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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. anthony

    So who created gravity?

    May 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jesus X

      I did

      May 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • gametime

      Exactly

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  2. tidbits

    You're right Stephen! There is no heave for YOU!

    May 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
  3. DK

    Does this mean there is no Shangri-La as well? What's this world coming to?

    So, let me ask you atheists. Would you agree that having the ten commandments is a good thing? If we don't have them do all the idiots in the world just do as they please? So if you agree they are a good thing, at the very minimum religion brought them to us.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • killyourgod

      where have you been? this country does not use the ten commandments or any other form of religious text as its basis for law and governance. that would be a theocracy. by the way, do you want to follow all the ten commandments like no worshipping of idols? better take that cross off, that would be violating one of your precious "commandments." or do you just pick and choose what to follow?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
  4. God

    .. enjoy the dialogue .. looking forward to conversing with all of you personally soon.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jesus X

      Will there be weed?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • scott

      @God, well said. I am looking forward your eternal grace. And please, love, bless and forgive those who don't know any better.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  5. frank carter

    Poor Hawkins in a permanent wheel chair, sitting there with a microphone making all kinds wise predictions of the world, there is no God and no heaven,,,,very good! when should we pray to you to make us wise like you sir!
    If I was you I prepare myself for the inevitable and make your peace with yourself your days are number sir...you is not me and I don't need a person in your position to tell me there is no Heaven

    May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  6. Largencharge

    Mr. Hawkings is just trying a bit of reverse psychology on the Ol' Man.

    Ol' Man " O yeah Hawkings, BAAAAM, you're healed."

    May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  7. Good Atheist

    I love that man.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  8. TEC

    I was bitter with God too. I still am sometimes. I also suffer from an illness and during my time in pain I have argued with him, fought with him, questioned his existence, and tried to imagine the world without. And in fact the very definition of Hell is, "an absence of God." Stephen when your done experiencing hell, take grasp of reality and learn to truly love where you have come from and where you could go. And if your looking for a miracle of proof look no further than your mirror. Your very existence on our planet resolves the question. Jesus Christ loves you. He must. How could you have lived for so long otherwise?

    May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Jesus X

      Jesus did not die for my sins....I find it funny that the all mighty and "merciful" God is punishing all of humanity forever because the first two humans broke the rule and ate an apple....what a fairy tale.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • radam82

      I recommend leaving a plate of berries and goat milk out as a sacrifice to Odin. He's much more receptive to favors that the Christian's God.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • stejo

      You're saying Jesus is keeping him alive? That's such a big "f.u." to the doctors who have actually been doing that work, as well as his own tenacity. You need to learn a bit more about medicine before saying such stupid things.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Rational

      If this "divine love" exists, then it exists in the mind of a deity who knows how Mr. Hawking feels and loves him anyway. So why should he worry?

      ...or could it be that there's really no invisible sky fairy, no jewish zombie for a son. No supposedly benevolent creator who inflicts diseases on people to test them. No god who supposedly grants you free will, then punishes you if you don't believe a certain version of a preposterous fairy tale.

      No, it's people like you who need saving: You've wasted too much time on your knees when you could have been doing something useful for society, as Mr. Hawking has.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  9. Jimbo-Bob

    Athiest and agnostics can't believe in god because they would just be lying if they said they did just like 90% of you that won't admit it. We agnostics and athiest are realist and true to ourselves, therefore we have no problem saying "yeah, I question this" and therefore ask all kinds of questions you would consider a sin. I gaurentee the majority of the people in your church ask in their heads "with thousands of religions around the globe why is ours the only correct one?" If you question you are agnostic and if you don't question you don't think too much. Therefore the majority of religious people are agnostic liars trying to please their peers and family by not mentioning the unmentionable. We as atheiest/agnostics can't stop our brains from asking questions and trying to find those answers, so it's not so simple as to just throw your arms up and say "I believe", because then we would be liars.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • frank carter

      Your silly!

