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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. Mary J

    I think it's time for some humor. Epic Rap Battles of History: Albert Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking. BEGIN!

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn7-fVtT16k&w=640&h=360]

    May 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
  2. Karin

    The irony of reading some of these comments is that religious individuals hold their religious beliefs by (faith) alone. They feel they have an edge over an absolutely brilliant mind such as Hawkings. They don't harness any facts or evidence of any kind. Yet they have the gull to call Hawkings names because he denounces their god. For 2600 years there has not been one grain of evidence in regards to the Christian god or, any god for that matter. Time to give it a rest and grasp better logic. Otherwise, you are just a intellectual cop out.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm |
  3. Mikola

    Mr. Hawking is a man of faith. He must be to trust that the universe sprang up from nothing to form complex organisms. Why is faith in God so vilified when Hawking asks us to trust that we were created by a lot of really good luck? I understand he is a devout athiest, but his logic is foolishness.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Mikola wrote: "I understand he is a devout athiest, but his logic is foolishness."

      And your logic is, I suppose sound? Only according to those whose brains have been fried by organized religion...

      May 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
  4. Paul

    Follow any line of rational thought regarding religion and you inevitably come at a dead end. Religion is fundamentally irrational and contradictory to human observation. To remain religious you need to discount the plainly visible as a lie in favor of what's written in some doctrine (provided to you by a human). Literally every argument I've heard from religious type eventually boils down to something like "I felt God". There's no way to rationally refute that kind of thing. It's like saying "I feel that there are unicorns in space." I can't exactly go and disprove it because I don't have access to that information.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:47 pm |
  5. Emilio

    Belief in a supreme being seems to be the end result of fear and the inability to come to terms with the harsh reality of our condition. Ultimately our species will become extinct, and as hard the realization of that outcome might be for most people it is inevitable. Being the poor custodians of our planet, as we have proven ourselves to be, we have no right to expect more than a couple more centuries before the expected serious decline in the human population sets in. So, enjoy the time your 'god' has apportioned you, whether that god is your money or some nebulous cloud-being.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
  6. Andrea

    I just think he is the cutest thing in his chair. I love that he is exploring spirituality from a scientific perspective. Pity his observance of the laws of the universe is not drawing him closer to the ultimate lawgiver and greatest scientist, mathematician and physicist of all..God. I'm so proud of the Almighty..his wisdom defies the "foolishness of man".

    May 17, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  7. Karin

    Best Answer: I don't know where or how it all started.

    What we certainly do know is that a god and/or gods are mythological characters which were created by man. None of which ever materialize or have a speck of evidential data outside of their own self-professed literature that were created by the minds of man.

    What we are left with are millions of individuals worshiping non-existent gods. And, me scratching my head!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 10:38 pm |
  8. ben w.

    Stephen, you may be a brilliant scientist, but your are a terrible philosopher. ("God doesn't exist because creation doesn't require Him") All my fellow readers certainly realize that he has absolutely no basis for speaking about the presence or absence of an after-life AS A SCIENTIST, right? Stephen has stepped way beyond his pay-grade.

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

    His brain is so infestismally small, yesy it is a computer.
    The Lord's ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts.
    Wake up you feeble nut.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
    • Jr

      Christ is gay and I would put a rod in his butt hole for fun.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  10. NungaBIZ

    NeverBeenBrainwashed – Brain = NeverBeenwashed = The ANTI-CHRIST, "Burn the witch!"

    "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries..." "Cabbages, knickers, It hasn't got A BEAK! "
    "Goodness is something to be chosen. When a man cannot choose he ceases to be a man."

    "You've been brain washed".... Nope, it just won't work.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • valvarez1080

      You said ANTI-CHRIST, we always see 666 as ANTI-CHRIST mark, but when book of apocalypses was written arabic numbers did not exists. In roman numbers 666 is DCLXVI.
      DC = 600 and it is obvious what it means (The place where ANTI-CHRIST is or will be.
      I do not know yet explanation for LX and VI

      May 17, 2011 at 10:53 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      You're not just brainwashed. You're completely crazy. Well, I guess you have to be a little crazy to believe in religion.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  11. A O Yakubu

