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. Illinois

    Couldn't stress enough stupidity in saying there is no God. I'm not sure I'd be even brave enough.....but, time will tell old man because you'll soon die off and then find out who exactly God is. That's right when you die you'll find out who God is on your own....it's between you and God. I'm not even going to waste dollars in investing your book. God is God the book of Psalms even says the jackles worship Him. Wow!!!!!!! Such a simple amazing concept. It's simple people.....don't complicate it. God didn't create the universe??? Then who did hmmmm????? Common.....common.....this better be logical.....I mean according to what Genesis says. Do you think your little pea brain created the universe??? Hmmmm.....Oh your mind gets all the glory huh???? How selfish is that????

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

      We don't know anything about what is greater than our universe.. But, there have been many invented "gods" over 10,000's of years so I think anyone god could be ruled out, especially Yaweh

      May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • stejo

      You are so smug and hateful.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
    • Hmmm

      By the Psalm talk, I'm going to make the assumption that you are a Christian. How do you know that the other 1000 gods created by mankind are wrong? Who or what created the Universe? We don't know that for certain. We, being rational, don't jump to conclusions. We have the guts to admit that we don't know. We don't simply say "god did it" to the things we don't understand. And the argument from threat is getting a bit old, isn't it? YOU WILL SEE WHEN YOU DIE! How very convincing. As if fear of death is going to make me believe in something I have no evidence for.

      Grow up.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Ben

      God (and your precious book) also says that all birds are fed by him, yet birds live a terrible life, most of them dying before they even leave the nest.

      He also said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:26

      He also said, "Let us make man in our image." If he did, man, did he mess that one up!

      May 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  2. Steve F

    Thank you Stephen Hawking for being brave enough to say publicly what most intelligent people including many politicians are saying in private. I genuinely hope that the age of supernatural gods is coming to an end.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  3. David T. Steineker


    May 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  4. wolfwithlightsaber

    BILL, we couldnt prove there was an atom 2000 years ago....therefore that doesnt exsist?

    May 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  5. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    I think it would be a good idea, rather than to condemn Steven Hawking, for believers around the world to join together and ask God in prayer to heal him. If the faith of millions of believers can bring about what medical science never could, it would be a mighty witness of God to the world.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • tommas

      Hmmm, perhaps all the believers should spend their time reading other books and inventing new ideas to end human suffering.. It think that would be a much better use of time

      May 17, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
    • Illinois

      Carl, God will heal who He wants to when He wants to in His timing not ours. You can't stop or control the hand of God.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  6. Phil

    Stephen, "We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience"....

    May 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  7. wolfwithlightsaber

    o, and how easy it is to plug a stereotype onto a so called christian as a hate monger, just as an athiest wouldnt want to be labeled a nihilist, AVOID THE SHORTCUT to thinking and realize youre just as guilty with your comments

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

      I'm a nihilist. This world has no objective meaning beyond what you assign to it. You point.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  8. Judy

    Dr. Hawking is a genius but this is just his opinion. And on this subject, his opinion has no more value than yours or mine. We don't know if there is a God or a heaven and we won't know until after our death, if ever. Some of us, myself included, believe and feel and hope that God exists and that there is a higher purpose to our existence but we just don't know for sure. Neither, with all due respect, does Dr. Hawking.

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

      Judy the Bible itself is enough evidence. What more do people want or need. To me not claiming God exists is just not intelligent at all. Anything else does not make since. Darwin couldn't even prove his own theory. Infact, right before he died he stated out loud, verbally that his theory may not be true. Duh???? Do ya think?????

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

      Ya'll better know for sure because the Lords comin' real real quick. Would hate for the door to get shut behind ya. This is not a time to be living and questioning God's existence. Instead we should be worshiping Him. This is not a time to be acting like this.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  9. jimbo

    People are just Afraid of what they cant explain, so they say it doesnt exist. There is a Hole in the Ocean That is miles wide and MILES DEEP, it has never been explored, doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

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

    People are just Afraid of what they cant explain, so they say it doesnt exist. There is a Hole in the Ocean That is miles wide and MILES DEEP, it has never been explored, doesnt mean it doesnt exist.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  11. gottlieb schlittenfahrt

    Hawking's been little more than a 'brain in a bell jar' for the past 40 years, and he hates God for it.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • WOBH

      How can he hate something he believes doesn't exist. It's like hating unicorns.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  12. Yahway

    If my body was racked with that horrible disease for all those years I probably wouldn't believe in God either.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Jesseca5

      Of course There is a God and there is a Heaven. This denial only serves as a crutch for Mr. Hawking because of his affliction
      and his torment. When he leaves this earthly bondage, he will see just how wrong he has been all these years. May God have mercy on his soul.

      Jesse in Texas

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  13. BroncoriderAZ

    Thank you Mr. Hawking, I tend to believe you, but I guess this will be a wait and see experiement.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  14. Hmmm

    Oh Christians, your actions speak so loud I can barely hear a word you're saying.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  15. Junk Science

    Anyone who challenges this man's conclusions is Anti-Disabled; just as sure as it is racist to challenge anything that that commie MAObama posits.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  16. Brad

    Study science, gain knowledge. Study scripture, gain salvation. No contest.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
    • Q

      However, the first is generally demonstrable. The second, not so much... In that sense, I agree. No contest.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  17. jcty

    You get what you believe in. Watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpsK8n71ODw

    May 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  18. Energy

    Well Stephen, I was There, so it is not, like everyone if afraid of Dark and just halucinating madly. And the scientific perspective and way of analyzing reality is not the only one available in the universe. The truth is so complex, beyond your imagination (with full respect). It is totally scientific as well as deeply spiritual – perfectly harmonious and depending on each other. The Source is the greatest of scientists.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • Mp

      Incorrect. Science = a tool to distinguish between objective and subjective. Science is completely comfortable with being incorrect because new "EVIDENCE" comes to light every day. "Spirituality" is simply subjective and interpreted only through ones imagination. What theists don't really understand is that TRUE for you must be true for me, true for your neighbor, true for your cat, true for everyone. Why is it that when you say or thing something foolish 99% of humans will look to empirical evidence, logic, and reason to refute you, but when it has to do with GOD..people put on a completely different brain?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  19. wolfwithlightsaber

    ...Someday we will all cry out to GOD on our deathbeds, besides, for the non believing, what to you have to lose?

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

      Actually, if allowed euthanasia with dignity, we will not cry out to anyone, but simply peacefully let go of a physical existence that obeys observable rules. And that will be it for all of us, regardless of your beliefs

      May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • william

      It will be too late then

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  20. Bill In Virginia

    Where exactly heaven is no one knows but the general belief is that it is up there in the clouds/sky. Professor Hawkings has not see heaven through a telescope nor has he uncovered where it is through mathematical equations. Hell is somewhere 'down there.' These beliefs started 2,000 years ago when little was know about the world and nothing about the universe. I do not know how anyone can still believe in such nonsense.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Nana

      No kidding!! It's like there are still hordes of people taking crazy pills and clutching their fairy tale and bedtime story books (bibles). in the mean time the rest of us sit back waiting for them to come to their senses so the powers that be will make a full public disclosure about our extraterrestrial origin.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Alice

      It is my opinion that is far more likely that given how vast and complex the universe and all existence actually is, that something far superior to a mortal being that exists either outside or beyond space time actually reached out and talked to my ancestors, than it is that one of my piers or fore fathers actually managed to figured the universe out in the mere span of their life time.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:26 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.