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Bella

      Born and bred Catholic here, but I absolutely agree that everyone challenges and questions religion. Thats human nature. But we really DONT know what is out there we just have to believe or not believe. And I think its cool if we ask questions, I dont think God or any other superior being would expect otherwise. Peace buddy.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • TV

      Well said!

      May 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
  10. Ray

    Surprising that a man devoted to finding proof cannot prove what he has just said.

    http://www.godvine.com/Man-Dies-and-Returns-to-Life-on-the-Operating-Table-420.html

    May 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  11. Jesus X

    "Oh my science!!" or "Science damn" will be my new favorite sayings going forward...F U "God"

    May 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
  12. Rrro

    What a jerk! There's plenty of scientists that believe in God. If it weren't for the Church we still wouldn't have science at the stage it is in today to begin with. Reactionary Christian groups sprang up in the 19th century that devalue science and hold the Bible to literal interpretation in response to how science was affecting how people viewed the super natural elements of Christianity at the time. Now, today many of these groups are part of the mainstream of Christianity. However, that doesn't speak for all believers that religion is some kind of irrational counter part to science.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm |
    • killyourgod

      you're kidding, right? attempt at humor, perhaps? please read history instead of revising it. thank you.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • nah

      Over 90% of scientists surveyed in 2006 were atheist/non-believers. Over 75% of people in what is considered academia (higher education employees such as professors, senior fellows, and scientists) are atheist/non-believers. All the modern amenities that allow the religious in this world to perpetuate their ignorance on others, to include their own indoctrined children, is available because SCIENTISTS and individuals who apply LOGIC to situations exist. We don't want any of you to magically disappear, we only want you to stop meddling in our governments and shoving your faith down the throats of our children.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Rrro

      I'm not reinventing history, the Catholic Church is what preserved intellectual thought and science in western society. The scientific method of experimentation and observation came from Catholic Monks like Gregor Mendel and St. Albert the Great. People always think because of Galileo that the Church was against science, which is not the case. Galileo was only ridiculed because back then his theories lacked conclusive evidence. Also Galileo was put on house arrest because he was trying to cross into biblical theology about the bible saying it was wrong for mentioning the sun rising and setting which is only a matter of interpretation. Nicolaus Copernicus already had that the Earth is the center of the solar system, and he also was a Catholic monk.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  13. Tyler V

    It is only the most darkened intellect that can stand before God and say, "I didnt believe in you because I thought things could pop into existence uncaused out of absolute nothingness."

    May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • radam82

      Yeah, my Gods, Odin & Loki, would down right decimate him if he said Valhalla didn't exist.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • BOB

      That's a good statement, but where did God come from? There has to be some kind of spontaneity in the existence of the universe no matter how you slice it.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  14. Christopher

    Only the religious claim I am going to Hell James. I have never said you were. Christians shouldd stop that practice.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • james

      I am Catholic and I never say anyone is going to hell. The religion might but you can not claim that every christian believes that. Religion is a base beliefe but the practice is very personal and I have never once claimed that anyone is doomed forever. I do believe that each of us. Myself included will have to spend some time paying for our sins before we can enter heaven. For those who do not believe will also have to pay for this sin and will be given the chance to change their mind and accept god. I will pay for my sins and then I may enter as well.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  15. L. Tran

    Spontaneous [without cause] creation that happened only once does not make sense. Spontaneous creation that happened indefinite numbers of time is also very strange. They are all beyond the realm of thought and logic. Mr. Hawking should read Nagarjuna.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  16. Billium

    One day we will evolve and religions will be in a musem with people saying "can you believe they thought that?"

    May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Ah..the "hope" of an atheist. So ironic.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Good Atheist

      What is ironic, is you need an adult version of santa claus to make you feel better.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • stejo

      Lyc – not sure what "ironic" means, are you?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @Good Atheist- What are you babbling about? Is it a good atheist to guess about ppl they do not know?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • killyourgod

      what precisely is ironic about that statement? hope is not a religious concept.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @stejo- Sorry that you don't see why a hoping athiest might seem a tad bit irionic. Perhaps an oxymoron would be better wh?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • frank carter

      are you just plain silly or gooney?