    I am an African and to an African illiterate villager all of Hawkins knowledge and exploits in the field of physics, though very real, is nothing but a myth. I mean his scientific books and papers that has brought him so much recognition means nothing to the villager because he does not have the substance to relate the the wonderful works of Hawkins.In the same token, the wonderful works and word of God will remain a myth to all those who lack the substance of faith. So it safe to say that your beloved and very erudite Hawkins is an illiterate in the things of the living God because these things are first spiritual. And I am sure you know the fate of illiterates anywhere in existence, they are poor and remain miserable even in the face of plenty

    May 17, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  12. thegadfly

    I am so disappointed that Mr. Hawking has not embraced the noodley appendage of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. In his arrogance, Mr. Hawking has failed to understand mankind's true place within the Holy Sauce.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:09 pm |
    • Epicurian

      3

      " Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able, and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God. "
      -EPICURUS-

      May 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
    • JAberg123

      He needs to be washed in the marinara sauce of the most noodly one.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
  13. Sasoun

    Here comes the old fart again. Who is asking your opinion old chap?

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

      I am. I enjoyed hearing it, and I hereby happily take on the responsibility of asking Stephen Hawking to continue saying things.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
  14. c.zion

    is he certified to give an expert opinion on matters that are beyond his comprehension, or is he another self promoting pompus englishman from a bankrupt country .

    May 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      c.zion wrote: "is he certified to give an expert opinion on matters that are beyond his comprehension, or is he another self promoting pompus englishman from a bankrupt country ."

      I'd say he's more than certified to give expert opinions on any subject he deems to be within his purview... I've never found his work to be pompous in any way shape or form, but given that you certainly sound certifiable, I was wondering about your expertise in these matters...

      May 17, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  15. Cathy

    This is the same guy, incidentally, who is on record as saying he's convinced of the existence of aliens...

    May 17, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • Bernard

      Your point?

      To say that the perfect being is a bi-polar schitzophrenic man who created the source of evil in the first place is rational but to say that in the billions of galaxies in existence and the billions of planets per galaxy that more than just ours has the potential to house life is crazy?

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

      Cathy, you deeply misunderstand our universe. You have no idea how big it is, probably because the only book you've ever read is a 2,000 year old text written by cave people. The sheer mathematics of it, the sheer SIZE of the entire universe makes it much, much more likely that other life forms do exist. "Aliens" doesn't have to mean little green men. Your brain is puny.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
    • Cathy

      Ah, well, Bernard and Jr. I guess you're in the little green men camp. And far be it from me to attempt to divest you of that belief so clearly and firmly grounded in the wealth of hard evidence. Carry on, then.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
    • Mighty_Lamp

      @ Jr...you were doing good up until the "your brain is puny" part...that is the purest form of ignorance we, as humans, can impart on others...I was liking what you said about the fact that we don't know how big the universe is, and I also agree that most people have a limited definition of what they want to call an "alien". However, to finish your remark with such a juvenial comment, destroys the intergrity of anything you had hoped to say.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Cathy

      Well, to be honest, Might_Lamp, Jr lost me with his 2,000 year-old cavemen...

      May 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
  16. Elvis

    i wonder if he thinks that because of his struggles here on earth

    May 17, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • AmazingSteve

      Try actually reading the story, you twit. For example, this quote:

      "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."

      That's not what someone who is bitter and "struggling" says. Those are the words of a man who loves his life, and who wants to enjoy every last second of it. Not all of us are so small-minded that we need to believe fairy-tales to be happy.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:35 pm |
  17. Kian

    Everyone should have the liberty and freedom to discover the existence of "heaven" and "GOD" per say. 'Most' of the Buddhist understood that heaven exists but is just another realm of existence. Demi-gods exist but none are responsible per say for the ultimate creation of earth and what is inside. This is inline with a human (not a god) explanation 3500 years ago, which strangely carries alot of ideas which is proven to be correct today. In short, it takes some experience and reasoning to accept this way of life (it is not a religion).
    Whether Dr. Hawkings idea is right or wrong, it does not matter if all christians, muslims, others and 'those who can think' live with compassion, care, love and less selfish to all things besides them (yes..including the environment). When someone once mentioned that the world is round, he was as well considered mad. in due time, it will all fall in place- as in all things in life.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • Kian

      Accordingly...Demi-gods (not the creators) took pity on humans (getting abusive and destructive) were obviusly lacking in discipline and law to live. Subsequently, they used a messenger to spread 'the way of life should be'. However, it would not have worked if it is not mentioned from GOD – the ultimate creator. Just like a parent-child thing. A white lie that brings a lot more good than harm is acceptable. Dont you think? we do that all the time.
      The law of physics is very relative. It is proven already black holes exist and they do not follow the law of nature as we know it. So.....maybe....we should leave a small room for considerations...

