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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. Ken

    Steven proves that you can educate an idiot but all you end up with is an educated idiot... or fool... or both.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • YaThink

      Well Ken you are living proof of your theory. Congratulations fool!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:17 pm |
  2. RGeneration

    "Spontaneous creation". LOL !!! I've heard everything. I guess believing in the "fairy tale" is probably ok then. If something can spontaneously create itself, I guess heaven can too. You'll never know.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  3. Joe SDNY

    Hawking is 100% right. There is no heaven and there is no GOD. Biggest BS story ever. Religion provides a nice moral foundation for society but overall has resulted in the death of millions and millions of people. Most people are brain washed in believing this religious nonsense from their parents during childhood. There's more evidence that the easter bunny exists than God.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Pete H

      Of course the Easter Bunny exists. Humankind created it, so it exists. Funny how so many try to make God "not exist." They just can't seem to do it. I wonder why... A person who has known God's presence needs no evidence of His existence.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  4. Navy Seal (not really, just a pastor)

    When Jesus comes in 4 days you will all look like fools.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Tim Rigney

      Uhm – He comes when you LEAST expect it.
      Enjoy church on Sunday..... 😉

      May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Pete H

      One Christian to another; no one knows the time, only the season. If you're a pastor, you should know that. Since you've pinned yourself down to a doomsday date, I'd say you have about four days until you have a serious credibility problem with your flock...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  5. reality check

    Stephen Hawking: "God is dead."
    God: "Stephen Hawking is dead."

    May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  6. Peter D

    poor Stevie, in Heaven there is no Beer, thats why we drink it here,

    May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  7. RGeneration

    Wonder what he's on.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  8. abby

    I respect his thoughts regarding science, but his opinion on religion is not relevant to me. I believe in God - it's a matter of faith, not physics or mathematics. I just wonder if his illness has affected his worldview - I am sure it has. Maybe that is why he does not believe in God.

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

    The instinct of believing in an afterlife is driven by the fact that the human brain is incapable of imagining its own non-existence. We are compelled to reconcile our innate sense of immortality with the fact that in daily life we all experience the inevitable loss of loved ones. We are wired to find an explanation that bridges the two things. The various religions and philosophies of the world are the predictable and logical result of this search.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  10. citationman

    Ignorance is it's own prison. Scientists know this. Hawking is a brilliant scientist, cut down by a devastating disease, yet has accomplished more than the hundreds if not thousands that comment on his statements. It is his mind that frees him from the prison of the ignorance that many of you spew forth. While it is consoling to believe in a "creator" and a "heaven", these ideas are nothing more than primitive man's need to explain what science knows in not (yet?) explainable. So yes, religion is the panacea for the masses; it works, because it promotes a set of order, though it surely has not resulted in civility.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  11. Jeff

    He's been preaching messages like this for years, I'll feel sorry for him if, when he dies eventually, and God, Heaven, and Hell end up being true

    May 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  12. OpenMindedGuy

    It's extremely arrogant to say "there is no heaven", "there IS a heaven", "there IS a God" or "there is NO God" when you can't possibly prove it one way or the other. That's what faith is....beleiving what you can't prove. Steven has faith in his BELIEF that there is NO Heaven. I have faith in my beleif that there IS. I have faith that there IS a God and want to do my best to give others the chance to have that faith as well. I'm not "afraid of the dark" because I beleive that there is a God who created your gravity, or your big bang or who spoke the universe into existence. I'm not going to say "you're an idiot because you DON'T beleive". I'm not going to belittle you.....I GET why you don't believe because I used to be there too. We need to quit speaking in terms of "there is" and "there isn't" and say "I beleive that that there is/isn't". Unfortunately to prove it one way or the other we have to either 1) die and see what happens next or 2) have a Rapture so that everybody left behind can say "I guess they were right". Till then, its a waste of time throwing rocks at each other. I'll try to convince you to have faith in God but I recognize you're free to NOT believe and am not going to belittle you about it. Don't belittle me Steven.

