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. Joe153

    Why is it that people who say God doesnt exist always get mad and offend people who do beleive in God. A

    May 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Maybe it's the people that do believe in god that get upset when someone DOESN'T believe in god. Why else would there be so many Christians posting on here?

      Think before you type.

      Let it be proven true before you believe in it.

      :You Joe153, have been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  2. Vlad Putin

    This man's desease is affecting his brain,he should be refered to a powerful man of God for deliverance..Prophet T.B.Joshua can help on his health.He's trying to make people notice he's still living,that's why he's making all these noises.!

    May 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
  3. bill

    So.... 'Given the existence of gravity the universe can and will create itself from nothing". Where did the gravity come from? All evolutionist theory seems to get away with starting from a basis that is already there, whether a small amount of matter, gravity, a chemical blend, or something. What is the origin of these things? Sounds to me like it takes a lot of faith.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • stejo

      Just because it hasn't been discovered yet doesn't mean it has to be God. I swear, the so-called believers on this forum are making me an atheist, and I'm a Christian...how sick is that?

      May 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  4. Mike D

    Dr. Hawking has had a notable career writing books on physics topics targeted to the general public. His popularity is due as much to his physical condition as it is to his actual contributions to physics. He did a lot of research on black holes early in the 1970s, but ended up stating that his original thesis was wrong at the Conference on General Relativity and Gravitation in 2004. Even he is still learning. I'm not sure why he is so insistent about the non-existance of God. I don't know how the existence of gravity, in spite of the role it plays in the way things are organized, can prove that God doesn't exist. I don't know what he expects to get by insisting that God doesn't exist, other than public attention. How does his world based soley on the laws of physics account for our ability to think?–the brain is so much more than a computer. How does he account for free will? How does he account for our ability to recognize something as good or bad? How does he explain the difference between a complex machine and something that is actually alive? How does he explain what it means to be 'alive'? How does he account for our ability to feel complex emotions, to comprehend those emotions? How can he presume to erase the conviction in people's hearts about what they believe to be true? No computer is capable of any of this. No artificial intelligence algorithm running in a computer is capable of this. It's easy to be a critic of something you don't understand. It's a shame that he uses his position and popularity to put forth his own personal opinions.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  5. NeverBeenBrainwashed

    Can anyone prove that a god does exist? If you can't, then why believe in something that's not proven to be true?

    May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Adam

      You speak as if you were there at the beginning of it all and you were not. I don’t care whether you believe in the Bible or the “Theory”(Scientific word for guess) of Evolution. The big bang “Theory” is that all the energy and matter that makes up the known universe blew apart and made things they way they are. Where did the energy and matter come from? What made it come together and then blow apart? Answer is? You don’t know. So with out being able to answer those questions with proof or reason one theory or religion is a good as the next. People like you and Bill Mahr don’t have any real answers you just like to go out of your way to attack people who believe something else. When the fact is you can’t answer any more of the questions of existence then religion does you just like to pretend you can. Mr. Hawking is a brilliant man yet he cannot even walk across a room. This man has spent the last 49 years of his life as a physical vegetable in a chair unable to do even the most basic things. This is bound to make one a little bitter and who could blame him really. The idea that his condition was part of a grand plan would seem very cruel to say the least. You can say prove it. That goes both ways he cannot prove anything he is saying either.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Mike D

      God exists. He created spirit children out of matter that is eternal. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, only organized–afterall, that is what the Hebrew root of the word 'to create' means. We all existed as spirit beings prior to our birth on the Earth. The purpose of our mortal existence is to live in an environment where we can be tested–where our recollection of our previous existence has been temporarily hidden so that the test is meaninful. The test is to see if we will choose to become like God in spite of whatever challenges we may face in this life. It is an opportunity for us to prove to God (and ourselves) what kind of people we really want to be. When our bodies die, our spirit continues to live. We will all be resurrected (our spirits being reunited with a perfected, immortal body) as a result of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. The day will come when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. At that day all will be revealed, including a complete understanding of how physics is in perfect harmony with God and all that he has created. Until then we have more than enough to do to improve ourselves and our world.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • techguy

      "NeverBeenBrainwashed" , you sure have a lot of posts here, so here we go again:
      Prove evolution or the big bang? You can't!!! ... 2000 years of consecutive history sure beats xbillion years of complete speculation. Prove it you say... Open your eyes and look around. nothing makes itself. Who made the human body? Who decides a gender of a baby? Where does the wind come from, and where does it stop? and on, and on, and on. How much more proove do you want? If you can't see this prove, good luck finding a tree in the forest.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  6. BenBreeg

    Sure there is heaven. Look up, mr. Hawking, it's this blue thing over your head. Well, sometimes it's covered with clouds....

    May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Actually, that blue stuff over your head is the atmosphere. Way to think on your own. Some idiot told you it was heaven and you just believed him.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  7. Name*Bk

    Only a fool or an idiot would say there is no God. And we listen to this so called scientist?

