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. jeff

    It is easier for the masses to believe that god came from nothing, and then he created the universe. LOL. Stupid humans.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
  2. ModerateMainer

    To me, this is the same as a fundamentalist Christian saying, "those who don't believe as I do will burn in hell." He does a disservice to his cause with his pretty callous dismissal of people's closely held beliefs. People forget how religiously bigotted Atheists can be. Just because you don't believe in a God doesn't give you any superiority over your fellow man. While I don't believe in everything he does, I'm sure he would at least expect me to respect his perspective, I don't think it's too muck to ask that he do the same.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Noonespecial

      We're not superior. We just base our beliefs in reality and not what we WANT things to be like. It's not our fault you can't handle the truth.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
  3. jayn

    Hmmmm, believe the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics or an old fairy tale written thousands of years ago?

    May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  4. Christopher Dycha

    The man is too intelligent to believe and state something so stupid. This is further evidence that when push comes to shove, self preservation will overrule. His career, theories and fortune depends on him to side with science even though he himself is a testament to everyday miracles. Christopher Dycha

    May 17, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Noonespecial

      His long life is the product of centuries of medical science pushing back the darkness of religious conviction. Humans can toil for decades, working long, hard hours, wracking their brains for solutions and testing the solutions. The some idiot comes along and says 'It's a Miracle". Isn't god wonderful. Bah. Go back to living in your caves.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
  5. DYBO

    You will become what you were before conception upon death. Can't remember huh? Hawkings has it right.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  6. Eric

    Talking snakes, talking donkeys, a boat at sea for half a year with a couple million animals, a temple less than 5000sq feet taking 150,000 workers and 7 years to complete, and then sacrificing 14 animals a minute for 7 days straight, a virgin birth story (like there weren't already a few of them before), a zombie invasion that no third party seemed to witness, a dude living in the belly of a fish for a couple days, a guys last words (before become back as a zombie) being "My god, my god, why hast thou forsaken me.", wait no it was "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit", wait no it was "it is finished." ok, so what was the last thing he said? Yeah, that sounds plausible.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm |
  7. Anon

    One thing people need to understand. I'll tell you right now that I don't believe in a god or an afterlife. IF there was an afterlife, what exactly would be the point of living? Life would be pointless that if, when you die, you go to some white place in a spiritual plane. Believe what you want, but life is grim. You should start accepting it. Live for yourself, not some god that will only let you down in the end.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  8. future's in the bag

    Who care's what Hawking says? He won't be asking me if I believe in him when I get to heaven.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • AH

      Didn't know there's an application process to get your own cloud...

      May 17, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  9. Deniz

    GOD is love, and love, my friends , you can not find them in Large Hadron collider

    May 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  10. goldeneagle64

    Just keep asking the "Yes, and" question. "Gravity" creates things, "yes, and who created gravity"?
    This old guy has many things he wants to do still, like make money by writing books and granting interviews on his non-sense. Blah, blah, blah!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm |
  11. Not Afraid of the Dark

    GOD EXISTS... PERIOD!!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Anonmous

      God does exist, how would stupid people be allowed to live if he did not. Also, god let Mr. Hawkins live this long from an illness with a short life span. Put that into your theory machine.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
    • AH

      Pastafarianism is a real religion.

      Most of us do not believe a religion – Christianity, Islam, Pastafarianiasm – requires literal belief in order to provide spiritual enlightenment. That is, we can be part of a community without becoming indoctrinated. There are many levels of belief.

      By design, the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma. That is, there are no strict rules and regulations, there are no rote rituals and prayers and other nonsense. Every member has a say in what this church is and what it becomes.

      To outsiders it makes us hard to define, but here are some general things that can be said about our beliefs:

      We believe pirates, the original Pastafarians, were peaceful explorers and it was due to Christian misinformation that they have an image of outcast criminals today
      We are fond of beer
      Every Friday is a Religious Holiday
      We do not take ourselves too seriously
      We embrace contradictions (though in that we are hardly unique)

      May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |

    God is the meaty, beaty, big and bouncy, thick-n-juicy man-club that causes me to walk with a limp. O Buxom Believers, bow before thy priapic prod and present thy bountiful chalice. Lo! shall I divine thy inner glory–HALLELUJAH–to ring from thy lips like a heavenly chorus of angels. Amen!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
    • Noonespecial

      Awsome dude!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  13. Jason Glugla

    The only reason Mr. Hawking is able to make such statements is because he knows that it is impossible to prove or disporve as are many of his theories in Physics. Unlike Einstein whose theories have been proven and are used in our technology on a daily basis.
    Hawking comes up with things such as his theory that blackholes can radiate energy and since we don't have any blackhole sitting around to test his theory it remains unchallenged until a physicist of equal standing challenges it.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  14. r4bbit

    Then how did anything ever come to exist ? Answer that Steven Hawking.Cannot be done.My guess is if their is a God then God would be all that exists on the other side of the universe,except what God created there.We cannot prove what is over there,so guess we will just have to wait until we die. O-o Peace posters 🙂

    May 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  15. Big D

    No one knows for sure if there's a God or not. We all will know the answer when we die.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
  16. Curt

