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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. PJey

    He's a liar and the antichrist;
    "WHO IS THE LIAR BUT HE WHO DENIES THAT JESUS IS THE CHRIST? THIS IS THE ANTICHRIST, HE WHO DENIES THE FATHER AND THE SON." 1 JOHN 2:22-23.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Jen Sam

      Mr. Hawking is brilliant, but the concept of heaven and the afterlife has not yet been proven by science.Doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Again we don't know what we don't know. But we know we are conscious beings and consciousness is infinite. Let's try to understand that before we try to disprove there is no heaven and afterlife.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  2. GaryO

    People make connections that transcend space and time. All I have to do is think of my friend who I had a falling out with and hadn't spoken to in months. One night, I had a dream that she lay dying in a hospital bed and I came to her and sang a song of the love of friendship. I told my girlfriend (now my wife) about the dream 1st thing in the morning, then a few hours later, my friend called me and told me her mother died. We're not just simple biological computers that turn off like a light. We are part of the universe and all life is connected in some way that we can't understand.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  3. Albert Jung

    I am totally non-religious, but I totally believe that Stephen Hawking is totally wrong, in every pertinent aspect. Let him prove that there is no god, Soul, or Afterlife. Words are cheap.Prove it beyond a doubt Stevie.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  4. Ceejus the Unleavened Christ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1paYhEDFQIw

    May 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  5. jn3792

    The man is a genius in the field of physics, but I fail to see how this makes him more qualified than anyone else to comment about the existence of God or an afterlife.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  6. Miami

    If we go by the laws of physics, matter cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change its phase. if we live in a universe that arguable goes on until infinity (no one has been able to prove otherwise), then how did all of this get there? i am religious however i cannot disregard scientici evidence such as evolution and even this theory that with gravity everything is possible. however, we need to take a step back an think how did gravity come to exist? in order for there to be gravity, there must be mass? since mass (matter) cannot be created or destroyed, somone/something must have set up that first bang. despite my religious beliefes, i can still wrap my head around the bing bang theory and evolution and we all came from single cell beings or atoms, however, until someone can explain how these atoms/cell just arrived, i will continue with my religous beliefs

    May 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  7. Bruno

    If there is a god, he has one messed up sense of humor and indulges in human misery. If there really were a god there would be more justice in the world and there would be far less inhumanity. I had always hoped there was something more. Some meaning to life beyond just breathing and existing as a component of a series of accidents. But as I grow older I see the world for what it is. There are no higher powers. There is no heaven there is no hell. There is the earth and sky and the universe around us. No angels. No devils. Just good and bad people with more bad than good.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  8. Carlos Gomez

    Dr. Stephen, with all due respect, it is amazing that you are still alive, that you have your brain as sharp as it is, and that you are able to 'write'; what a blessing from a Maker, hopefully, you will come to realize that even your life depends on a beautiful and loving creator. When I read articles like the present, it comes to my mind, Romans 1:14-22 and you can read the text before and after. 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools...

    May 17, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
  9. Terry

    I am a Christian, in fact I am a minister. However, I am not posting to judge Mr. Hawking. It is not my place. I do think he is taking a huge step in saying that God does not exist. He is not alone in his theory, there are many who believe that God, nor heaven exist. I do however, believe. Not by physical proof so to speak, but by faith. That is what God calls us to do, believe in that which we cannot see. I have made the following statement many times: let us look at both sides of the coin (so to speak). On one side, Mr. Hawking and others believe that there is no afterlife, no God, no Heaven or hell. So why not live how we want to, lets forget about morality and being Godly. Because, in Mr. Hawkings thinking we just simply stop existing after death there is no punishment for living like we want, nor is there a reward for living a Godly life. Now in the case of the Christian who truly believes in Heaven and hell, we live our lives in accordance to Gods' word and look forward to our reward in Heaven. So, here is what we do, we allow Mr. Hawkings and others to have their opinion regarding God and Heaven and we will keep ours. In the end, when we stand at deaths door, only one of us can be right. Now, if Mr. Hawking is right and there is no God, then there is no harm no foul right? Those who choose to live as they want are not guilty of anything and we Christians just lived a simple life. But, if I am right.... If the Christian world is right and there is a God, a Heaven and a hell. Then what? We as Christians will walk into our eternal life rewarded with a "life" in Heaven or Paradise as Christ called it on the cross. While those who have ignored God and His plea to live for Him will be condemned to an eternity in hell, a place described as a place of fire and nashing of teeth as people who are tormented lash out at each other. It is a place filled, not with beer and pretty women, but of everything that terrifies you and tries to destroy you. So, while I would encourage all Christians to pray for Mr. Hawking and others who do not believe, it is not for us to judge. So the choose is up to us, it is the old "door number 1" or "door number 2" idea. We all must chose, but only one will be right. Will it be you?

    May 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  10. cossa

    "I had rather live my life as if there is a God and maybe one day, find out there isn't...than to live my life like there wasn't a God, only to find out there is...." Without hope, humanity is lost.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  11. zero gods

    If there are god(s), they are either reasonable, kind, interesting "people", or they aren't worth worshipping/obeying. And if they are reasonable, kind, interesting "people", I don't think they would have put Dr. Hawking in a wheelchair. Or kill kittens. Or [insert terrible disaster here].

    So either they exist, and aren't worth worshipping, or they don't exist at all. Either way, we could do with a lot less religion in this world and lot more clear thinking.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • believe it

      I could'nt have said it better myself!

