happen!!! Because he KNOWS everything.....sheeesh what a stupid set of fairy tales.... at least when I pray I know why I am praying and what for.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  14. FrankLW

    It is easy to say the words "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing" but that is utterly nonsensical. If there was absolutely nothing then was nothing to change that state "spontaneously".

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

      Based on that logic, what created god then (other than the obvious answer: people)? If god can be created from nothing, then why can't we just take it one step back and understand that the universe and all that's in it was created the same way? As far as I am concerned, all of the matter and energy that makes up this and any other universes has always been there and goes through cycles of expansion and retraction, constantly starting the process over and over. If it is eternal, then it doesn't need a creator, it just IS.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
  15. jack

    Better luck next time then, Mr. Hawking!

    May 17, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
  16. operaman

    I KNEW it!

    May 17, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
  17. DWebb

    I cannot imagine that God insists that we believe in him/her. Our behavior and work on earth is much more important than the belief of a diety. If God exists than God will look at all the great work that Stephen Hawking has done in his lifetime.

    Mahatma Gandhi said there is no higher God than truth.

    May 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm |
  18. Kevin

    One thing is for sure. We're all gonna find out one way or the other. I'd rather ere on the side of caution. If I'm wrong, then what have I lost?

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

      So let fear be your guide more power to ya! I am not afraid of the dark and I teach my kids not to be either. To each his own as you say.

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

      That is one of the dumbest things I've ever read. You obviously know nothing about religion, especially Christianity. It's not about BELIEF it is about FAITH...and that point alone is what separates science from religion. Science needs proof or something to back up theories. Truly religious people only need faith.

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

      How very devout of you.

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

      ok, you follow your vengeful cloud man, ill enjoy the life i have for the time i have....just in case....THIS IS THE ONLY LIFE I GET!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:07 pm |
    • Wellllllll

      John...There really isnt any proof in science, just theories

      May 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Rationalist

      You would have spent a life time believing in fairy tales. I only spent my childhood.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • real reality

      Hilarious. If there was a 'God' yes, I'm sure you'd be viewed as a real follower. LOL @ bases covered.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
    • Jeff

      @John: Which is why truly religious people are morons.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  19. AZLib

    A scientist with an opinion... God Bless him for that... There is no Math to prove or disprove heaven. Regardless of education, study of science or other great learnered feats... there is no Math to prove or disprove heaven. To each his own view and faith....

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

      He is a brilliant man, but he has been proven wrong more than once on his theories. Watch the science channel, one of his theories was proven wrong and it took him over 20 years to admit he was wrong. That is a fact. I am not religious, but I don't rule it out!

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

      Agreed. No one can say what happened prior to the Big Bang or why it occured.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
    • radon

      Anything can be proven mathematically, and if it cannot be proven mathematically, it can be proven that it cannot be proven mathematically, mathematically.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
    • Smoov

      It's not up to science to disprove the idea of God. It's up to religion to prove His existence. The burden of proof falls to the one with the theory, which is religion, in this case. And religion can't prove itself—you have to have faith that it's right. Mr. Hawking is simply stating a scientific truth, which is: until there is proof of God, a rational mind won't accept His existence.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  20. eastwood1379@gmail.com

    Any GOD fearing person should read the 2nd chapter of the Quran. It is admired by anyone who believes in the Creator of the Universe.


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

      really? what about those of us who do not fear God?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:06 pm |
    • Damon Amos

      Allah doesn't seem very nice by increasing the disease in someone's heart. Sounds like Allah can go take a vacation in a warm area to the south.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
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About this blog

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.