    This guy always makes me laugh. For someone who says he doesn't believe in God he sure spends a lot of energy focused on him. It's too bad because proving God or the existence of heaven isn't in the realm of science. I would think he would know that, if he was really a scientist. Maybe he's more of an athiest priest preaching about his own faith. What a sad life.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Sarah

      If it's not in the human realm to know God, then how do you know that the Bible was written by anything more than a few self-righteous men who wanted to believe that God was on their side? You don't. Just keep clinging to your myths. Religion, the opiate of the masses.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • r4bbit

      Thinking about that I think your right.Or getting all this free attention to promote a book free.We got believers and non-belivbers & don`t knows.I have a good idea,but I cannot prove it.I think whatever or whoever created us exists on the other side of the universe.That would probably be infinity.Then infinity would have to have an intelligence to know all things.Some deep $h1t man.lol

      May 17, 2011 at 8:21 pm |

      One of the smartest men to ever walk the face of the Earth lives a "sad life"? Because he hasn't accepted a 2,000 year old fairy tale? Unreal.

      I think the reason he dwells of God so much is because relgious people can't stop questioning him about it and he lives in a world where people seem to have to believe in God. if one doesnt there is something wrong with them!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • bretgs

      "If he really is a scientist". Shut up and go back tor scrubbing toilets, you pea brain.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  17. ngc1300

    Freed from Religion-clearly YOU do not understand. A "theory" is not a guess. A "hypothesis" is a guess. Then the hypothesis is tested. If it is not supported by the experiment, it must be modified to conform to the results of the test, or be replaced with a different hypothesis. When the results support the hypothesis, it must be reproducible in different labs by different people at different times. When multiple experiments (especially those that examine different aspects of the hypothesis) support it, it graduates into the realm of scientific theory. Thus, a scientific theory is a proposal and all the evidence that support it. If the theory allows one to make predictions which are subsequently verified, it is further strengthened. If at any time, an experiment yields a negative result, which cannot be explained by poor experimental design, flawed equipment, or errors in data analysis, the
    process basically begins again.

    Having said that, scientists are people. They are subject to the same shortcomings we all have, such as pride, commitment to a personal view of the world, and outright deceit. Sometimes these things get in the way of our real understanding of the universe, but over the long term, science is the best method for finding truth.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Noonespecial

      People like him do know. They just don't accept it. Some people are so tied up in their paradigm that they can't get the old brain circuits to follow a different path.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
  18. Pastor Evans

    Look at the judgement America is under as we speak!!! Don't act like all the bad things that are consistently happening are just by chance. They are the result of the rejection of Jesus Christ!!! For the unbeliever, they are only going to get worse!!! Mark these words!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
    • Sarah

      No, actually, our problems are largely caused by us thinking that God gave us free reign to rule and exploit our planet.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Anon

      All the bad stuff is happening because of people that believe in a god! They're fighting over who has a better god! ignoramuses.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:18 pm |
    • Noonespecial

      It can't possibly get worse that what the western world lived under when it was under the thumb of the one and only, most holy Catholic church for 1500 years. Really, how bad to you think the world will have to get to be as bad as the 'Dark Ages'? Think!!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
    • AH

      Sounds like someone hasn't gotten enough touches from the Flying Spaghetti Monster's Noodly Appendage...

      May 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
    • Chucky


      May 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
    • haynesjt

      Listen to yourself, you are as much a pastor as I am the Pope. Saying that things get worse for the sinner cannot not be supported by any doctrine of Faith. Take the story of Job for example, a firm believer yet he suffered greater than any man alive. Before you speak again, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

      Also, the Dark ages were the result of Western Europe being under constant attack and the only educated peoples were in monasteries. While in Eastern Europe 2/3 of the worlds wealth was being handled, so blaming the Catholic Church for the problems of the Dark Ages is a ridiculous accusation. For it was the launch of the Crusades that ultimately led to the fall of Constantinople in the 4th Crusade that led to a cultural revival known as the Renaissance.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • frank

      do you really believe that? Bad things have been happening for as long as time. God has nothing to do with it, if anything he keeps things from flying apart

      May 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  19. NungaBIZ

    I hate to make a bad joke of this but... I JUST CAN'T RESIST!!! As Professor Hawking's wife would have said "The beatings will continue until moral improves..." Ouch!

    Seriously, I have the utmost respect for Professor Hawking, he's always been one of my few hero's in life, but so is MY idea of God. I'm Pantheistic, I believe "God" is everything and everything is "God". Not "some guy with a white beard sitting on a cloud" but nature and super natural as well; Professor Hawking to "the universe" (and who sez anyone knows the mind of the universe anyway Professor?)

    Your my hero, but your not as smart as MY "universe", MY lowly slug MY "God".

    May 17, 2011 at 8:08 pm |
  20. zhenyihong

    Human brain is not merely a computer. Great scientist makes this simple fact too complicated for himself to understand.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Vegan

      I agree. We are part computer, but we have souls, as well.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:10 pm |
    • Sarah

      Look at stroke victims and others who suffer brain cancer/injury. The brain is where thought and spirituality comes from, and once it's gone, it's gone. Yes the metaphor of a computer is simplistic but it holds true and it will hold true for you whether you get a grip on it or not.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:16 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.