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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. Menza

    The Big Bang resulted from the last race of sentient beings screwing around with particle accelerators (LHC) trying to define their own existence, then discovering (much to their brief chagrin) that when matter and the anti-matter they whipped up in their experiments meet, they create a new big bang, and it all starts over. DOH!

    May 23, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      lol

      May 24, 2011 at 12:13 am |
  2. christopher

    For the smartest guy on the planet he sure is an idiot. He's got more faith than I do I guess. I can't imagine all of creation just naturally occuring with no creator at all other than itself. That violates the laws of physics right there. How is something set into motion without something to set it into motion. How did gravity come to be in the first place? How do you explain the complexity of the human body or life itself? He basically believes in magic. He is the one that believes the fairy tale not the christians. Christianity is much more logical.

    May 23, 2011 at 8:07 am |
    • oi

      You don't need a god to create gravity.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:02 am |
    • Genny

      Well said, Christopher !!!!!!!!

      May 23, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • MikeHuntEsq

      You do realize that Hawking has addressed every one of your questions in the books he's written, right? Try reading them some time, you might learn something.

      May 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm |
    • Bible Clown

      Wow, most of what you said is a lie. I'm sure "God" is pleased. Believes in magic? Like you don't?

      May 23, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Nightwyn

      MikeHuntEsq –

      Funny isn't it usually Christians telling others to "read the book".... It's just as likely to happen. 🙂

      May 24, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      christopher wrote: "For the smartest guy on the planet he sure is an idiot"

      And this is coming from someone who thinks that "Christianity is much more logical."

      Res ipsa loquitur...

      May 24, 2011 at 12:08 am |
    • Nightwyn

      Chris – I do not share these beliefs either, but calling someone stupid is pointless, and rude. Honestly for someone to value your opinion you have to value theirs.

      May 24, 2011 at 12:16 am |
  3. Marky

    If Stephen Hawking Doesn't believe in the Afterlife why is his favorite show "Ghost Adventures" from Travel Channel!?!!?!

    May 22, 2011 at 10:37 pm |
    • hehe101

      It's a good show. Need I say more?

      May 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  4. Jim

    Faith = Crutch

    May 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  5. Trevor

    Hawking uses the metaphor of a computer and analogizes it to the brain. Granted, that is a very popular metaphor for our times. The truth of the matter, however, is that our brains are nothing like a computer for two fundamental reasons. The first reason is because a brain is conscious – aware of itself – and a computer is not aware of itself. The second reason is because the human brain is soaked with emotions: breathing meaning into our lives and the universe. The metaphor of the computer-brain in all of its glorious silicon, microprocessors, spinning hard drive discs and the like is wrought by a cold, efficient, but nevertheless meaningless design and purpose. Moreover, the presupposition ignores what are arguably some of the most powerful forces in the universe: love, hate, ambition, compassion, jealousy, and happiness.

    One final point before I toss this comment into the oblivion of over 4,000 comments: Isn't gravity created by matter? In other words if no matter exists, then how could there be gravity? Spontaneous creation isn't science, just sophistry. I am more of an agnostic than my criticism probably indicates, but it frustrates me when people stop thinking for themselves and buy into Hawking's nonsense.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      I'll take Hawking's "nonsense" over the nonsense that came from Paul of Tarsus...

      May 22, 2011 at 5:37 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      And I'll take Hawking's nonsense over Trevor's nonsense any day too

      May 22, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • bob

      Actually, I too find his metaphor of the computer amusing. HE says everything came from nothing, that there was no intelligent creator? And yet the computer had to be created by some one, or did it just pop out of thin air too? Isn't it a scientific fact that for there to be an effect there needs to be a cause? Or has that changed. And since when does something organized like the universe have no organizer? Isn't organiztion a sign of an intelligent designer? So smart, yet so much to learn...

