home
RSS
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. bmay

    Yet he has complete faith in "Dark Matter" which can be neither seen nor measured. lol.
    Hawking: "But dark matter can be inferred from its impact on the universe."
    May: "And God can't"?

    May 18, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yes, God can't.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  2. RichP, easton, pa

    Maybe there is maybe there is no heaven, maybe there is maybe there is no h3ll, maybe god and the devil do or don't exist. When I had to dispose of unexploded ordnance that had been fired but not gone off I asked myself, did it arm or did it not arm. Can I just walk up to it and carry it to the track for disposal or should I just walk up to it and plant my block of C4 and 2 minute fuse against it without jarring it and then quietly back away to a safe distance after pulling the igniter from 40 feet away. Gotta tell ya, I never just picked one up and carried it, I"m still alive and have all my parts. Maybe there is no heaven or hell, maybe it armed, maybe it didn't. I 'd hate to be wrong so I just live my life and treat it like there is. What you do, I don't care, just don't pick it up when I'm in the blast radius.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
  3. SukkarA

    My take on the whole story of Stephen Hawking disputing God is this:
    I think Stephen Hawking might be one of the greatest minds of our time in his field, physics. But what does he know about theology? metaphysics? what is his experience in religious philosophy? Not everything is physics.

    May 18, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • JohnR

      Hawking is a cosmologist and the origin of the universe is precisely the subject matter of that field.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  4. Frespech

    DanW: All valid questions.If you remove God from your perception then you have to have another conclusion to the beginning of all things. The evidence I get from science is that since we are here and life exists, something must come from nothing. If that is your position then I suggest the evidence for that is not so compelling. The Bible suggests that God is eternal and an abundance of dynamic energy. I accept that. Personally I prefer fish but I am still open to trying and digesting new things.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  5. digirootune

    Just because I believe there is an old man living in outer space whom wants to party with my ghost for forever when I die, does not make me an irrational human being.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm |
  6. John

    I disagree with Prof. Hawking. He is a phenomenal physicist who's added a great deal to our understanding of the observable universe. But, speaking as a scientist: science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of God, Heaven or Hell. These are simply outside the realm of science. I'm a professional scientist and a devout Catholic, and I know many good scientists who are extremely religious. The two are not mutually exclusive.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • JohnR

      Hawking is not just a scientist. He's a cosmologist. Lots of scientists are woefully ignorant of all sciences but their own – and generally they only really know some subspecialty within a specialty within a given field.

      May 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
  7. Peanut Butter Jelly time

    ....I would take what he says with a grain of salt. I mean come on, the guy drools.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
  8. Peanut Butter Jelly time

    Heaven is 'a fairy story,' scientist Stephen Hawking says and PBJT says that Stephen Hawkings is tardersauce. Wonder who is right! Take that Michael Jackson, your game rocks....I love my elite glove.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
  9. Chris

    Hard to comprehend how both the religious and the atheists think in absolutes when it is very clear that both know nothing. By definition, if God creates our universe, we will not be able to prove or disprove anything that's going on outside of this universe. The laws of physics within "the dome" are what they are but they have absolutely no relevance for the creator if he exists. At the same time, claiming to know what God is like and how he would react to topical issues like gay marriage is ludicrous as well...by definition, if he is God, he doesn't think along the lines of a human brain, so we will never be able to understand him. All I am saying is: stick to your knitting and don't opine on stuff that you cannot possibly have any idea of.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • josh

      very well put, no one can know, anything is possible, applying rules and ideas to such a thought is pointless.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
  10. Jason King

    Hawkin's known for his intellect...but what a shame. someone as brilliant as Hawkin denies the existence of God.
    People like Hawkin will spend their entire life to disprove the existence of God but that just tells me that deep within they know God exist. The theory of evolution...which sounds great. So I gues that means we should rescue our ancestors from the zoo? The problem is that men are evil, haters of God. And no man can come to God unless God changes you supernaturally. Sounds foolish? I bet it does

    May 18, 2011 at 1:20 pm |
    • BAH

      Shows that many religious people only take what they want from what they hear. No members in a zoo are our ancestors.... good grief. We may have common ancestors with them, but evolved beside them.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
    • xlion

      The idea that humans evolved from apes is absurd. It's pretty clear, especially from some of the posts on this board, that we de-evolved from them.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
  11. unafy

    There is a God, our body is just the end point of processing life, like cell phone apparatus which process the signal, and there is a life after death as well, if a cell phone apparatus damaged means nothing will happen to the signal. In the same manager if our body damaged nothing will happen to our life, it will just up and running in different body.

    May 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • IanR

      No, it's not. If you want an analogy, it's more like a battery, slowly losing it's charge. Once the battery is drained, it's dead.

