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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. Mike

    What is gravity? Oh yeah; that algorithm that makes video game football players lo.ok like they're jumping to catch a football arching along a parabolic trajectory.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  2. Daniel Bordner

    He hopes there is no Heaven, NO GOD, NO HELL so he wont have to answer for his SIN. The FOOL has said in his heart there is no God. Atheist are TO SMART FOR GOD!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Hmmm

      Ah hell and sin. A lovely tool used by the church to keep people in line. YOU ARE WORTHLESS. YOU ARE DEAD UNLESS YOU BELIEVE AS WE DO. ACCEPT GOD OR HE WILL SEND YOU TO A PLACE OF EVERLASTING TORTURE. What a loving god indeed.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  3. moam

    Stephen Hawking, in my opinion, has no proof one way or the other. I'm both spiritual and a man of science. A biology professor I had in college always said "don't mix science and spirituality." But I did. Since Mr Hawking is adamant that life happened because of gravity, then I would ask him to assemble the greatest scientist, himself included, and reproduce that occurrence within a laboratory setting. Scientist know all of the fundamental elements required. Hawking professes to know how it happened. So, do it. Make it happen in a lab and let it begin to evolve so that the entire world can see this happening. That would at least give people a better understanding of, as Hawking professes, it was all just random.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  4. GregTX

    At odds with Einstein who said in a 1930 interview with J. Murphy and J. W. N. Sullivan.

    "On the other hand, however, every one who is seriously engaged in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that the llaws of nature manifest the existence of a spirit vastly superior to that of men, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble. The pursuit of science leads therefore to a religious feeling of a special kind, which differs essentially from the religiosity of more naive people. "

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  5. David T. Steineker

    Dr. Hawkings

    This is a funny man, he thinks that the Universe has a past and a future. Why? This is so funny, because inorder for the universe under his description one and zero are the same. Nothing made everything... He is a professor of high reguard?

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  6. Bobo

    While no one knows what happens when we die, it makes more sense that is no God. I'll be the best person i can be until that time and no religion is required.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  7. Bill

    "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist."

    If I may point out the obvious, this is a belief. not a known fact. That is, it is at the core of Mr. Hawking's philosophical or religious beliefs. It is a brilliant interpretation, and likely grounded in the latest theories about the physics of the universe, which I (being not so dumb, either) find to be just a bit ... out there. Theoretical. One possible explanation.

    One needn't buy into his theories about the nature of existence beyond what can be said for certain. It's just his ideas. The physicist regarded as the genius above all geniuses of another age, Einstein, invented a religion himself. These physicists reach for answers but don't have them. We should thank him for his views and regard them as just that - his views.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  8. Sisterray444

    I always thought achieving salvation through Jesus was an incredibly naive childish way of looking at the world and god. If there is a god I’m sure he isn’t anything like the Christian or Jewish or Muslim god, and even if he was why the hell would he need people praising his name? He’s god isn’t he? He’s perfect, so why would he feel the need for us to worship his son and burn non believers? I’ve always seen god as some universal moral code of balance that connects all human beings, similar to karma I guess. Organized religion is such a farce and exists only to free people from thought and responsibility, instead of being a typical ignorant American, take a look at what Jesus really said and you might find that it was pretty good, respect your fellow man and such, that message seems lost on Christians these days (and all days). I think Jesus would be mortified at what his preaching’s have turned into today, so instead of reacting with violence and ignorance at a non believer take a second to think about your own relationship with god and the universe, blind faith is a terrible sin

    May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  9. Tracy

    And yet Jesus died for you anyway. Praying for you Stephen.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Malaka Shakalaka

      And you know Jesus died for you how? Because your mommy and daddy have told you that all your life? Really smart. Dumb breeds dumb. I feel sorry for your dumb children...

      May 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  10. Wade

    I'm afraid you are wrong Mr. Hawking .... Eternity is very real and Heaven and Hell are as real as that Denial you are in > I will not insult you or bash you . All i want to do is add my comment on this as others have . I am a christian and i have seen way too much to Not Believe in Christ and HIS power.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  11. GOD=WARS

    The reason why GOD is created in the minds of humans is because different cultures shape their own perception of what's GOD. That's why we have Allah, Jesus, so on and so forth. If GOD is truly universal, why are we constantly in conflicts over religion. And who's the true GOD, Allah or Jesus. It would be ironic if both are wrong and many people die for nothing, absolutely nothing.

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

      What kind of God would allow all the cruelty that man heaps upon himself? What kind of God would sentence the most wonderful innocent people (including children) to years of torment by catastrophic illness until they die? What kind of God would say "Believe in me or you are going to Hell" yet he won't show himself to the world? If that's your God, I want none of it.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  12. Samuel Gibran Ortiz Williams

    is there no heaven? Stephen...you are so intelligent...Maybe you are the second most intelligent after Einstein...but although you have a powerful brain you can not grasp all the secrets of the Universe. You fell too short! There are many secrets!!! You don´t even understand!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • Malaka Shakalaka

      And YOU do? Psshh.. At least Stephen is looking at things objectively and basing his thoughts on science unlike you who believes in mystical creatures. Do you believe in elves and unicorns too?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  13. raseta quantuamarie

    tell stephen hawking to go to the big red one with the horns and spiky tale. no wonders he is in a wheel chair. we do not want him teaching physics to our kids and then telling them there is no god. god is necessary to each and everyone in their lives. i have had miracles happen in my life thanks to your physics god. so when you come up with fantastic theories of curved space and black holes remember, god will send one to swallow you. die you old cripple.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
  14. Scott

    Such a silly topic. The truth is no one really knows how we got here and how it's all going to end. Absolutely no one has the authority to say what the truth is; not the pope nor a super scientist. The only exception is Mr. Death – and we all have our own personal appointment.....

