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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. J Z

    Mathematically proven opposites, opposing forces make up the universe. For example there can be no good with out evil our vice versa. So with that proven fact gives me the fundamental basis that yes there is a heaven and yes there is a hell. So I do believe there is such thing as a spirit. Heaven and hell may not be a tangible place like our spirit but the more we learn about reality and what makes up reality and the different dimensions of it one can suffer in hell or live in Ecstasy and righteousnesses in Heaven. For example dark matter makes up large part of our reality however we cannot see it feel it or touch it but we can prove it is there and it makes up our universe... hence forth our souls are also a part of us just not tangible. The proof is in the pudding and professor Hawking's just might be part of the dark side star wars style General grievous might be Steven in the future http://wallpapergravity.com/wallpapers1/83/83152.jpg 🙂

    May 19, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • Estevan

      You have no understanding of mathematics.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:35 am |
  2. Christian

    So the question is how many of you who believe in Evolution ever read Darwins Theory, and those who are quick to disbelieve the Bible have ever or never studied it. Even the most adamant intelectuals will tell you that you are not well read until you have read and studied the Bible. If for no other reason than to be able to intelligently argue your points of reason. Reason takes us to many places but do you really think that a Rose was an accident? Do you really think that the beauty we see in nature are just rocks? Or did a loving God who wants a personal relationship with you give you his Law to abide by and his world to live in and to enjoy, and to discover through science.

    May 19, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Estevan

      To answer your "question"...

      Just so you know Darwin did not write anything called "Darwin's Theory".

      Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species", "The Descent of Man", and "The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals". He never wrote anything called "Darwin's Theory" so there is no need to capitalize it.

      I "believe" in evolution based on the mountain of credible and testable evidence we have at hand. I have also read all three of Darwin's works I've already mentioned.

      I am not a Christian and think the bible is mostly fiction....especially the god part. I have read and studied (undergrad level – not an expert) several different versions of the bible. I have found no credible or testable evidence to believe in god or the bible.

      I don't think a rose was an accident. Nor do I think id was designed or created. I think the rose is a product of evolution. No...evolution is not "poof!" we accidentally have a rose. Try doing some research.

      I don't think the beauty I see in nature "are just rocks" as you say. But because something is beautiful or majestic doesn't by default mean that it was created by god.

      "Or did a loving God who wants a personal relationship with you give you his Law to abide by and his world to live in and to enjoy, and to discover through science." No. There is NO evidence to support any of those claims you just made.

      May 19, 2011 at 6:53 am |
  3. Efrain Ramirez-Torres

    My post never appeared … believing in God is a matter of choice –it will not take you to heaven nor will it throw you to hell. Doing good deeds to earn heaven or avoiding evil to escape hell is based on selfishness and fear – Where will I go.. I don’t know .. nowhere or somewhere – it really does not matter –
    I want my family and friends and the people I loved to remember me.. maybe when looking at clouds.. I just might become some particle within them.

    http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap110516.html

    May 19, 2011 at 12:07 am |
  4. eric Castello1

    Alright so what i hurt your feelings about stephen hawkings?. The man is gonna die soon, Nobody cares who he is?...
    Do i dis him for being cripple of course not, I just made that remark for fun... And plus some people who are crippled and christian, Either have been content with being that way, Or don't have the faith that god is able...
    I've seen alot of people be healed of major diseses like cancer because of their faith in god, And prayers of the church.
    I myself was in a major car accident, And for the glory of god, I walked out without a scratch, I hit a cherry red porsche and the top was down on it, Me or the man that i hit, Walked out perfect because of the grace and protection of god... So i thank you jesus for who you are, and what you've done!.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
    • greg

      I too was in a car crash with my car left in pieces on the M6 motorway in England. I was pulled out of the car without a scratch. Going by your reckoning, as an atheist, I should be dead. Maybe your god was having a day off.
      Anyway, keep the posts coming, we all enjoy a good laugh.

      May 19, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  5. eric Castello1

    All of you atheist or whatever you are, Think you could just confuse our beliefs with big fancy quantum physics words...
    Thats not gonna change our mind, Neither is throwing mindless insults at us, After jesus said,"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." And he also said that the world will persecute us christians, Just like it persecuted him. So just accept the fact that nothings going to change our faith, And nothing is going to bring us down. The people who call themselves christians and don't do as a child of god should do is not a christian at all... Jesus said again "Not everyone who says 'Lord Lord' Will enter the kingdom of heaven" Its not easy to enter gods kingdom, But the grace of god will abound to those who recieve god with an open heart.

    May 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
  6. Sparki

    It takes just as much faith to believe that everything in this world happened by chance as it does to believe that it was created by some sort of intelligent being. Think of it this way. If you put all the ingredients for a cherry pie in the microwave and put it on high till it explodes, how many attempts will you have to make before you get a perfectly formed cherry pie? Order never comes out of chaos anywhere in this world, yet we are supposed to believe it happened not once but millions of times to get to the point where we are now?

    May 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Estevan

      The only people who say "everything in this world happened by chance" are believers trying to discredit scientists and/or non-believers.