    May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • Gan

      Only a fool or an idiot would unquestionable accept that there is a God when there is no proof that one ever existed'. God is just a bunch of fairy tales passed down from generations of story tellers. And I bet you believe in the Easter Bunny too ...he came out of the same hole as Jesus and the groundhog.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • Ray L

      So many retards rallying to bash Hawking while unable to disprove anything he said... Welcome to Religion 101.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed


      You have been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • stejo

      "so called"? Explain.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
  8. masher

    even if there is spotenateity and reactions, these couldn't have started in emptyness i.e. they begun from somethig

    May 17, 2011 at 9:36 pm |
  9. Bill

    Hawking has come up with a scientific answer to the 'god' issue. So be it. We create our reality individually and collectively. It is known as All That Is. If we can imagine so it exists.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
  10. TimP

    There are lots of claims for and against a god.... as stated by somebody else here simple logic dictates nothing is assumed to exist until it is proven to exist. This is a basic tenet of human existence otherwise we'd all believe in fairies, valhalla, repulican health care and other fantasies

    I pledge I will donate money to your church if anybody can find me a proof for the existence of God that is rigorous, testable, repeatable and would pass the peer scrutiny of a group of previously undecided individuals.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      I second that notion. If anyone can prove a god exists i'll donate to your church as well. If you can't prove it, why believe in it? It's because you've gotta have faith, right?

      May 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Mike D

      Judging by the nature of your comments all over this message board, it's pretty clear that you are so focused on the things of this world that you are not willing or able to understand the things of God. Spiritual things can only be discerned by the Spirit of God, which enlightens all those who are willing to receive its truth. As the Apostle Paul taught, spiritual things are things that have 'never entered into the heart of man.' In other words, no person, no matter how 'smart' they may be can discern the things of God on their own.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • techguy

      And again... Prove evolution or the big bang? You can't!!! ... 2000 years of consecutive history sure beats xbillion years of complete speculation. Prove it you say... Open your eyes and look around. nothing makes itself. Who made the human body? Who decides a gender of a baby? Where does the wind come from, and where does it stop? and on, and on, and on. How much more proove do you want? If you can't see this prove, good luck finding a tree in the forest. P.S.....Waiting for the cheque...

      May 17, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • Ogre


      What makes a volcano erupt? It is because of an angry god living in there. (period/full stop). No need to look any further. But sacrificing virgins into it satisfies this god.

      p.s. you do not sound like you belong in 'tech' - back in a cave, perhaps.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:17 am |
  11. Bob Ragin

    Wait....I thought Steven Hawking was god>>>

    May 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
  12. Apologia

    So Mr. Hawking believes there is no heaven. The burden of proof rests on you Mr Hawking! Glad that a person's opinion cannot change anything.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Gan

      The burden of proof is on Hawkins? Prove that there IS a heaven!

      May 17, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Prove that there is a heaven, hell, god, millions of species on one boat. Prove that a guy parted a sea. Prove anything. Oh wait, you can't. Ignorance is believing in something that can't be proved true.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • stejo

      apologia – you are a f'ing idiot

      May 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • techguy

      Prove evolution or the big bang? You can't either... 2000 years of consecutive history sure beats xbillion years of complete speculation. Prove it you say... Open your eyes and look around. nothing makes itself. Who made the human body? Who decides a gender of a baby? Where does the wind come from, and where does it stop? and on, and on, and on. How much more proove do you want? If you can't see that, nobody can help you. Go ahead and slander if it makes you feel better. ....Still won't change a thing.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  13. r4bbit

    Ever consider that at one point even before the creation of time that the only thing to exist was existence itself,with an intelligence,and everything came from that intelligence ? That could explain why 'God' would need no creator.We are expanding into / against infinity,and that may be 'God' . My theory.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:27 pm |
  14. c.zion

    where does love come from

    May 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
    • jer

      @c.zion - Love is a drug. It's chemicals influencing your mood.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
    • Stony Stevenson

      "Love originates in the limbic system," -E O Wilson

      May 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
  15. "Atheism is a fairy story invented by people afraid of the dark."

    Hawking has a high IQ, but he leaves much to be desired as a theologian and philosopher. Here are a few examples:

    1. The fear argument is just silly, for it is just as valid to say that people reject spiritualism and the afterlife for fear of divine punishment. Personally, I find the idea of atheism to be very comforting, but I've rejected it as untenable.
    2. Even if Hawking is right that gravity is necessary for spontaneous creation, that doesn't prove it is sufficient for spontaneous creation, for there is no gravity where there is no matter. Where did the initial matter come from that allows for gravity? Hawking would probably answer that it's always existed, but that's just begging the question.
    3. Hawking assumes that the space-time continuum is an inanimate object as opposed to a conscious being. He also assumes that the totality of superstrings in space-time cannot function as a kind of neural network. He may be right in these assumptions, but if he's wrong, the implications are rather obvious and quite stunning. We, and our brains in particular, may be created in the image of our Creator in a way far more profound than previously considered by theologians. What's especially interesting here is that this hypothesis could become a testable theory depending on scientists' ability to come up with a way to interact with superstrings. IOW, science and theology may one day merge – an interesting prospect indeed!