      May 22, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • Trevor

      At first I was a little flattered that you even read what I wrote. Honestly, I was just throwing my own two cents in because I finally have the time and opportunity to read about whatever I want. I know this is a colossal waste of time, but I cannot help but poke fun at the irony.
      First, there is "PraiseTheLard," who writes: "I'll take Hawking's "nonsense" over the nonsense that came from Paul of Tarsus..." Next up to bat is Ranzabar, a big hitter, who writes: And I'll take Hawking's nonsense over Trevor's nonsense any day too."
      To Lard: Even if you don't agree with the teachings of Paul, the man left quite a legacy, which is arguably more than I can say for you or I. Don't get me wrong, religious zealots grate on my nerves as well. Countless atrocities have been committed in the name of religion, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Hawking purports that the JCI religions are fairy tales but all he is doing is giving us a new fairy tale of spontaneous creation. This does solve the problem of an infinite regress, but the discussion has moved nowhere. We are still left with the unmoved mover problem, a logical contradiction: the uncaused cause (the uncaused event). That is what I meant by Hawking's "nonsense." Albeit the ruse was clever, but all Hawking did was say, "I don't want God in my theory of the universe, so I am going to have spontaneous creation instead." Essentially, he assumed that spontaneous creation was true and then put a QED at the end of his proof. That's such garbage. He begged the question, and you ate it up Lard.

      Ranzabar: that was actually funny. A friend of mine told me a joke while we were deliriously studying for final exams. It goes like this: Yesterday I went on Google and typed in a search for "Ninjas." The result said, "no ninjas found." I thought, "Well played ninjas. Well played." Sorry I know that's a little off topic but when I read your comment I laughed and thought to myself: well played Ranzabar, well played.

      Thanks again for reading my nonsense. I have to go write some real nonsense now. And don't worry, when Hawking publishes his next book, I'll still buy that one as well.

      May 22, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Trevor

      Yes Bob, I think you're spot on. I am not completely sure that organization necessarily implies an intelligent design as a matter of pure logic. On the other hand, a lot of people would agree with you. I don't remember who said it; maybe David Hume? Anyway, the criticism goes like this: alright so even if I do admit that there is order in the universe, why is it necessary to bring God into the picture. In other words, if you see smoke it is logical to infer that there is a fire but maybe not an explosion. That is definitely the Trev-version of the argument but you get my point. At any rate, I still agree that spontaneous creation is the biggest fairy tale of them all. In the end, if all we have are fairy tales, why can't we at least have a good one?

      May 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Trevor, that you are willing and maybe interested in reading Hawking changes my opinion of your nonsense. I mean it's still nonsense but at least you're willing to do the research ; )

      May 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm |
    • christopher

      An agnostic I can respect. Well said. People tend to take what Hawking says as the gold standard because he's been regarded as one of the smartest people on the planet. That may be true but these are not questions that can be answered by an intelligent mind. These are spiritual questions and he is disconnected completely in that area.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:22 am |
    • Bible Clown

      "it frustrates me when people stop thinking for themselves and buy into Hawking's nonsense." That's some of the ripest crap ever dropped into this website. Trust me, pal, there's a reason why no one has ever called YOU the 'world's smartest man.'

      May 23, 2011 at 3:58 pm |
    • Trevor

      Bible Clown. I think you just proved my point. QED.
      Point. Game. Match.

      May 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
  6. Shm

    It is sad that Hawking is close-minded to creation. I mean seriously, something made from nothing? My house must have got made out of nothing. Another attempt to push God out of the picture. No responsibility or faith.

    May 22, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Since there is no God, he doesn't belong in the picture to begin with

      May 22, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  7. Muneef

    [10:93] We have endowed the Children of Israel with a position of honor, and blessed them with good provisions. Yet, they disputed when this knowledge came to them. Your Lord will judge them on the Day of Resurrection regarding everything they disputed.

    The Messenger's Doubt

    [10:94] If you have any doubt regarding what is revealed to you from your Lord, then ask those who read the previous scripture. Indeed, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Do not be with the doubters.

    [10:95] Nor shall you join those who rejected GOD's revelations, lest you be with the losers.

    [10:96] Surely, those condemned by a decree from your Lord cannot believe.

    [10:97] No matter what kind of proof you show them, (they cannot believe), until they see the painful retribution.

    Believing Nations Prosper
    [10:98] Any community that believes will surely be rewarded for believing. For example, the people of Jonah: when they believed, we relieved the humiliating retribution they had been suffering in this world, and we made them prosperous.

    [10:99] Had your Lord willed, all the people on earth would have believed. Do you want to force the people to become believers?