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

      You're response has been the most open-minded and well thought out thus far...Amazing what an individual can do when they process some common sense 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • jim

      well said openmindedguy

      May 17, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  13. everyone

    Of course there's no god per se, but at least there's an easter bunny. How do you think the eggs get to be all those crazy colors?

    May 17, 2011 at 6:10 pm |
  14. Tim, San Diego, CA

    People claim that the universe can't spontaneously appear out of nothing therefore there must be a creator. But somehow this creator didn't need a creator, seems kind of inconsistent. And if this creator always existed then it existed for an infinite amount of time before deciding to create the universe. What, after an infinite amount of time he got bored? The whole premise is ridiculous. Why do people have such a hard time accepting that there are things that we are incapable of understanding? Instead they make up stories.

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

      God can't have a creator if he's always been around

      May 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • airwx

      Your premise presupposes time existed prior to the singularity/big bang etc.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Pete H

      People like you have such a hard time accepting what YOU don't understand...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  15. Barking Alien

    He is brave to come out and say there is not heaven. I respect his opinion since he is a man of science. The evangelicals will be foaming at the mouth right about now.

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

      Why is it the atheists talk about God more than the Christians. If you don't believe in God why are you so concerned about those who do? The answer will be settled one day. If one believes in God and heaven and they don't exist what is the worst that can happen. But if they do exist and you don't believe that outcome is not a good one.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • jim

      So true Wolfgang. Better to be safe than sorry. And oh, what a sorry it will be.......

      May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
    • Ken

      Yes, they will be foaming, but there is really nothing particularly brave about speaking out for reason and common sense. Religion is the single most successful marketing campaign ever – yet there isn't a tiny piece of evidence that there is or have ever been a god, a "designer" or anything like that in existence. If you believe in a "designer" must have created everything since it is too incredible that it was created out of the natural forces of the Universe, then who created the "designer"? You can belive in "heaven" or "hell" or belive in the spirit in the stone, whatever, it is a belief and it doesn't necessarily make it true. Mr Hawkins has a different belief and that should be respected as much as what any evangelican might believe in.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:26 pm |
  16. Chivato

    I am sure he believes in Hell .Just take a look at him.

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

      Ass hole

      May 17, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
    • Marie

      Ah Yes! There's some true maturity shining through there...Let's make fun of the guy who has a horrible disease...Amazing given all of his "handicaps", he's one of the brightest individuals on Earth...Save your last brain cell...You may need it to...I don't know...Take a dump later on...

      May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  17. BRAINWASH DONE HERE FREE

    ROMAN CATHOLICS ISLAM MUSLIMS .....HEY WHATEVER

    COME GET YOUR DOSE OF BS

    S Hawkings

    May 17, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Pete H

      You're right! If I need a dose of BS, I come here to the comment section at CNN!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  18. Jeremy Fritz

    In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth! Genesis 1:1
    In the beginning was the word, and the word as with God, and the word was God. John 1:1
    For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not Perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
    For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:17
    That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:15
    Verily, verily! I say unto thee, unless a man is born again, He cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3
    He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him. John 3:36
    And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Matthew 25:46

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

      yes, quotes from a book not even guaranteed to be wrttin by who it claims, about a person(s) that may never have existed in the first place...you quote a book designed to incite the masses and instill fear in the meek.

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

      Brainwashed....LOL

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

      You can copy and paste. Good for you. Quoting the bible doesn't make you suddenly more of a christian. I know. Im christian but not a bible showoff

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

      Do you have a point, Jeremy?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • lagtat

      A nice work of fiction.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • citationman

      This is fine. You should live by this, and most importantly, you should raise your children accordingly. While it is most probable that none of what you quote is true, or ever happened, it is relavent only if you believe it, and if you live by all the principles the Bible teaches you.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Jim Neumann

      Ok, I am a Christian and I don't find a string of Bible quotes particularly helpful in this case either, as much as I agree with them and with the belief you are expressing. The problem is, you are using the Bible as your main source in an argument with those who have no regard for it. So it really doesn't help at all.