    The hypothesis described above is not yet a belief of mine, but I'm very partial to it. I would appreciate any serious criticisms or modifications to the hypothesis.

    Robert in Israel

    May 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • benny lava

      TL, DR

      May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
  16. Tom Weaver

    It does not matter to me what another MAN says. I have my beliefs and the cripple has his. Although he switches his often. I wonder if Hawkins will change his mind yet again.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • TimP

      The 'cripple' comment was unnecessary especially consdidering the MAN has achieved more than you ever will.

      The ability to change ones mind is the hallmark of a scientist presented with data however on the existence of God, and most things that are not on the fringe of theoretical physics, I have not see Hawkings vascillate at all

      May 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • Castiel

      Jesus sees you using the word 'cripple' with a faint tone of mocking, and He is displeased.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • benny lava

      jeebus hates cripples!

      May 17, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
    • Simplton

      Personally, I LIKE CRIPPLE... tell it like it is! We are so pathetically always trying to avoid the obvious. Sometimes I feel the human race resembles the ostrich with the head in the sand more than the silly metaphor.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed


      May a thousand preists lay their hands upon your genitals.

      You've been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • sam

      @Simplton: okay, okay. Let's 'tell it like it is', then. You're a d1ck.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
  17. NungaBIZ

    God is gnikwaH spelled backwards, or is that Dog, Cat? No, wait, gravity yea man gravity what a drag, its heavy man...

    We know nothing, all this debate is pointless, God does not require your faith to exist and either does the universe, these things exist therefor I am and so are you. They are one and the same and everything is food.

    I am delicious cake... Eat Me.

    (*** the cake is a lie ***)

    May 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Sounds like one too many priests has had his hands in your pants.

      You've been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • NungaBIZ

      Dude, NeverBeenBrainwashed – get a life man, who the hell said anything about YOU wanting to get in little boys pants?

      You really are Tom Cruise aren't you, don't lie Tom... "Mom, Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet!" Everyone "NeverBeenBrainwashed" is really Tom Cruise!!!! Sorry you got defrocked dude.... leave the kids alone!

      Seriously, its something no one will ever take you for....... serious.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
  18. r4bbit

    Personally I think I know their is a God ,but I would never worship or even bow down to a God who would burn something alive.Especially forever.Screw that God ! it`s more than cruel.It would make that God so much more than cruel.I say we burn all the hell burning books ,be cool and make mankind move forward, believers , non-believers the ones who don`t know all alike.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • benny lava


      May 17, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
  19. Rob W

    Hello Mr. Hawkin. Thank you so much for dropping by and offering your insights. I'm sure I speak for all of us here in saying we appreciate your giving an opinion. We'll put it right over here with the others, see…and…if it ever amounts to anything, we'll move it right to the top. OK? Please have a nice day. NEXT…

    May 17, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      You sure told him. He's only one of the smartest men in modern history. What have you accomplished lately?

      You have been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:41 pm |
    • Simplton

      Well I can tell you YOU DON'T SPEAK FOR ME. Live, Love, do your gift while you have it. LIFE, Awesome, Leave your traces of art, good heart, and nurture, but only the pathetic require an after life reward. Seriously, the sooner you get this, the less disappointed you shall be. Go ahead..... argue..... until your body dies and your soul finds????? heaven or hell, ONLY? Really? what if you have other options, what if there are no options.
      Expect the worst, hope for the best. I do not recommend "all in" on the unproven, disappointment can only result, but then, if it all fades to nothing, it doesn't really matter anyway now does it?

      May 17, 2011 at 10:02 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed


      I'll be the first to say it... You've been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
    • Andrew

      Not that I disagree with Hawking, but as far as brilliant minds go, lets not pretend that Hawking is something of an anomaly among physicists. He may be one of our most popular modern physicists, and yes, is smart, but it's not like Hawking is unchallengeable. I mean he does now apparently champion some form of string theory, but that makes string theory no more authoritative over physicists who champion quantum loop gravity. Try not to use him as too large an appeal to authority, it's like when people only seem to know Einstein's name but Fermi, Dirac, Pauli, etc all seem to be mentioned by few, despite being as equally competent. (Especially Dirac... that guy was awesome)

      May 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  20. Sam Branco

    It's not necessary to ask the devil to light the blue torch paper in hell, it's already nice and hot for you there...He's waiting!!

    May 17, 2011 at 9:14 pm |
    • Ceejus the Unleavened Christ

      with a nice cup of hot cocoa, yay.

      May 17, 2011 at 9:35 pm |
    • Ray L

      Another religious moran showing his ignorance, why cant people be logical and accept death for what it is?

      May 17, 2011 at 9:43 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Sam Branco,

      You have been brainwashed.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Mr. Hawkins

      You will be spit out of the universe like a slippery water melon seed through a time warp.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:04 am |
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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.