      May 17, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Kian

      last but not least, humans should be grateful (I am) of all the various 'religious' teachings that was attempted to 'help' human live better. Unfortunately..we are still killing each other and everything else today.
      The buddhist believed the collective energy drove our very desire to exist and differentiate. the key word is collective and so it is a complex and deep equation. It is believed that if the collective energy were to turn around towards unification (meaning accepting and loving everything in the universe), the resulting energy will reveal the 'GOD' which we are all trying to go back to-regardless of your vehicle. In short there is still more work to be done with 'the man in the mirror' -.whatever your vehicle.
      (last post)

      May 17, 2011 at 10:49 pm |
  18. Wade

    Mr. Hawking is correct. There is no after life. Wake up people!

    May 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • techguy

      Yup, valid point. 2000 years of consecutive history vs. the Big Bang xbillion years ago. Bib Bang must be correct. As you said, wake up...

      May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
    • Epicurian

      Exactly!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  19. Elvis

    if that's the case then who or what made the "Spontaneous creation" happen? There has to be something that set it in motion so there has to be a god.

    May 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Following your logic, doofus, who created god?

      May 17, 2011 at 10:11 pm |
    • Epicurian

      2

      " Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able, and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God. "
      -EPICURUS-

      May 17, 2011 at 10:27 pm |
    • Rizal Mercado

      @ TOM, TOM,
      Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? ROMANS 9:20

      If you believe no one above you, who do you follow? if there is no God, anyone can do evil things, a company has rules and regulations to follow. if there is no God there is no rule to follow. The world will be in chaos! everybody can commit sins, adultery, killings, and all evil things man can do. because there is no God in them.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  20. paul

    @ Riely, check it out for yourself.Abraham BELIEVED God, he left Haran, and stepped out on FAITH. and God counted his Faith as righteousness. Grace through faith are ye saved. It is the GIFT OF GOD.Why am i wasting my time sweet Jesus,and why are non-believers on a site called BELIEF!

    May 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Epicurian

      1

      " Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
      Then he is not omnipotent.
      Is he able, but not willing?
      Then he is malevolent.
      Is he both able, and willing?
      Then whence cometh evil?
      Is he neither able nor willing?
      Then why call him God. "
      -EPICURUS-

      May 17, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
    • Rizal Mercado

      I wonder why mr. hawkins having this kind of illness. God gave it to him as punishment. Imagine a person believing the people that there is no GOD and No Heaven.

      The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good PSALM 14:1

      A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. PSALM 92:6

      May 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • Rizal Mercado

      Im asking mr. hawkins who made and designed the human brain which the scientist cannot make an exact copy of it, even plants and flowers. the structure and the design of all living things of all in its kind. who made them? there should be a great creator.. great designer who made all this living things on earth. I don't believe all things we see we smell and we eat comes out of nothing.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
    • robert

      What you believe is irrelevant. Science is not about belief, it is about proof. If you want to be delusional because you lack the intellectual capacity to understand natural laws or because you are too emotionally fragile to accept reality that is your problem, but it doesn't change the facts. Religion has had many thousands of years to prove their hypothesis. They failed. It is that simple. Grow up.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
    • Andrew

      Rizal Mercado, Hawking has lived longer with this disease than should be physically possible, and in fact perhaps the reason why he went so far in the world of science rather than other interests was BECAUSE he had the disease. ALS crippled his body, but left his mind perfectly intact, meaning all Hawking really is capable of doing is thinking. He dove into the world of theoretical physics, and as seems to be par for scientists, the further into science you go, the less religious you become. Not all scientists are atheists, but certainly a much higher percentage of scientists are atheist compared to the normal populace. This disease was perhaps (it could be argued) one of the greatest things that could have happened to Hawking, it gave him the freedom to do nothing but his passion, thinking.

      May 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Rizal Mercado

      Mr. Robert, Referring to the bible itself and the prophecy written on it has never been failed its fulfilled.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • Yo

      "Referring to the bible itself and the prophecy written on it has never been failed its fulfilled."

      No it's not it's a work of fiction that weak minded people follow so thte gov't that controls it controls those men. Prove the fulfillment.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:10 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.