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. Sam

    Congratulations Mr. Hawking. You are guaranteed to not go to a place you don't believe exists. But hopefully, one day you will find the proof you need to believe.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
  2. willxostky274

    Do you believe in heaven because a direct experience in it or because you believe in somebody's words ? Why do you believe in the Bible, given that almost all of the ancient christian books of the first centuries were burned and only survived a few manuiscrtipts, those that were chosen by the old Roman Catholic Hierarchy. ?. What class of people, if any, are the most benefited by the beleif in heaven ?. It is clear that the Catholic Church is the origin of the beleif in heaven because it has been very convenient to it's expantion, and it's very clear that we don't know which is the true message of Jesus, the real prophet. So, the belief in heaven by the non catholic christians that believe in it, is wrong, because they funded it in.false doctrines of the catholic church that were written in the New Testament. For the just mentioned arguments, nobody should have as a sacred guide the New Testament.For other reasons, the Old Testament is highly questionable , too. For the true seekers of the truth, the only real reason by which most of the religious people beleive in what they beleive is that it was inculcated by their parents and early teachers. A Proof of this ?.... Which is the fraction of sons of christins, or whatever religion, that are not of the same religion as their parents ? .... It is not true that as adults we try (very hard) to justify our beliefs ?

    May 17, 2011 at 11:57 pm |
  3. Razor

    Heaven, big-foot, chupacabras, god, vampires, ghosts, hell, saints, devil, golems.... all true. But evolution not, its is a lie.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  4. Great Kids

    Please take a look at this "The Case for a Creator" by Lee Strobel. Watch all 10 parts from YouTube. It shows scientific evidence for an intelligent design vs chance or nothing.


    May 17, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
  5. Nishat Khan

    I believe there is a God, but not in the manner religion presents the Creator. Till the day mankind can give life to a dead human being, I will continue to believe that there is a superpower governing all life. All religions in my opinion are human creations.
    Wonder of there has ever been a test conducted on sperm cells etc to determine if these are embedded with religious identification material. Why does birth then determine religion ?


    May 17, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  6. halihi

    oo.. please don't just say it.. prove it...

    May 17, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
  7. What the Frac

    Theoretical physics Quantum Mechanics? Belief in God, or Lack of God?

    Seems me eveything that everyone is arguing back and forth on Theories? Nothing Proven. Ok we know the Sun his hot...We know space is cold? We assume space is vast and unlimited. No one knows, because we have only been to the Moon? We cant even see whats on the other side of the Moon, and we are led to believe about a black hole Billions of light years away based on a telescope? Has anyone here actually looked thru the telescope?

    There is God, there is no God? Some civilization believed in the Sun God..We see the Sun, so there must be a Sun God.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Yes, indeed, what the frac?

      Yes, we have the telescopes to measure the positions of stars orbiting the supermassive black hole located at the center of our galaxy. Yes we have seen the far side of the moon thanks to satellites that orbit the moon. Yes we know how to measure the temperature of space and that of the sun. You believe in the Bible? Where you there when it was written? Were you there to witness the events that are written on it? Yet you believe it is correct. And because you are not looking through a telescope you deny the facts that astronomers are reporting? Science is based on logic and facts that can be verified and eventually proven. Religion is based on ... fairy tales and hocus pocus.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:56 pm |
  8. fifth horseman

    There's a pile of dirt outside in my backyard right now which is starting to show signs of life. In fact I think I see a nose and arms sprouting.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Ogre

      fifth horseman: "There's a pile of dirt outside in my backyard right now which is starting to show signs of life. In fact I think I see a nose and arms sprouting."

      Grab your notepad and your camera, observe for approximately 3 BILLION years, and get back to us with a full report.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
  9. leo

    I can't imagine a scientist defining the milestones of faith. It is religious.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  10. Sean

    Wow, Hawking, the greatest mind on Earth has just realised something I knew when I was 6.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  11. Raj

    Science believes in what it can see and prove; Nature and GOD are something beyond those...much beyond those for anyone to disprove their existence. If Universe came into existence suddenly, then how Science can justify the existence and creation of Nature, the Planets, the gamut of microorganisms to the complex human beings, males and females, the power to reproduce...I wonder if all these just appeared from nowhere! This itself justifies the presence of GOD!

    May 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  12. Jon

    I'm not surprised Stephen Hawking is so dismissive. The god he postulates is so small that it is a vanishingly small caricature. Rather God actively upholds the whole of creation throughout all phases of its lifecycle. And the gravity, Stephen Hawking finds reassuring, is no more than the expression of one aspect of His activity.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      stephen hawking has one of the highest IQ's in the world and has spent his life studying and researching how the world works and how life was created what is your profession? you spew out words that have no facts or meaning to them do you belive in paganism the worlds oldest religion

      May 17, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  13. Krishna

    For the atheism you are needlessly spewing, surely there will be "no heaven" for you, but what about hell, Mr. Hawking. Are you experiencing it in your present lifelong condition? And would you be experiencing it more after death?

