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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. vdlf9b

    Do you believe in heaven? http://www.pollfest.com/Default.aspx?g=posts&t=255

    May 18, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  2. Christina

    Athiests are just as bad as the extreme Christians, extreme Muslims and extreme any religion. I would never take anyone's desire to believe in what they want but jeez, shut up already.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  3. Shane

    People say that they don't know if there is a heaven. You also don't know if there isn't one. Think about it.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Nonimus

      "People say that they don't know if there is a[n invisible pink unicorn]. You also don't know if there isn't one. Think about it."

      May 18, 2011 at 11:49 am |
  4. Roelof

    That Hawking doesn't believe in a creator is very clear. But his philosophy on existance is easy to invalidate. Hawking claimes that all existance comes out of nothing. But nothing can only exist with something. So goodbye Hawking philosophy there and seems to be a fairytale on itself. That rests the question, what is the reason of our existance? For most people that is Love or God. Next thing is when we want a lovely world, people need to believe in love. Faith – action – result!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:09 am |
    • JohnR

      "But nothing can only exist with something" Do you have any idea how stupid you and your "easy refutation" sound?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • Chris

      So who/what created your god then?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Estevan

      Good logic Roelof!

      I think you should debate Hawking in a public debate and tear him down in front of the masses! I am sure one of the greatest minds alive could never rival your simple yet powerful refutation.

      *snicker*

      May 19, 2011 at 7:20 am |
  5. Mad Cow

    when one person suffers from a delusion it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called religion

    May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Chris

      well said.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |
  6. May the force be with you

    So do all you atheists believe in alien life as Hawking does? I suppose you must. Since this great coincidence called life can happen here, it can happen anywhere time and time again throughout the galaxy. Now we're talking fairy tale, it's called Star Wars. Wait a sec, there is an unseen supernatural force there. Pick a side, there are supernatural forces or there are not. Can't have it both ways.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Nonimus

      Apparently, you are confusing fiction with reality, yet again. 'Star Wars' is fiction, biology and evolution are reality. Believing in extraterrestrial life and thinking that it is far more likely to exist somewhere than not, are two different things.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  7. Idolater

    Santa Claus, Easter bunny, God, tooth fairy.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:29 am |
    • Chris

      not necessarily in that order. haha

      May 18, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  8. catwill

    I know that there is something in the universe that created this wonder called life but I must confess that I do not know what it is. I have a scientific background and we always look for the proof that we can quantify. Heaven is like a fairytale because no one has seen it and can show us it is there and it is based mostly on belief. Spirituality defines my belief.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  9. Tiredoftheologicalnonsense

    How many terrorists in the world are religious (Cristian, Muslim, Jewish)? How many atheists are terrorists? hmmmmm what do we see wrong here. quit trying to force your faith and OPINION on everyone.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Chris

      Completely agree. I think southern baptists should be classified as terrorists. They say one thing, do another and try to tell you why you are wrong for not agreeing with them. Then they use churches as propaganda machines to spread anti-govt stuff because deep down they're all just racists who don't believe that women should have the right to an abortion. All under the guise of the lord. Mindless fools if you ask me.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  10. Charles

    All is vanity. Of all the concepts Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins can visualize there is one beyond their comprehension. And that is the possibility of a force outside the universe who is smarter than they are.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  11. PatrickJSpears

    I was forced to attend church as a child every Wednesday and twice on Sunday's, when I turned 12 yrs. old I refused to go to chuch ever again.
    The amount of bigotry and hypocrisy these so called CHRISTIANS spewed from their mouths was sickening. I don't believe in GOD, and if there is a god that would allow his believers to do the atrocities claimed in his name I certainly wouldn't worship him…

    May 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
  12. HeBelievesInYou

    Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools – Romans 1:22

    May 18, 2011 at 10:03 am |
    • therm

      That's exactly how the non-delusional people feel about you.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:34 am |
    • HeBelievesInYou

      If I'm wrong, I'll end up dead in the ground. No harm done. If I'm right, I'll spend eternity in heaven. Awesome!
      If you're right, you'll end up dead in the ground. No harm done. If you're wrong, you'll spend eternity in hell. Your choice!

      If you don't already, I suggest you play the stock market because you a huge risk taker.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
  13. Frank

    OK, first of all, you could put a pair of glasses on a Segway and create your own Steven Hawking and second of all, I'd give him $100 if he said: "Luke, I am your father."