      However, the three replies I see here are completely thoughtless. There's no great demonstration of intellect in denouncing what someone else affirms without qualification. Josh: you did try to qualify your statement it looks like, but it also appears you have been drinking the kool-aid. I am forced to say that you betray that you honestly know very little about the Bible or its background or claims–I say that as a student of history headed toward Ph.D. work.

      Dogmatic generalizations of Christianity by atheists are no more well-founded, accurate, or truthful than dogmatic generalizations of atheists by Christians. It's all pointless nonsense until people start really listening to each other and acknowleding that both parties have plenty of intelligence to back themselves up–the question is actually always one of faith: which one will you believe–God or no god?

      May 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Carla

      This was what I needed to see! THE WORD........THE SWORD. LOLL LOL LOL GOOD for you and I'm glad you are on my team (Born Again Believer) feel I always have to specify as we can see Christianity is too broad an identification. Yeah Jeremy!!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  19. getreal

    I love how defensive people on here can get. Believe what you want, but forgod's sake. . . Don't you ever question your beliefs? Or is blind dumb faith good enough. Thinking doesn't hurt that much. Thankful we have a diverse world with thinkers like hawking

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

      I think and I choose to believe in God. I checked my voice mail and there wasn't a call from CNN to interview me. Yes, Hawkins is a brillant theorist, but that does not make his opinion about God any more important than mine. The headline would make some believe that because Hawkins said so ...therefore it must be.

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

      Even atheists sometimes have doubts....

      May 17, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  20. simworldnews

    Why does his opinion matter so much? It is one person's opinion after all. Being known a genius does not make him right.

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

      Nor does it make him wrong.

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

      Dear Jesus, I pray that everyone on this list that denies Your Name or that You exist – is brought to their knees in one way or another, whether in their personal or professional life, so that they may truly know that You are the one and only God. Bring them to their proud little knees – Jesus! In Your precious and Heavenly name – I pray this for all to see. Amen.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      I'd rather listen to a physicist like Hawking than reading all that crap in a Bronze Age book of mythology.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • RealityChecker

      Hawking has been inconsistent, and incoherent, in his writings on the subject. He flipflops on the subject of God and an afterlife with every book, apparently to try to generate controversy, so the media will pick up on it and get some free advertising for his latest book.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • gupsphoo

      Hawking wrote "the mind of God" in his earlier book "A Brief History of Time", and theists like you started jumping for joy like he confirmed the existence of some kind of god rather than a metaphor. LOL

      May 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Marie

      Awww Tim...You prayed for me...Thanks! So Sweet 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • keyser

      Ah, but it's not an opinion you see, it's a conclusion based upon the evidence. When belief becomes more important than critical thinking, which is true for most people, science fades away and darkness returns. Like in Iran for instance.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • FFFFF

      Tim, Jesus is not a tool of your vengeful wrath. Stop perverting the act of prayer to fuel your sinful lack of forgiveness, understanding, and love for your neighbors. Even those who do not agree or believe what you do.

      Take your spite and hate elsewhere.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Leticia Brondial Hackl

      You are absolutely right about that. Being a genious don't make him special. We are all free to accept what we believe in. As of me, I really believe in God.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:32 pm |
    • Mike

      Who's going to know more about the origins of the universe – you, or a Nobel-prize-winning genius who has studied the cosmos his entire life?

      Face the facts: When they close the lid on you, the only place you go after that is the ground.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • asfjklj

      Mike, that's incredibly naive. He's simply saying that the existence of gravity allows for the possibility that the universe was created from nothing. The existential dilemma of creation still exists in that if the laws of gravity exist even in "nothing" then that's something, right?

      There are some things that are far too complicated for the human brain to process. Even when said human brain is more intelligent than most. If he were offering hard evidence, that would be something. He, like everyone else in this world is offering hypothesis – belief – faith in a theory and idea. Faith that cannot be truly confirmed with fact at this time.

      The only way to truly know all of the mysteries about death is to die.

      May 17, 2011 at 6:44 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.