    May 17, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • Ogre


      I smite thou, thou hateful slime.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  14. archie

    "everything came from spontaneous creation" nice try stephen, scientists can't even explain how a human being, being a lump of protein got its extremities moving without getting jacked to an electric plug. they can't even explain how species of earth have diverse features and adaptive survival skills. the guy is bitter he just don't like admitting it. maybe his ancestors were made out of woodchips?

    May 17, 2011 at 11:09 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      electric plug to get the extremities going? last i checked i didnt have to plug myself in do you have any understanding of biology and physics because theres libraries apon libraries of information that explains all that after countless tests and and conferring from thousands of our most brilliant minds in history. mankind is so insignifacant to the rest of the universe who in their right mind could be conceited enough to believe theres a god who created us in his image

      May 17, 2011 at 11:23 pm |

    Revelation 13:5 – 8:

    5. The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies
    and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.

    6. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.

    7. He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.
    And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.

    8. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.

    Right here: On CNN.

    Goodnight ya`all.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
    • Yo

      The bible was written by man to control man, you are quoting fiction. Now what?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm |

      @ yo. I was quoting prophecy.

      Prophecy states that there would come a time were people would speak out blasphemies against God, His Saints and their dwelling place.

      So by every blasphemous word you utter, you and your kind haven prooven prophecy true and fulfilled it.
      And as long as you and yours have prooven prophecy true, it is not fiction anymore, now is it?

      You & your kind who blasphemes, just like the bible said you would, actually prooves prophecy true. The bible said you would blaspheme. And now you have.

      My my, did that backfire for you.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:42 pm |
    • Ogre


      People have been 'blaspheming' one god or another since gods were first invented. Nothing new here. Move along.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
  16. hhindu

    Jesus taught that there is HEAVEN and HELL. Hawking said that there is no heaven. What is left for Hawking? HELL! "Please, Lord Jesus, enlighten Hawking before his death about Your truth, don't let him spent the rest of eternity in tortures after living his 69 years in tortures on earth. Eternall tortures after worldly tortures. Pity on him. Lord!"

    May 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Yo

      Duh....Hell is earth. There is no other hell. You don't even understand your own religion.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
    • hhindu

      YO, be careful with your interpretation; "You don't even understand your own religion." You don't even know my religion, YO! Pity on you.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • kiwilogic

      so what exactly goes to heaven then because your body just decomposes away eternal life would be rather boring if you cant do anything

      May 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm |

      Pity him not, Lord, for he has slandered your holy name and led many to blaspheme against you.

      Nor has he begged your forgiveness Lord, nor renounced his wicked ways.

      For to you alone belongs the honor and the glory Lord, and this man worships a false God named "Science", before you Lord, and has thus broken the 1st commandment of your Covenant.

      Pity him therefor not Lord, but punish him according to your will, as you allready have.
      For the sake of your children Lord, throw him in Gehennah if it be your will.

      For those of us who love you, worship and fear you Lord, cannot stand to hear his blasphemies against your infinitely Holy Name and your infinitely holy dwellingplace.

      If it be thy will to do so, Lord, punish the living daylights out of him..

      Glory be to you: My Lord and Father, in all eternity.


      May 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • larry c. lyons

      Hell would be an eternity with these bible thumpers.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • xcss

      Those words are just metaphor, it signify what we called cause and effect.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  17. NeverBeenBrainwashed

    I've been on this blog for almost 9 hours and have yet to see one person prove that a god exists. I've heard, "you just gotta have faith" about a million times though. Someone explain how millions of species fit on one boat. I've got millions of questions nobody can answer with facts.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:04 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.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • techguy

      You keep saying there is no prove. 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 prove do you want? Don't keep saying there is no prove if you actually just don't want to hear the prove.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:14 pm |
    • techguy

      Perhaps differently 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 fish? Who decides a gender of an animal? Who creates the storms? and on, and on, and on. How much more proove do you want? ....You get the picture!!!

      May 17, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • NeverBeenBrainwashed

      Science has proven evolution.

      Science isn't advanced enough to prove everything yet. Though i'm sure a lot of what you said can be proven in science. Where does wind come from? Seriously? Google it. There's a scientific explanation with proof. Proof is something you don't have about a god.

      I don't go to some building once a week and worship the big bang theory. I don't WORSHIP things that haven't been proven to be true.

      You do worship something that isn't proven true.

      How did millions of species fit on a boat? With enough food to last for a year?

      What makes you right and Muslims wrong? Or Hindu's wrong? Or Buddhists wrong?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • goober

      Prove a negative?

      May 17, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
    • Everyone's been brainwashed

      When I spend more time studying Science, walking the earth and looking at our universe I see myself as this tiny speck of sand. This universe and everything around use is absolutely amazing, from the ability for me to type on this keyboard to the sun rising and the tides of the oceans our world is amazing.

      Put aside the Jesus, Allah, Buddha, Science for a minute and take a look around. All this happened by chance but we cant cure AID's and you think it could all come from nothing? A Creator('s) there was, and if you take anytime to look at it with an open mind I cant see someone not thinking "Who made this all happen".