    The Disbelievers Blocked Out*

    [10:100] No soul can believe except in accordance with GOD's will. For He places a curse upon those who refuse to understand.

    [10:101] Say, "Look at all the signs in the heavens and the earth." All the proofs and all the warnings can never help people who decided to disbelieve.

    [10:102] Can they expect other than the fate of their counterparts in the past? Say, "Just wait, and, along with you, I am also waiting."

    Guaranteed Victory

    [10:103] We ultimately save our messengers and those who believe. It is our immutable law that we save the believers.

    [10:104] Say, "O people, if you have any doubt regarding my religion, I do not worship what you worship beside GOD. I worship GOD alone; the One who will terminate your lives. I am commanded to be a believer."

    [10:105] I was commanded: "Keep yourself devoted to the religion of monotheism; you shall not practice idol worship.

    [10:106] "You shall not worship beside GOD what possesses no power to benefit you or harm you. If you do, you will be a transgressor."

    All Power Belongs To God
    [10:107] If GOD touches you with a hardship, none can relieve it except He. And when He blesses you, no force can prevent His grace. He bestows it upon whomever He chooses from among His servants. He is the Forgiver, Most Merciful.

    [10:108] Proclaim: "O people, the truth has come to you herein from your Lord. Whoever is guided is guided for his own good. And whoever goes astray, goes astray to his own detriment. I am not a guardian over you."

    [10:109] Follow what is revealed to you, and be patient until GOD issues His judgment; He is the best judge.

    May 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Good grief

      May 22, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
  8. Buzzz

    Well he will miss out on all of the world endings such as today. Poor Guy!

    May 22, 2011 at 3:55 am |
  9. Rofl

    What created God...

    May 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Shm

      God is not a creation. That is too hard for our puny human minds to fathom. Ask and ant about the anatomy of the human body. It cannot and is not even aware of humans or of God.

      May 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      God's mommy and daddy

      May 22, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Muneef

      [112:0] In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

      [112:1] Proclaim, "He is the One and only GOD.

      [112:2] "The Absolute GOD.

      [112:3] "Never did He beget. Nor was He begotten.

      [112:4] "None equals Him."

      May 23, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  10. Rofl

    I believe were being controlled like a Sim's game. In another parallel universe or whatever... were just computer pieces being controlled by another world. You get what i'm saying? I mean like we play Sims, so were being played as Sims... Think about it.

    May 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  11. I. Mold

    "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing..."
    God created everything

    Both sound pretty far fetched if you try to think about it with logic instead of emotion. And sound strikingly similar. People argue, get angry, and why? There's no physical proof for either "belief", and until (if ever) there is, it's opinion, faith, whatever; but not established fact. Why care if anyone believes either way, as long as they don't try to force it on you. The scientific side has nothing to lose. The religious side, if correct, has a lot to lose, and I wouldn't blame people for siding with it, but it's their decision and shouldn't be forced on anyone. I suspect we don't know, and never will, exactly how the universe came to be (God may have made it, but again, how?).

    May 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Its slick marketing. What better way to keep your client base numbers up than to brainwash your followers into thinking that they have to go out and convince everyone else of this sick crap.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • christopher

      I agree but at the same time I get sick of of people like Hawking looking down their nose at christians and basically calling them idiots for believing what they believe when if he were honest with himself he really has no clue how the universe came to be. I don't force my beliefs on anyone. I expect the same respect toward my belief but I never get it. i always get attacked by some over educated idiot who thinks they have all the answers. That's basically all stephen Hawking is. He is highly intelligent but he is out of his element on this. I'm not claiming to have any authority on the subject either but I'm willing to admit that. He wants to look like he knows everything regardless and won't ever admit that he doesn't have all the answers.

      May 23, 2011 at 8:27 am |
  12. Crucie Fiction

    The utter nonsense posted in these messages by the sheep of religion speak loudly and tragically to the dangerous mind virus it is.

    Christianity is the belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie, which is his own father, can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master. This is so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in all humanity because a rib-woman was convinced to eat from a magical tree by an infinitely sadistic being disguised as a talking snake with legs.

    This is the ridiculous tripe which stupefies & stultifies the minds of millions of credulous people. They cannot separate it from reality because of the systematic inculcation to which they're subjected as children by adults who were also childhood victims of the same mental abuse. We must shed this ancient and barbaric nonsense created by ignorant desert dwellers who didn't even know what existed over the next mountain, or else the future will see us exterminate ourselves from the planet by religious loonies with access to nukes. Grow up people!