      May 19, 2011 at 2:50 am |
  12. xlion

    Debating the existence of god on a message board is like the special olympics. If you think you can win, you're retarded.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
    • redragon

      Best laugh all day.... needed that. Thank you!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
  13. IamJustOne

    Most Holy God, In your great love and compassion, have mercy on Stephen Hawking. Open his eyes God, to see You in the Universe he so admires. Open his eyes God, to see that the heavens declare Your glory and not their own glory. Open his eyes please, God, have mercy on him. Open his ears to hear you in the music he listens to; grant that he would hear more than just the intellect you have gifted him with; grant that he would learn to see that this life is not an end in itself. Have mercy on HIm oh God. Remeber the sacrifice you made in sending Jesus the Messiah, remember the sinless life He led and the pain He bore for all of those who sinned and are so vary far, far away from you, living in darkness, blinded by the false gods of this world and the lying deceiving spirits that say man's reason is all there is in life. Have mercy on Stephen Hawking, God I ask in Jesus name. Let him see you, let him understand your Love, let him see Jesus...

    May 18, 2011 at 12:48 pm |
    • Reality

      The bible is a work of fiction, and not even a very entertaining one.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Jesus

      I would, but he's right...

      May 18, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • redragon

      I think you need to refill your medication.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
    • Jerry

      How is posting a transcript of a one way conversation with your imaginary friend going to help Stephen Hawking?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
    • Icarus Flying High

      ...And the Lord said Go forth and spread my word through thy laptop or desktop computer for it is a magic box that I have sent from the heavens. May your ipod alway retain its charge for it is nothing more than a brick that plays thy favorite tunes. Trust not in the evils of science as it shall only beckon you to learn more about the world thy lives in. Keep thy head buried in thy rectum.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
    • JohnR

      Another hypocrite defying Jesus by praying in public.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:37 pm |
  14. EliteAmericans

    Stephen hawking needs one of these to cheer him up [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMBpy24rr_k&w=640&h=390]

    May 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm |
    • bridgmjm

      Great video! Thanks for sharing.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  15. Frespech

    Therm: Anytime someone uses words like idiot, moron, Rethuglican I know right away they have nothing to add to the conversation. So thank you very much for your nothing added.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm |
  16. Wade

    Read some books by A.C. Grayling. He will explain how to think about
    man's place in the universe.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:35 pm |
  17. Yo

    I don't understand why are we still talking about this. Those who doesn"t believed do not need to try to convince us . I understand you are happy the way you are and that's your choice. Let us be happy and naive, but some times I wondering if all that anger against believers is the inner need to be convince otherwise. We are not trying to convince anybody, the Truth is there for everybody to see and it is your choice to believe or not believe.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • Yo!

      It's because religion tries to influence all of society. It's been an issue with a woman's right to chose, gay marriage, stem cell research, etc...etc...etc. It's when a book of fairy tales that someone believes in stops progress from happening because they are stuck in the past from thousands of years ago. Here watch....both science and psychology has shown people are born gay.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • toxictown

      It would be great if people were forgiving tolerant creatures living in harmony and letting others live as they wish but we are not. That those that say all religions have a common root are correct but that common root is not love, it is intolerance. "I am right and you are wrong!" Humans crave order and power over their environment and their fellow creatures and what better way than to threaten them with unprovable stories and then kill them when the don't acquiesce – because YOU are right an god is on YOUR side. Complete crap.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:14 pm |
    • Jerry

      You might want to look up the word prosthelytizing, and in particular how it applies to religious groups.

      The idea that atheists, especially in America, don't have God forced down their throats at every turn is beyond laughable.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:18 pm |
    • jakob

      Um...we DO need to try to convince you because you are poisoning the minds of our children by telling them that a make-believe sky fairy rules the universe. You are LYING to them.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:53 pm |
  18. xlion

    Why must there be a beginning and an end? Our universe and what comprises it are eternal. It has and will always exist and nobody needed to "create" it. The big bang may have shaped it as it exists today, but after it collapses on itself billions and billions of years from now, it will still exist in another form, an possible another big bang will reshape another universe. It's eternal, and sadly it seems we can not even imagine what eternal means, unless it's the false promise of eternal life.

    May 18, 2011 at 12:32 pm |
    • John

      Actually, the current picture shows that the universe likely won't collapse back on itself. The amount of mass-energy in the universe is a couple magnitudes too low to allow for the "Big Crunch" scenario. In fact, it appears that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, because of something called dark energy. The universe will not collapse rather it will suffer what is called an entropy death, this is discussed by Prof. Kip Thorne and Prof. Michiu Kaku, in their respective books.