      It takes faith to believe in everything, faith in the Holy book you read, faith in the Science textbook you read. You have to believe something will happen to test its Laws, you might find out something different but it still took faith

      May 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm |
    • wisdomseeker

      You might wanna try this blog, http://esoriano.wordpress.com/ – it solved my million questions about God's existence and more so, the real purpose of life. Hope you'll find it interesting.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:10 am |
    • techguy

      Well Neverbeenbrainwashed, you can believe in whatever you want (There is no such thing as an atheist or agnostic...we all believe in something...), but as for me, I believe in one creator, one God, one religion, one faith, one redeemer. I would be a hypocrate to say Muslims, or other religions are correct as well. If you really want to know how all those animals fit, go and ask God. Just don't be surprised of the answer you get, because his thoughts are not our thoughts, and as much as the sky is higher than the earth, his thoughts are higher than our thoughts. Why are people so stubborn about saying there is no God. Because God gives resolution, peace, and still provides miracles to those that believe and godless people just can't take that!!! Good night.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:34 am |
  18. hhindu

    Jesus said: "I AM THE TRUTH..." I am waiting for Hawking to say: "I am the truth" before considering to believe Hawking rather than Jesus.

    May 17, 2011 at 11:00 pm |
    • Yo

      So, if Darwin said " this is the truth" you would believe in evolution? Your logic is so limited....

      May 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • hhindu

      YO, you stated IF Darwin said so and so. You argued with a conditional statemetn. You argument is very weak, YO!

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

      Jesus reportedly said via a 3rd party (heresay) "I AM THE TRUTH..."
      Eye witness is one of the least reliable forms of evidence, he just as elikely said "I AM RUTH.." if he even said it or existed at all...

      May 17, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  19. Mighty_Lamp

    I find it funny that most people do not realize that much science is a faith too. A different form of faith than theology, but an "ology" just the same. Truly prove that there is no God...you can't. Likewise, truly prove evolution...you can't. There is no missing link, only belief. Sure there are laws which govern science and formulas, but when you take it to the simplest, purest form...they too are only theories. Is there anything we can measure itself against? It is all belief and faith. One day we will agree to disagree, different strokes for different folks...my choice is what I choose to do and if I'm causing no harm it shouldn't bother you...your choice is what you choose to be and if you're causing no harm then you're allright with me...Lay off the hate people, please.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
    • Yo

      "Truly prove that there is no God...you can't. "

      Yo...now that you made this stupid statement it is now your burden to prove God exists. ....Oh, that's right....you can't....

      May 17, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • FireEyedBoy

      Here's the difference between science and religion:
      Scientific claims can be and are continuously demonstrated and verified. That's what makes it rational belief, as opposed to religion, which is irrational belief, for none of it's claims have ever been demonstrated or verified.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Sepirus

      I think the first statement in this thread is spot on. Science and Religion are two sides of the same coin. Both attempt to explain existence and the Universe and both fall short. Science has laws and principles which can be proven with earthly processes but still at their foundation, many of these laws are not holistically applicable. Take for instances the fact that matter behaves differently at the sub-atomic level and the laws of thermodynamics do not consistently apply there, yet, Scientists will still claim that the law of thermodynamics is absolute. The gaps in scientific research are filled with faith, faith that one day they will be filled by facts and proven, yet at this time, they can't be.

      Religions, in much the same way, attempts to reconcile existence and make an order of it. Religions are beautiful and peaceful things that are used by malicious people for malicious purposes. Shunning all religions for the actions of the few is the true ignorant practice. Furthermore, Yo states Mighty_Lamp is ignorant for his beliefs but by disregarding his beliefs on the face because they fall under the subtext of religion, Yo only proves that he lacks the scientific mind and temperament that is comment implies he supports.

      What started life? What made this grouping of molecules animate and another just sit there. Stephen Hawking can be as smart as he is, but should we really be listening to a person whose life has been so tormented by a horrible condition that would color anyone's thoughts on life for cues on God and Heaven? Stephen Hawking is no angel. He's human like everyone else. Smarter than 99% of people in the world but human, with human emotions. I find it sad that he consistently needs to tell the world that there is no God just because he lacks the ability to believe in anything other than science and math.

      May 17, 2011 at 11:41 pm |
    • Dr. Gilani

      I totally agree with what you say. God is believing in the UNSEEN! the holy books ALL OF THEM have the same message they portray. and if we go back in time, moses and his followers always asked for God to somehow prove his existence but then not believing is choice and believing is mine, its the rite of free will given to us by GOD!

      May 17, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
  20. New york

    Now if he said there was no fried chicken in heaven... then maybe I would beleive him. Heaven is what you make it and hell is what you go through.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • eroel. f

      who cares if heaven exists or not, who of us never felt love for their relatives, spouse, children or some other....mr Stephen Hawking.. lets love one another.., then we could create a real heaven on earth....

      May 17, 2011 at 11:52 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.