    May 18, 2011 at 9:51 am |
  14. Eric

    Reading these comments is proof alone that there is no God or heaven and is a ringing indictment of the spitefulness that disguises itself as religious "love."

    Remember folks–faith can never be a source of Truth. It might make you feel better and fuzzy inside. But feelings are not truth. Hawking is a man of science. Knowledge and truth are reached through observation and PROOF.

    Its not an accident that religion is often the enemy of science. How many of you would have just accepted the medieval Church's doctrine that the Earth was flat and the center of the universe? A lot I bet.

    Don't be sheep...think for yourself...and dont be so arrogant as to think that your supernatural beliefs set the limit on knowledge and truth.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:50 am |
    • Frespech

      Nobody including Hawkins has ever noticed spontaneous life- comming into existence. Life comes from life. Scientifically an observable fact. For all you Science die hards and blow hards.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • therm

      Oh, yeah, and how many years have you spent observing now, Frespech? The tiny fragment of brain you have lodged in your skull concludes that because you didn't see it, it didn't happen. What an idiot.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Nonimus

      @Fresspech,
      Based on what you're saying, "life only comes from life," then God obviously couldn't have created Adam from clay, could he?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  15. Greg

    Hey look- 2 additional comments spontaneously appeared above .....

    May 18, 2011 at 9:21 am |
  16. fereshteh

    hi ,you are one of the best scientist in this days. i am om of iranian people . our poet said: kodam dane foro raft dar zamin kh narost chera be daneye ensanat in gaman bashad?.that's mean :which seed lie in the soil that did'nt grow again .why do you think about human the best exiting in the world. i know the life after this life is'nt a story ,beacuse the die is'nt the end .it's a stating again. it's true .you know it .i believe

    May 18, 2011 at 8:56 am |
  17. Neoatheist

    Reading these comments, I can't help but feel sad for all of you that believe that lacking belief in a god is akin to rejecting him. When you say that we reject god, you imply that there is obviously a god and we simply choose to turn a blind eye to him. That is false. We honestly don't believe that your god exists. It's not that we chose to believe this. We could not choose to believe this any more than we could choose to believe that people exist. The fact of the matter is that there is no empirical evidence for the existence of your god. Thus you are forced to either take it on faith or not. The problem with that is that not everyone is wired to be able to take something like this on faith. Many of us completely reject the very concept of faith as a means of determining reality. Why do we do this? We do this because no where else is it acceptable to believe something based upon its lack of evidence. We are in fact taught to make determinations based upon whatever evidence we have available. For the concept of a god, what evidence should you expect to find for its nonexistence? None. And low and behold, that is exactly what we find. If you can't see how this makes sense, then I'm afraid that it is more attributed to your own predisposition to believe (based upon your indoctrination) than it is by my failure to make logical sense.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:35 am |
    • Mehgann

      I, for one, agree wholeheartedly with everything you have said. I hope there is a god! But I can't blindly follow what I was taught by my parents for the first 18 years of my life just because they say it's true. They've been wrong before...

      May 18, 2011 at 9:09 am |
    • shantel

      it is quite unfortunate to know that people still don't believe in God despite all the evidence around us. these scientists who propagate these various theories don't know where they'll be after death. they only tell us their present but not their end. i only hope the holy spirit visits you and reveals himself to you. there's a life after death- eternity or damnation. look at all the goings-on now in the world; revolutions, wars and deaths. God help us

      May 18, 2011 at 9:55 am |
    • gozer

      Shantal, present even one piece of valid evidence. So far no one else has ever done that, so good fscking luck.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • getreal

      Amen!

      May 18, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Guest

      Thanks very much for your thoughtful post. While I hedge my bets and remain agnostic, rather than athiest, the fact that others are so intolerant of your view is sad and pathetic. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want, but they should not force those beliefs on others and indeed, should examine such beliefs in light of empirical evidence, of which there is zilch for the Bible and other religious texts.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Neoatheist

      Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive. In fact I am technically both.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • Chris

      Shantel....if you look around the world at the wars going on you'll find that pretty much ALL of them are created or continued based on religious beliefs. Do you think your god would want that? Is Judaism wrong vs Christianity? One of them is 100% wrong if one is 100% right, correct? Jesus can't be a regular ole dude as well as the son of god, can he? Where does that leave Mormons? Muslims? PLEASE....explain your way out of that.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:15 am |
    • therm