    May 21, 2011 at 1:05 pm |
    • john

      cut n paste much? ive read that EXACT description tons of times. either that or you've memorized it word for word. which is kind of religious

      May 22, 2011 at 4:02 am |
    • neil

      true but those old people were in touch with themselves not with some cool gadgets. no matter how much one thinks it can only give rise to further thoughts and the complexity just will keep increasing. god is an experience not found in thoughts just as the sensation of taste. no matter how much you try to define it with science you cant replace the experience. searching for god outside of you is a good start as that can convince you that you will never find it there. mr. hawking is a very good example. hope these public musings wont hinder his growth when its time for him to make peace with himself and let go of all thoughts.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Yeah Neil. You're right. This guy who can calculate Pi to 34 digits while you struggle with figuring out a tip will finally 'get it' and get over his obsession with having a brain.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm |
  13. Joxer the Mighty

    I kind of pity the guy. He is no different than all the religious fanatics. He can't know for a fact that there isn't a God just like religious fanatics can't know for a fact there is a God. In criticizing the belief in God, he is being just like the religious people in attacking what they don't believe.

    Deist/Agnostic/Unitarian Christian

    May 21, 2011 at 9:05 am |
    • oi

      I think there's a distinction. As you said: Hawking, like religious people in general, can't know for a fact God exists. But the burden of proof isn't on him, it's on the religious people.

      May 23, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  14. N0FixedAddress

    too bad hell isn't

    May 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Adelina

      Hell is a natural destination for humanity, Heaven is exceptional grace of God.

      May 21, 2011 at 4:22 am |
    • Ituri

      Both are fiction. Real people don't exist in fictional places. When you have evidence beyond your fervent personal desire that they exist, let us know.

      May 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  15. Muneef

    The Origin of Man

    [32:7] He is the One who perfected everything He created, and started the creation of the human from clay.

    [32:8] Then He continued his reproduction through a certain lowly liquid.

    [32:9] He shaped him and blew into him from His spirit. And He gave you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brains; rarely are you thankful.
    ------
    [40:15] Possessor of the highest ranks, and Ruler of the whole dominion. He sends inspiration, bearing His commands, to whomever He chooses from among His servants, to warn about the Day of Summoning.

    [40:16] That is the day when everyone will be completely exposed; none of them will hide anything from GOD. To whom belongs all sovereignty on that day? To GOD, the One, the Supreme.

    Prepare for the Big Day

    [40:17] On that day, every soul will be requited for whatever it had earned. There will be no injustice on that day. GOD is most efficient in reckoning.

    No Intercession

    [40:18] Warn them about the imminent day, when the hearts will be terrified, and many will be remorseful. The transgressors will have no friend nor an intercessor to be obeyed.

    [40:19] He is fully aware of what the eyes cannot see, and everything that the minds conceal.
    ------
    Equality of Men and Women
    [33:35] The submitting men, the submitting women, the believing men, the believing women, the obedient men, the obedient women, the truthful men, the truthful women, the steadfast men, the steadfast women, the reverent men, the reverent women, the charitable men, the charitable women, the fasting men, the fasting women, the chaste men, the chaste women, and the men who commemorate GOD frequently, and the commemorating women; GOD has prepared for them forgiveness and a great recompense.
    -----
    [79:40] As for the one who reverenced the majesty of his Lord, and enjoined the self from sinful lusts.

    [79:41] Paradise will be the abode.
    ----
    [89:27] As for you, O content soul.

    [89:28] Return to your Lord, pleased and pleasing.

    [89:29] Welcome into My servants.

    [89:30] Welcome into My Paradise.
    ----

    May 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  16. skytag

    Sorry, a *fairy* story.

    May 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
  17. Jim

    Stephen Hawking is gifted with a brilliant mind. Too bad his arrogance will be his downfall.

    May 20, 2011 at 1:08 am |
    • Amused

      His downfall ?? You mean like contracting a debilitating illness and being stuck in a wheelchair for most of his life? What kind of downfall are you expecting?