      I have NEVER heard a credible scientist say anything of the sort. Going through physics class and biology class in high school, college, and university I never heard any of the professors state or teach that "everything in this world happened by chance".

      May 19, 2011 at 7:00 am |
  7. eric Castello1

    hmmm stephen hawking doesn't believe in god, and he's in a wheelchair hmm i wonder why hes in a wheelchair.

    maybe cause infused his wrath on him!!!

    May 18, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      eric Castello1 wrote: "stephen hawking doesn't believe in god, and he's in a wheelchair hmm i wonder why hes in a wheelchair. maybe cause infused his wrath on him!!!"

      Are you really that ignorant? What about all these handicapped or crippled people who have been brainwashed into following your religion (whichever religion that happens to be) ?

      May 18, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
  8. Harrystotle

    Uhm... You know Plato worshipped Zeus and the Greek gods, right?

    May 18, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  9. Sean

    God is a lie, an imaginary friend for adults; invented by manipulative yes-men to control the masses for their rulers. And such a powerful tool at doing so, that the belief has carried through the ages. Science continues to disprove all of religion except for the "existence" of an imaginary, unseen, unheard, un-sensed being. How could it? This is coming from a born and raised Catholic – now reformed to think for myself. Grow up believers... stop brainwashing your children and stop wasting our time.

    May 18, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
  10. me

    "Not only does God play dice but... he sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen."
    -Physicist Stephen Hawking

    I guess he'll be retracting that statement

    May 18, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Estevan

      No. He won't. You're missing the rest of the quote.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  11. InTheory

    Mr. Hawking can state what he wants, but since he cannot prove or disprove his statement, it would be classified more as a theory and cannot be classified as fact. So, as a scientist, he is doing his job. Stating theories that fit his experience. Whether you agree with his theory on God is a matter of faith; faith in things happening in a specific order against huge statistical odds with no direction from a higher power or faith that it was guided by a higher power.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  12. Keith

    Mr. Hawking will find Hell and the Lake of Fire to be quite real. Too bad. I hope he sees the Light before it's too late for him. If Hawking is so smart, perhaps he can explain how ufo's (seen on both civilian and military radar simultaneously) have been witnessed going faster than the speed of sound but yet not breaking the sound barrier? Or MAYBE there's things that science CAN'T explain. Yet this man is willing to gamble his eternal soul that there is no God. Doesn't sound so smart to me.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:25 pm |
    • alwaysandforeverbri

      The fact is humans or at least a very large part of them have to believe a maker coincidentally in mans image to conceive of a place like earh, the moom and the heavens. Unfortunately an imagination competeing for resources for long spans of or evolving concepts slowly crept into the human nature of greed, sloth, misery and violence to control populations and the added bonus was religous ferver that crept in like a cobra in the night and has been injecting its poisin for millenia!!!

      May 18, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Keith wrote: "Mr. Hawking will find Hell and the Lake of Fire to be quite real... Doesn't sound so smart to me."

      Given that your parroting of an ancient fairy tale shows your total lack of intelligence, I wouldn't pay any attention to your opinion of someone of Mr. Hawking's stature...

      May 18, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
    • Keith

      praisethelard, then why did you waste your time responding? I don't see you answering the question either, by the way. You just come running to defend your god, Hawking. (Certainly hope he has someone better than you to defend him.)

      May 18, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • SyracuseNZ

      @Keith

      Science may not be able to explain UFOs so far...but that doesn't mean science won't eventually figure it out. Whereas it has been thousands of years and yet not a single person can explain all these gods with a single shred of evidence regarding their existence. The Bible is *not* evidence of anything except that man decided to write a book and forgot to leave it in the FICTION section of the library.

      Keep your faith, because that is really all that you will ever have until you die and become wormfood.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • Keith

      SyracuseNZ, Yes there are many things that science has not yet figured out. My point exactly. You therefore, logically, cannot rule out the possible existence of God can you? To do so is to cover your ears with your hands and say "la la la...I don't hear you". I will offer a possible biblical explanation for them: another dimension, a spiritual one. Wouldn't you want to be sure about your eternal destiny? Dead sure? Because you don't want to be dead wrong.

      May 19, 2011 at 9:59 am |
    • austin

      well i mean that is if u believe in the christian god will he burn. u know there are plenty of other religions that dont have a concept of hell. what if he is buddist or hindu. doesnt have to worry about hell then. guess its all good then.

      May 20, 2011 at 11:04 am |
  13. frank

    Do Christians believe pro wresting is real too?

    May 18, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  14. R Quill

    As a Pastafarian, I can only pray that Dr. Hawking may yet be touched by the creator, and come thus to know the glories that await true believers in the afterlife.

    May 18, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
    • Estevan

      Ramen.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:01 am |
  15. Roelof

    What Moses concerns, geologists seem to found traces of stalls of horses on the exact places the Bible describes. But.. next to this and the Biblecode. That Hawking doesn't believe in a creator is very obvious. I must say that he went a long way with his philosophy on life. Except... it's easy to invalidate his philosophy. Hawking assumes that everything exists out of nothing. Hawkings forget that nothing can't exist without something. Therefor his philosophy is a fairytale on itself. Most people might not understand. But read Plato. He told that ones you know there's a shadow, there must be light. Hawking sees the shadow and therefor everything exist out of that shadow. That's not my truth.