    May 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  15. joey

    christians, muslims, jews, all children of abraham, killing each other. Brilliant. Please, just kill each other already.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Ttommy

      Yeah, but leave the atheists alone. We're the only ones with any sense of reality.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
  16. Ttommy

    Millions of people are so desperate to believe in life after death, they will gladly play the game of believing in talking snakes, fashioning a human out of a rib, and rising from the dead. That's their ticket to heaven. Those things are so incredibly absurd, you have wonder how normally intelligent people can buy into it. But they do. And they force it on their kids to perpetuate the myth.

    May 17, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  17. dudebro

    I guess we'll all find out the truth on May 21st when all the Christians suddenly get raptured to be with God and mass destruction is brought down on earth and all who remain!

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

      Party @ my place, 6PM Saturday

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Jean

      Does this really sound like something that a father would do to his children?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Bobby

      so what does that say about you? only a few days left to live and your wasting it on cnn.com?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  18. Pamela

    2ND Peter 3:3
    First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires.
    There are many verses in Gods word about the intelligience of mere men who decieve others and the consequences there of. It is very sad that Mr. Hawkings has had challenges all of his life with his physical body but even more sad when he enters eternity without knowing Jesus as Lord. God does not force anyone to believe in the so called fairy tale. If you choose not to believe then don't worry, God won't force you to be in Heaven. You will get what you want – eternally forever in that other place eternally,without hope or second chances.

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

      Yeah, because the simple act of not believing deserves eternal damnation. Nice. And deeply irrational.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Cecil Burrow

      Hysterical! Pamela, you are a hoot.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
    • Gdawg

      Is this actually a for real, serious reply, or just a tongue-in-cheek joke?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  19. Ryan from Baltimore

    Stephen Hawking's is such a dbag!!!! If he is so smart why didn't he use his brains to study cures for cancer or something that would help all of mankind! Oh I forgot everyone needs to feel sorry for him cause he has a medical condition. He can go h*ll, which it looks like where he is going since he doesn't believe in heaven. haha

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

      Tool. Just what we'd expect from Baltimore...

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

      You do know you are working on a machine that utilizes some aspects of the theory of quantum mechanics, ie a theory that he added greater human knowledge to.. wow people are dumb

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

      Because that is not his field of expertise. If he chose medicine, maybe he would have. He did not set out to discover this particular fact (If indeed it is) He just found it. Chill out.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Ryan from Baltimore

      Sorry guys didn't know we had a bunch of Ivy leaguers on here follow all of this dbags 400 page papers about stuff no one cares about. Also, didn't know you expected anything from Baltimore, cause I don't.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Bobby

      typical judgmental Christian...what have you done for mankind besides take up good air and make fun of peoples disabilities?

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • Ryan from Baltimore

      I'm not a genius. If I was I would do something better with it than study blackholes and talk about religion in a British news paper.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
    • stejo

      What a surprise...an angry Christian. Why don't you go start a crusade or something? I don't think the Muslims are too ticked off at us right now.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  20. John Sharp

    Exactly. Stephen didn't need to tell me what I already knew. But I am glad he stated the obvious for those that still believe in fairy tales.
    But he will not change their minds, they have been blind to reason and rational thought for a long time.

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

      You are exactly right. When someone buys into the religious nonsense, they have to forsake every ounce of reality and common sense. You might as well be debating a stone wall when they start quoting passages from the book of fairy tales ... the holy bible.

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

      you are the blind on my friend.

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

      Yeah, except neither of you know that. A scientist should know better than to deal in this kind of absolute, without using the scientific methods. You don't look at a computer and then say hey- brains are kind of like that so they must be the same. Science just doesn't work that way. As of yet, there has been no way to prove or disprove any type of afterlife, and he really should have understood that before shooting his mouth off. This must be the early stages of senility.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • Mike V

      In fairness, LP, claiming heaven doesn't exist is on par with claiming that invisible unicorns don't exist. True, we can't say that with certainty, but it's fair to say it's a made up concept with zero evidence.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
    • Me

      Well said 🙂

      May 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
    • Hmmm

      He is no required to disprove or prove the afterlife. The burden of proof is on those who claim there is an afterlife, not the other way around. It's basic logic.

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
    • John Sharp

      LP
      So you are saying that as a Scientist he should know that there are no absolutes without using the scientific methods?
      They took a sentence out of his book. So we are just to assume that he spouted off irrationally that there is no Heaven.
      I would make the assumption that based on Mr. Hawking's long and illustrious career in physics that he made that statement based upon his lifetime of experience and work.
      I think it is ridiculous that you are questioning his scientific methods.
      He has some substantial heavy weight achievements in the area of physics and is recognized by a few as the most brilliant mind of our time.
      And your scientific research and theory has been done in..........???

      May 17, 2011 at 7:38 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.