      May 17, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  12. Einstein

    Well now, who created gravity then?

    May 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • NungaBIZ

      Ancient astronauts and Jerry Garcia with Frank Zappa on guitar man.... gravity, that's heavy man...

      *** hac ***

      May 17, 2011 at 9:03 pm |
  13. NeverBeenBrainwashed

    Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned.

    With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg

    How many genocides have taken place without the enactor of it believing in a higher power?

    Since the Bible and church are obviously mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust them to tell us where we're going?

    The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike. - Delos B. McKown

    Two hands working can do more than a thousand hands clasped in prayer.

    What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof. - Christopher Hitchens

    What's "God"? Well, you know, when you want something really bad and you close your eyes and you wish for it? God's the guy that ignores you. - Steve Buscemi

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime. Give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.

    God should be executed for crimes against humanity. - Bryan Emmanuel Gutierrez

    A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it. - David Stevens

    Religion does three things quite effectively; divides people, controls people, and deludes people. - Carlespie Mary Alice Mckinney

    Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.

    History teaches us that no other cause has brought more death than the word of god. - Giulian Buzila

    We are all atheist about most of the gods that societies have believed in. Some of us just go one god further. - Richard Dawkins

    A believer states everything must have a creator but fails to say how he was created.

    Gods don't kill people. People with Gods kill people. - David Viaene

    Faith does not give you the anwers, it just stops you from asking questions.

    The Christians on this board are in denial. YOU CANNOT PROVE GOD EXISTS. What if I decided that there are thousands of Big Foots walking around Antarctica with purple tails. Say I teach this to my kids and write a book about it. Then my kids teach it to their friends and then they all teach it to their kids when they grow up. Then in 500 years, there are thousands of people believing in all these Big Foots with purple tails in Antarctica. But by the time everyone realizes they can't find Big Foot in Anarctica when there is enough science, technology, and exploration to debunk the myth. Everyone starts saying, they're there, you just gotta have FAITH.

    I can create my own religion just as easy as the ones who wrote the bible. Though i'm sure we'd all agree, the people who followed me in my teachings about mythical things would be complete idiots incapable of free thought.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
    • Bruno

      Agreed

      May 17, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • NungaBIZ

      And you can't prove you exist either, or the universe for that matter. Prove to who, yourself? Are you saying we are our own "God" or that there is no God? Because I'd like to know what you base your "no God" theory on, can you prove it? Can you prove the universe exists just because you think you do? Can you tell me, where did gravity come from? Where did the "big bang" come from? Are you God? Am I? What came first the chicken or the egg? Boxers or briefs? Picard or Kirk? Spock or Data? ... huummm, seems pretty cut and dry to me, we just don't know anything do we?

      Wonder why some believe knowledge is the original sin? We know nothing, we will never know anything till the moment we have finished living our lives; we will either cease to exist or we will get our answers, but till then we just won't know for sure will we?

      PS: Wonder what the "theory" will be ten thousand years from now? Or ten million x 8 on its side... I know at least I will know before then, so will YOU.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  14. r4bbit

    Stephen Hawking says their is absolute nothing at the edge of the universe.If we are expanding into it then how can it be nothing?We are expanding against something.I think infinity is there,and who knows what is in it,or if it has an intelligence ? If it has an intelligence it could be God.I sure don`t understand why something so intelligent would even let us be born into so much sorrow.Their better be a good reason for this God ! Probably is.Has to be 😉 I think were surrounded by God !...Uhh I mean I think we are surrounded by God 🙂

    May 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  15. cara

    You know, I respect his opinion, but I'm appalled that he's so careless about everyone else's. So screw you Hawking. You're not invited to the party anyway.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  16. Lucifer

    Dang. Oh, wait....

    May 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  17. future's in the bag

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

    May 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • P

      That's the kind of thinking that convinces people to strap on bombs and run into crowds. And it needs to stop.

      May 17, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Siyajkak

      any thing on earth, from knowledge, money, pride, power, religion, etc gets people to do stupid things. Religion doesn't make people do horible things, as evidenced by the fact that most believers don't do horrible things. only crazy, stupid, or mislead people do, no matter if they're atheist or theistic

      May 17, 2011 at 8:48 pm |
  18. merecat

    This from a mere speck of dust... an insignificant human..

    May 17, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  19. Siyajkak

    I think many scientists don't want to believe in a God, because implies a part to the universe that can't be understood, while the passion of a scientist is to understand. Likely, it has to do with other factors, such as personal experience, etc. I think Stephen Hawking is a remarkable person, but i also think he's a little to vehement with his atheism. Beliefs should be kept personal, but he goes out of his publicize his beliefs which are insubstantial as any religion. There is still no explanation for the spontaneous origin of the universe, as well as the advanced cognition of the brain (chemicals and genetics reveal general trends, but no one knows how complete thoughts are actually formed, nor emotions or personalities); creation and the human conscious, the two fundamental focuses of religion. People can believe what they want, but how many times does someone have to publish "God is fake" over and over and over...

    May 17, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  20. williampdx

    Hey eballenger917. That is a horrible misquote from Einstein. Anyone who has studied Einstein knows that he used the term God VERY loosely. He does not mean it to mean the Old Testament God at all, but rather the yet to be known powerful forces which work behind all of science. He had a sense of wonder for the universe – that was how he used the term. He also believed that it was these same forces that could one day be found out, explained, and quantified. Hence he was a naturalist.

    May 17, 2011 at 8:33 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.