      May 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @killyourgod- It's not a scientific one. Can it be measured? Experimented upon? No...therefor for somone who would brush aside a concept that cannot be measured or experimented upon to express hope...it was rather odd.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • ks

      I've often thought that. I think the builders of Stonehenge and the Pyramids are somewhere laughing at us, along the same lines "I can't believe this! they've got it all wrong"

      May 17, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @frank carter- Your multiple "silly" comments have been noted and tossed aside with the rest of the trash. But thank you for sharing.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • killyourgod

      i'm sorry but the intellectual concept of "hope," being a product of our abilities of self-awareness, is not the same as believing in a bearded man in the clouds that snapped his fingers one day producing the universe. that is a much bigger leap. but in the abstract, i suppose i see your point.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • BOB

      I have to agree here. It's already happened to many ancient religions. I do think one day people will look at some of our religions now and think the same way people do about the ancient Roman and Greek religions, just to name a few. The more technological we get as time goes on, the more and more religious theology gets debunked. That is fact. For example the earth is not the central most point of the universe, its also not flat, wasn't created in a few days a little more then 6000 years ago. All of this is scientific FACT and goes against some religious beliefs.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @killyourgod- "believing in a bearded man in the clouds that snapped his fingers one day producing the universe"

      Thank goodness no one believes in that here.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @BOB- the problem with leaning on facts is to keep factual. The Torah does not say anything about the Earth being in the center of the universe or that it is 6,000 years old. It never makes that claim.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • BOB

      Lycidas...If you actually read my earlier statement, I said SOME RELIGIONS. It would take me months to find out how scientific fact have debunked stories from all of them, but i'm sure that it could be done.

      P.S. what argument are you bringing here? all you are doing is making a fool out of yourself trying to criticize others.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @BOB- My apologizes...but tell us, what religion was you thinking of when you made the 6,000 old comment? Or was you just blabbering along at random?

      As for what I stand for I have made it before. Hawking should stick with the science and leave theology to others.

      And I am sorry that I hit a nerve when pointing out your errors. It seems that there are many on here that don't believe in a faith that just can't take it when they are the ones being corrected.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:18 pm |
    • BOB

      They have to be roped together because Hawking is spending his life trying to find out the existence of the universe. Possible reasons for the existence of the universe (and us) requires the use Science and Theology. I commend him for giving his opinion on theology because it means he at least considered it. He even quoted that "God is a metaphor for the answer to why the universe exists"

      And it doesn't matter what religion the 6000 year thing comes from. My point is that ASPECTS from most (if not all) religions can and have been scientifically debunked and will continue to do so as technology allows to further explore our existence.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • Lycidas

      @BOB- so in a nut shell.....we'll just have to wait and see

      May 17, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  17. Dan

    Death is a concept contemplated only by the living.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  18. ATLEng

    Given his disposition in life, it's easy to see how he can spend the rest of his days trying to disprove the existence of God. It's not a swipe at him, only an observation.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Bella

      Thats totally fair. Its easy to be angry with God or about God when you feel youve lost so much.

      May 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
  19. Senor Ed

    Of course computers go to heaven ... silicon heaven.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Rational

      Of course they do Kryten. Of course they do. 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  20. Rational

    Near death experiences are caused by the sudden rush of brain chemicals as death approaches – it's a dream, an illusion. This is why they are all tailored in their descriptions to fit the religious views of the person experiencing them.

    BTW – your energy is not destroyed when you die. Your cells stop producing heat, chemicals, impulses, etc. just as they stop consuming energy from your metabolism. Then, the stored potential energy of your cells becomes worm food, gasses, etc.

    There's nothing supernatural here Bill.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Not All Docs Play Golf

      Yes, and now Sarah Palin's ghost writer is engaged in child exploitation with her new book about the young child who "went to heaven" under the influence of modern general anesthetics. It is simple child exploitation by her and the child's parents (who are , of course, rabidly religious people).

      May 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • frank carter

      Really! have you died and experience all that you have written? your nothing but a silly ASS! wake up and smell the thorns sir!

      May 17, 2011 at 2:54 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.