      May 20, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • skytag

      What arrogance? Isn't it arrogant to think you have access to privileged information about a God for which there is no evidence?

      May 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Yea, I know. He's arrogant because he doesn't think what you think.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
  18. Marie

    Physics, our existence and the God of the universe cannot be separated. Sound has both particulate and wave properties. When God said, "Let there be light.", there was light because he spoke it into being. If we see ourselves from his point of view, we can see redeemed, accepted and precious loved ones; so priceless that the Lord Jesus committed himself to do whatever it took to prove his love and to prove his Father meant what he said. He lives today. He is supernatural. He is holy and makes all holy who accept him as the risen son of God and the only way to the Father. No works are required. He did the work for us.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
    • @Marie

      The study of physics, as well as every other field of science, has progressed BECAUSE it is separated from the idea of "the God of the universe".

      May 20, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • skytag

      A lot of unsupported claims in an attempt to support another claim proves nothing.

      May 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Alex

      Psuedo-science is not science.

      May 20, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Medication Marie, medication.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  19. Vitus

    There's no God/Gods: This is an irrelevant discussion. We all live life in a natural cycle that ends in a pre-determined time-frame, and formed by natural events that ended-up on the starting of Life and Evolution as we know of, today. As for the initial reason for that, or what the natural end of it will be, only our own scientific reasoning can answer, in a future that none of us will be there to see, so we can only guess and try to contribute for stopping the wars we insist in creating. That future (or Destiny) could well be the destruction of all of what was accomplished so far: The pile of stored radio-atomic particles that already exists and which will take milions of years to become no longer armful for our own survival is here to prove that maybe we don't deserve to exist as a species, never mind create Gods that only serve to appease the masses of our ignorance in their blind beliefs.

    May 19, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • Marie

      Your arguement cannot stand since the evolution theory cannot be proved.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
    • Connie Converse

      Marie, Evolution is just a theory in the same sense that gravity or the Earth orbiting the sun is a theory. Theory is as good as it gets in science, it is not an argument against it. Calling it a theory or a law doesn't really matter. If think that evolution can't be proven, then i suggest you do a little reading on genetics. You probably won't understand it, but its worth a look.

      May 20, 2011 at 2:29 am |
    • neinoC

      Connie... Apes thought that humans are getting ugly and they must live as separate species, do you really believe in that?

      May 20, 2011 at 5:00 am |
    • burns

      More likely we just didn't do it with them because they were in the trees..... in a different forest/jungle. Evolution isn't up for debate amongst reasonable people anymore..... what does that make you?

      Marie, I think you and neinoC are the same person.

      May 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • skytag

      @Marie: Evolution is a verifiable phenomenon. It's why we have antibiotic-resistant bacteria and Roundup-resistent weeds. There are many examples of species evolving over time. What is in dispute is the starting point for evolution.

      May 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • john

      im sorry, but you sound extremely religious

      May 22, 2011 at 3:59 am |
    • Ranzabar

      Sure Marie, believe whatever you want, it's your life. But if you and your Christian dogma-pushers get into my politics or try to coat this country with your crap, Agnostics, Atheists, Jews, Buddists and I dare say Muslims will fight you all the way.

      Christian Taliban is what you are.

      May 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Amen

      May 22, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
  20. Muneef

    Wonder what had Scientist Stephen Hawking to say about this;

    THE LIFE BEYOND THE GRAVE  THE CONDITIONS OF BARZAKH 
    The  interval between death and the Day of Resurrection is called Barzakh in arabic. The literal meaning of Barzakh is  obstruction or barrier. Since this period is a barrier is between this world and the life Hereafter, that is why it called  Barzakh.

    The grave is either the garden of Paradise or the pit of Hell-Fire. O People, make your graves as  gardens of Paradise by doing righteous deeds; and do  not make your graves the pits of Hell-Fire by doing  evil deeds.
    http://www.as-sidq.org/barzakh.html
    A book in PDF you might be interested to read about same subject!!!

    May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • skytag

      He would say it's a fair story.

      May 20, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Ranzabar

      Thank God that Muneef has cracked the mysterious Bulbzak code. What a relief.

      May 22, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Muneef

      Ranzabar.

      Thank you dear you made me smile at hard times as it is here....:SMILE:

      May 24, 2011 at 10:43 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.