      It is hard to say that the universe "existed" prior to the Big Bang, because that even created both space and time, meaning that nothing existed, that the universe (all space and time and existence) sprang from nothing. The idea of the "infinite" universe has not been an accepted idea for quite some time.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
    • SukkarA

      Your post reminded me of a verse in Quran(Quran 21:104: "On that Day We shall roll up the Sky as written scrolls are rolled up. Then, just as We initiated the first creation, We shall produce a new one (a new Universe). This is a promise binding upon Us. For, We are Able to do all things.") Compatible?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm |
    • SukkarA

      Actually John, last finding is a theory that the universe will collapse, but it will be recreated another universe, another big bang. http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-11-scientists-glimpse-universe-big.html This is my source if you wanna check it. Have a nice day.

      May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
  19. esailor

    One day a man told Padre Pio (a Saint) that he did not believe in hell. Padre Pio responded "You will when you get there!"

    May 18, 2011 at 12:27 pm |
    • Eggs Benedict

      Do you realize how dumb your post is? Padre Pio a saint? And who, pray tell decided that?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:43 pm |
    • Here Endeth the Story

      Hmm....no epilogue? No post card from hell?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm |
  20. ADAM LESTER ELLIOTT

    GENESIS 1:1 " IN THE BEGINNING GOD, CREATED THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH. : 2 "THE EARTH WAS WITHOUT FORM, AND VOID; AND DARKNESS WAS ON THE FACE OF THE DEEP. AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD WAS HOVERING OVER THE FACE OF THE WATERS". :3" THEN GOD SAID, "LET THERE BE LIGHT"; AND THERE WAS LIGHT." :4 " AND GOD SAW THE LIGHT, THAT IT WAS GOOD, AND GOD DIVIDED THE LIGHT FROM THE DARKNESS. : 5" GOD CALLED THE LIGHT DAY, AND THE DARKNESS NIGHT. SO THE EVENING AND THE MORNING WERE THE FIRST DAY. :6 THEN GOD SAID, " LET THERE BE A FIRMAMENT IN THE MIDST OF THE WATERS, AND LEET IT DIVIDE THE WATERS. :7" THUS GOD GOD MADE THE FIRMAMENT \, AND DIVIDED THE WATERS WHICH WERE UNDER THE FIRMAMENT FROM THE WATERS WHICH WERE ABOVE THE FIRMAMENT; AND IT WAS SO". :8" AND GOD CALLED FIRMAMENT HEAVEN. SO THE EVENING AND THE MORNING THE SECOND DAY." IN RETOPECT HEAVEN IS NOT A FAIRY TALE U JUST NEED JESUS TO OPEN YOUR HEARTS AND NOT ON YOUR OWN UNDERESTANDING. U NED TO GO TO CHURCH AND GET SAVED BE YOUR ULTIMATE JUDGEMENT IS UPON YOU DR. STEPHENE HAWKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 12:18 pm |
    • jesus

      lolz my child.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm |
    • Reality

      You are an idiot.

      May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • ADAM LESTER ELLIOTT, GET SAVED FROM CAPS LOCK!!!

      NOW!!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • redragon

      Shhhh!!

      May 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • toxictown

      There's one born every minute.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
    • David

      Hawking siad he doesn't believe in heaven not that he doesn't beleive in a god.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Jerry

      The Caps Lock button is on the left of your keyboard. Just above Shift.

      May 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm |
    • Icarus Flying High

      Adam, you're spewing quotes from a book that was written in a language you don't understand in a time before modern science existed. People didnt know what an atom was or how to diagnose mental illnesses, or what the path of the planets in our solar system, etc. Your religion is nothing more than a function of where you were born and what stories you were told growing up. All religions in general are delusions of epic proportions when you consider our place in the universe. We sit on a speck of dust called the Earth that revolves around an insignificant star that allows life to exist on our planet. Our Sun is one star out of about 200 billion stars that make up our Milkyway Galaxy which is no more or less special than any other galaxy scientists have discovered hurling through a vast unimaginably large expanse of space that we call the Universe (which is about 99% empty space by the way). Your telling me, that given these FACTS that we know are true, a magic being called God chose to suspend the laws of physics and human biology about 2000 years ago to let us know he's here and never hear from him again or find any signs of his existance in the know Universe exept that book that you keep pulling nonsense quotes from?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
    • Eggs Benedict

      Dumb, dumb dumb......evern more dumb than Adam Lester Elliott !!!!!!!!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • Michael

      You do realize the bible was written by men? Why if God is all powerful does he/she/it need middle men to spread he/she/it's word?

      May 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • jakob

      @David: Hawking has said that God is not necessary. Hence God is not necessary. Hence his 'existence' is predicated upon the delusions of the masses. God does not exist. Unfortunately it cannot be proven because once your light goes out there is no "I told you so."

      May 18, 2011 at 1:49 pm |
    • yourface

      baloni

      May 18, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76
Advertisement
About this blog

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.