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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. JiminTX

    No one hates like a Christian. That's obvious from the responses on here.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
    • Nathan

      I think the reasion some christians express so much vitriol for atheists is because they want to control them. Bad christians, Bad!!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • dudebro

      everyone will face judgement some day. theres no point in pointing fingers or judging others...thats what Gods for.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • LTB

      Amen to that comment!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      Hawking....WALK!..................Just kidding, you are stuck in that chair.....loser

      May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • R

      Only Jesus Christ will say this, "Hawking....WALK!..................Just kidding, you are stuck in that chair.....loser".

      May 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  2. Jennifer

    Fairy Tale. Well, I guess I do believe in them.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  3. The Stone

    Science cannot prove nor disprove the continuity of consciousness beyond the death of the physical body. As such, the only scientific answer to this issue is "I don't know".

    Hawkins, you are very unscientific in your comment because you deny the existence of something just because you cannot prove its existence.

    Hawkins, you are not so smart, as many people in this forum seem to think. You might have some mathematical theoretical intelligence, but in my dictionary that alone doesn't make you smart.

    Hawkins, you better remain quiet about a subject that you and your intellectually confined mind don't understand.

    Hawkins, reach in your heart not in your mind and maybe you’ll find something…

    May 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Nathan

      Why had he better remain quiet? Does he need to fear somebody like you??

      May 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • dudebro

      Hawkins is a very smart man. But you need Jesus in your heart in order to be a wise man. I listen to the wise.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • The Stone

      Fear??? I don't see how you made the connection to fear. He's a very influential person for people like you, and he should be very careful on how he uses the name of science to support his beliefs, because people like you end up saying that those beliefs are scientific.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
    • R

      All the feelings are felt because of mind. If mind do not work, nothing works. So there is no afterlife. Yes, Mr. Hawking is open minded and speaking logically.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • The Stone

      R, please prove your statement. If you cannot prove it (of course you cannot!) silence would be a much more intelligent comment.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  4. Catholic

    I belive in the existence of God. If God doesn't exist, then nothing happens to you or me but if God exists and you dont' believe, you will be in trouble (i.e., hell). Either way, I don't loose, it's that simple!

    May 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Yes

      Exacto!!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • dudebro

      this is kind of the wrong way to believe in God but it still works! Not having to fear hell is like having the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • PT

      You are a retard.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
    • R

      What if you die and go to hell...Devil will say.."I am sorry...Muslims were right." ?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  5. Enero7

    WE ALL ARE HERE BY CHANCE, OR BY ACCIDENT.
    MR. HAWKINGS WAS BORN BY ACCIDENT.
    EVRYBODY WAS BORN BY ACCIDENT.
    WE HAVE NO SOUL.
    ALL OF OUR FEELINGS : LOVE ,SADNESS, HAPPINESS, ANGER, ...ETC
    ARE ALL ACCIDENTS FROM THE BIG BANG.
    WE ARE ALL FROM A CONSEQUENCE OF AN ACCIDENT.
    IF THE BIG BANG CREATED US, THEN THERE MUST BE A THOUSAND
    PLANETS WITH LIVE LIKE US, OR DIFFERENT LIVINGS.
    DO YOU BELIEVE IN THAT THEORY ?
    I DO NOT.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Nathan

      STOP YELLING AT ME!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
    • R

      You do believe in talking snake and a s|ut who says, she is virgin and she is pregnant.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:51 pm |
  6. lulz

    ITT: Religious wackos who are afraid of the dark, sucking their thumbs and clutching their security blankets.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  7. jack johanson

    Even Einstien beleived in GOD, Hawkins i pray god forgives you. Earth, in perfect alignment to sustain life like sun and moon. how can you believe god doesnt exist. I hate how scientist think that they could make sence of god by saying he simply doesnt exist. Man will NEVER be able to UNDERSTAND the power of God. WE SIMPLY CONNOT COMPUTE HIS POWER. LOOK UP FATIMA, i wonder what would his excuse for that would be?

    May 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • PT

      Even if there is a God, why does he need forgiveness? He did no evil- just made public his beliefs. In addition, what makes you think your religion is correct? 99.9% of what religion you are is determined by where you were born. If you were born in a Muslin country, you would probably be praising Osama Bin Ladin and Allah.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  8. blinky

    I'd just like to know, since he said it in print, how did Hawking think his "fairy story" remark was going to help anyone? Did he actually think he would shame people into turning away from God? It sounds an awful lot like it. But wait a minute... isn't that an emotionally manipulative and unscientific tactic?

    The man comes across as a hypocrite, more than anything else.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
  9. Alex in NJ

    I don't believe in organized religion. Not a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or anything else. However, I do believe that if one looks at the complexity of everything, the human body, the ecosystem, the solar system and the Universe as a whole, you can deduce that it was designed by some sort of intelligent thing with the same thought that we use to design buildings and machines. A Grand Architect so to speak. I don't know if Heaven is all part of this equation or not but one thing I do believe our exploration of the Universe has taught us is that absolutely nothing is out of the question, nothing is impossible. I think this is a perfectly rational viewpoint and not in conflict with science. I think that many outright atheists are actually very close minded. That said, I also think many who take the scriptures literally, some of whom appear to be getting very angry at Mr. Hawking are, are equally close minded.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
    • Ohio Mike

      That is the best comment I have ever read! Thank you for reminding me that there is intelligent life out there. You are not far from finding the truth, keep an open mind. I am a Christian, but not in the sense of what is preached or popular, more like esteem others better than yourself and serve instead of desiring to be served. Man can increase his knowledge, but wisdom comes only from God. Thank you again for your comment.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • R

      Let us say you are right. An intelligent brain designed everything. Question is, who created that intelligent brain ? Or your logic says, all these complexity can not exists without an intelligent brain. But such intelligent brain can come in to existence on its own. Who created brain that create such intelligent brain and so on...? This theory is Christian theory, that answers nothing. Scientists are intelligent and they already thought about it.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • R

      If your mind would have been open, you could have thought about questions I put in my previous note.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
    • Nathan

      A grand architect so to speak? or specifically to speak - as in the Freemasons God>>

      May 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
  10. Carbon Copy 1

    The Painter, CARBON COPIES OF THE REFLECTIONS OF REALITY" The Audience O.. Sqaure..Triangle.. >> Carbon Copy .