      "Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want" This is one of the scariest statements I have ever heard. Hitler believed the Germans were the superior race, David Koresh believed he was jebus, Scientology believes it knows the past history of the galaxy, and Osama bin Laden believed that Islame is the only true religion. If someone believed that killing abortion doctors is right, does that make it so? People may have the right to believe whatever they want IN THEIR HEADS, but once it manifests itself in the real world, many of those beliefs need to be exterminated. In my opinion, anything that cannot be proven to be true should not be believed in, starting with religion.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:24 am |
  18. Paula

    This is great, an inteligent nut spoke something what he feels logical to his brain and somany nuts retaliating with all the words in their vocabulary. amasing why you people don't know to spread words of love instead of the intelectual stupidity.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:30 am |
    • Ron

      Paula,
      Your comments will be 100 percent clearer and you will create a better impression if you will proofread your note before pushing "post."

      May 18, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Chris

      "Intelligent nut" and "spreading love" contradict each other. Typical brainwashed baptist. (am i right?)

      May 18, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • therm

      Well, Paula, seeing that you can't spell very good and your grammar is atrocious, I would think that you are doing your part to support "intelectual stupidity". What's most disturbing though, is that you think that Stephen Hawking speaks things that feel "logical" to him, as if there is no basis in fact. Don't you think that there is more to his speech than just logic, like, say, years of college and graduate education, and being one of the sharpest minds in the world today? From your description, someone might think that you feel it's all pure luck, and that anyone could make the same "logical" statements. As you have proved yourself, that is definitely not true.

      This is great, an inteligent nut spoke something what he feels logical to his brain and somany nuts retaliating with all the words in their vocabulary. amasing why you people don't know to spread words of love instead of the intelectual stupidity.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  19. Frespech

    Given the law of gravity( when did it pop into existence and when is the last time you noticed something come into existence from nothing, I for one am getting bored with the so called science hyperbole. Good day and God bless.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:25 am |
    • MuleHead

      Take a basic science class or physics class – or even, do an internet search. But to say just because YOU don't happen to understand how gravity works means that it must be from 'God' is about the dumbest statement i've heard....

      May 18, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Ron

      Frespeech:
      If one can believe in an eternal god, then why can't he believe with equal validity that the building blocks of our universe are eternal? If one counters that those buiiding blocks and everything else must have been caused by a god then that brings up the obvious question: who created this god?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • Chris

      If it had to be god that created gravity then who created god? Go ask your pastor how to respond to that! BTW "faith" is not a valid answer.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:06 am |
    • LB 08

      Question: When is the last time you noticed something come into existence from nothing?
      Answer: Religion.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
    • Roelof

      Faith is a valid answer. Faith causes proof. Most people want to see proof first. For example people can call entrepreneurs a little bit nuts (good nuts), because they believe in a certain goal without proof. By believing, they create proof. Hawking is someone who would blame the unemployment on the employment. Because that all started when someone finally started to do something. The rest became unemployed. Before that the word employment nor the word unemployment existed.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  20. juliusvici

    Just seeing a man with no hope...may he meet Jesus before his end- the Man who died that he might live...

    May 18, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • getreal

      Nothing will ever convince an idiot there is no god.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • IanR

      @juliusvici Nice – that he might live most of his life confined to a wheelchair. Surely if God existed he would heal Pr Hawking of his MN and make a true believer out of him rather than make him suffer. Hawking himself admits that the MN has probably made him a better scientist than if he had not had it, but I would hardly call it a fair bargain. The truth is, when you're gone you're gone – no heaven, paradise, fields of glory or valhalla. I'm sure everyone who has not escaped their childhood brainwashing will disagree, of course, but that's the wonder of the human mind, able to hold different and opposing ideas at the same time. Cognitive dissonance I believe the term is?

      May 18, 2011 at 10:15 am |
    • Roelof

      That Hawking doesn't believe in a creator is very clear. But his philosophy on existance is easy to invalidate. Hawking claimes that all existance comes out of nothing. But nothing can only exist with something. So goodbye Hawking philosophy there and seems to be a fairytale on itself. That rests the question, what is the reason of our existance? For a lot of people that is Love or God. Next thing is when we want a lovely world, people need to believe in love. Faith – action – result!

      May 18, 2011 at 11:16 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.