    May 18, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  16. Muneef

    Islam, God and the Shining Light of Love
    God is love," the New Testament teaches, and Muslim theologians would respond, "But of course." The problem is that we are not God. As Jesus said, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God " (Mark 10:18). There is no authentic love but one, that is, God. This is tawhid, the assertion of divine unity that is the foundation of Islamic thought.

    http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=HF1011-4359

    May 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • Roelof

      Islam isn't a religion but a cult. Science in the quran contains the exact same mistakes as old Greek philosophy. Galen for instance on embryology. Sura 23 vers 12 to 14. "allah covered the bones with flesh". .. now the bones grow and are formed within the flesh. Galen wrote the same thing like in the quran only hundreds of years before Muhammed. Copy, copy. Next to this muslims believe in the moongod Hubal. Muhammed wanted a monotheistic 'God' and also preserve his own national believe. Peganism.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
    • Muneef

      Does it matter if a cult or cults within one religion....? Does it matter is bone came first and covered by flesh or flesh came first and then bones come within...? Does it matter whether Galen wrote it first or Muhammed?
      The question here about the existence of God....the existence of a super power that created life and able to take it all with the word of order "Be and it Becomes"....

      May 19, 2011 at 6:38 am |
  17. Muneef

    Worshiping is good but acquiring knowledge is better 
    Superiority of Knowledge Over Devotions  
    The following is excerpted from the book "Reliance of the Traveler." The Classic Manual of Islamic Law 'Umdat al-Salik by Ahmed ibn Naqib al-Misri (d769/1368) English translation by Nuh Ha Mim Keller.
    a2.1 (Nawawi:) Allah Most High says: 

    (1) "Say, 'Are those who know and those who do not know equal?' " (Koran 39:9). 

    (2)  "Only the knowledgeable of His slaves fear Allah" (Koran 35:28). 

    (3) "Allah raises those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge whole degrees" (Koran 58:11). 

    http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IC1105-4657

    May 18, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
  18. TheYoungStephenHawking

    If I hadn’t prayed for young Stephen all those years, he never would have grown up to use the laws of science to prove that God doesn’t exist. Now that’s what I’d call a miracle! http://www.chickengoopforthesoul.com/2011/05/18/the-boy-in-the-wheelchair/

    May 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  19. aaron

    to all christians do not be discouraged with foolish talk science will never disprove God but the second coming of christ will surely prove the existence of God, that will be the glorious day that our lord will share with us and justice will be given to all who have been persecuted because of jesus christ

    May 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
    • Dboy

      Yeah really, why listen to the world's greatest physicist when you can listen to a Christian? I mean, I bet Hawkings had to read a bajillion books to get that smart. Christians only have to read one. Winning!

      May 18, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
    • Starchild

      What I find interesting about people like you is your belief that someone is going to come back and "save" us. Religion was created as a means for describing phenomenon that we didn't have the scientific ability to decipher otherwise. What I find amazing is that these old beliefs are followed to this very day, even though we know concrete things about the world around us. So Hawking comes out with these ideas, some of which are crazy, but he can back them up with hard, honest mathematics (most of the time) to convey them.

      May 18, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
    • Starchild

      I mean, can you imagine any of the so-called miracles that happened back in the day, going on right now? I can picture it right now: "Hey man, what's up? " "Oh, not much...I just spent, like, 40 days out in the desert..." Yeah right. Baloney. Or any of the other miracles that occurred in other religions. I mean, maybe we should all be reading the Inquirer. What about aliens, where do they fit in? 2012, anyone?
      I did not mean to single out Christians, here, or allude to the fact that the author of the post I am replying to is any way a fanatic.
      Just sayin...

      May 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
    • InTheory

      Mr. Hawking cannot definitively prove there is or isn't a God. Therefore, his statement is theory and not fact. Whether there is an afterlife or not will be proven to each of us after each of us die. Where you stand is a matter of where you rest your faith; faith that things happened in a specific order against increasingly, huge statistical odds as evolution occurred with no direction from a higher power or that it occurred at the direction of a higher power.

      May 18, 2011 at 9:58 pm |
    • lulu

      Aaron, I take heart at your faith. Do not let it go and do not be afraid to speak simply and with conviction. Let's remember to witness with our actions, with our lives; because that is what wins people's hearts. My heart is won because of the love of Jesus Christ; let others be won with His love shining in our hearts.

      May 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • DoodleSheep

      Jeebus will save us all! And then the goat lord will come down and eat our brains. Or something like that.

      May 18, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  20. MARITHER

    What if Friedrich Nietzsche has a point? “What if God was not exactly truth, and if this could be proved? And if he was instead the vanity, the desire for power, the ambitions, the fear, and the enraptured and terrified folly of mankind.” 😦

    May 18, 2011 at 7:51 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.