    May 17, 2011 at 7:03 pm |
  11. pat

    Is he the high priest then of nothingness? If I drive down the road and miss the exit for Miami, does it not exist? To many unanswered, poorly answered and prematurely answered questions, but hey we all have a right to an opinion.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
  12. jamesthedog

    You start dissing God, and suddenly one find's oneself losing any respect or sympathy for the handicapped.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      That sums it up pretty much.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  13. LegendOfAmerica

    No Wonder God Took His Power of Speech and Mobility.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      Ouch!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • R

      That is what sick religious person, who believe in s|ut's lie that she is pregnant and virgin, thinks.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:46 pm |
  14. Jueceman

    He's 69 and still mad at God?????.....sheeesh

    May 17, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
    • tommas

      Pretty sure he is mad (if he is actually mad, most likley disappointed in) a sheep like yourself and not in something he does not believe in.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
  15. Mike in Richmond

    Hawking has no proof there isn't an afterlife; Einstein had no proof either; Newton had no proof either; I'd say that takes care of the top 3 scientific minds of all time, all others fall in behind. Bottom line, no amount of Science will EVER answer the question we all seek answers to–what is our purpose for being here, and who or what created us? Death only will bring answers either way. Hawking's life is narrowing and I suspect that his fatalistic vision of his own demise taints his quasi-scientific opinions on faith.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • skrillex

      No one has proof that heaven exists either...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Noah

      Ummm, you can't prove a negative. There is absolutely no proof of an afterlife, therefore it's foolish to believe in it.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
  16. Fernando Gomes Pinto

    I believe in gos. Always believe.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • DarkleafNightwanderer

      I believe in proof-reading...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Nathan

      Some times at church there is too much Gos, where everybody starts talking behind each others back.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  17. malas

    I'm so sorry for him that he's so blind and do not know the truth (The God almighty).
    I think he spent too long in his own false scientific virtual reality.
    I will pray for this man and his pour soul that he might be able to see the light and can be saved through Jesus Christ and enjoy after life.

    May 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • (different) Greg

      You are a PRIME example of what religion results in; elitist condesention without having clue #1 what Dr. Hawking is taking about. You'll "pray for him"? So your imaginary friend will listen to you, but not reveal himself to Steven Hawking to this point in his life? No, no, YOU'RE going to save him with your "prayers". As if your wishes were somehow more important for the unfolding of time then those set in motion by the very God you propose exists.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Jorge

      Do him a favor.. dont. cauuse god doesnt exist period

      May 17, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
    • malas

      I think I will need to pray for Greg as well as he does not have a clue what he's speaking about 🙂

      Who would like to join me for this two pour souls !!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  18. Bob

    The first thing Hawking will say when he wakes up in the after life is......"Ohhhhh s%$t!"

    May 17, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • R

      Or not....

      May 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • tommas

      I think he will most likely ask god questions. It is amazing that people believe that the creator of the whole universe cares about a bunch of pink monkeys worshipping him... can anyone say egocentric!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • R

      Here is some food for thought. God created human. Than created world full of stress and leave him/her alone there. If (s)he does good it will reward him/her or will punish him/her. Question is, if he created some one in such conditions, why ? What if he/she didn't want to be created?
      What if Steve Jobs follow footstep of God? If you got bad iPhone, instead of replacing it, Mr. Jobs will say, "oh iPhone, I will put you in hell" and will tell his consumer, "please buy another iPhone". That is the kind of warranty God give on his/her product.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  19. alemap

    Just goes to show that Mr. Hawking isn't so brilliant after all..

    May 17, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • (different) Greg

      ...actually, it shows that when a brilliant man makes statements in contradiction to the firmly held magical beliefs of others, those individuals will instantly resort to insulting him. Your disagreement is expected, automatic, and none of the faithful here have failed to voice how wrong this man is...even if they've never read a single one of his works, with the (generous) assumption that any of them would be capable of comprehending them in the first place.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Hawking

      And it shows how brilliant you are. At least he has studied science all his life. What the H E L L have you done. Just pulling stuff out of your azz.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • R

      Same thing Christians said about Galileo....

      May 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Jesus Christ

      He studied science his whole life? What else was he going to do stuck in that chair? Oooooo!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  20. lindy

    This man's ego knows no end..what he believes has zero impact on my faith!

    May 17, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
    • (different) Greg

      ...who's the one with the ego??
      News for you: Your faith has zero impact on reality.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • denver2

      Here's a thought: What takes more ego than the belief that someone created the universe just for you?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • R

      Here are fantasy characters with Ego...God, Allah, Yahweh (or whatever)...They and their cheater prophets thinks, they are the only true God and all others are wrong....

      May 17, 2011 at 7:11 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.