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. Homar Shrestha

    No doubt, Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest minds !

    February 8, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  2. Adeel Ahmed

    Ok first thing I wanna ask an atheist.What do they say when they are in dark all alone. "Oh my God" right.We get children,by what? mating right.But the process of baby's birth occurs in itself own?No! we burrow seeds.From whom's will the we get tree.I mean does our power grow it.Take an example of this world.Is the Computer machine build by it own self.Surely not.It is invented by us.What about a human which is far more complex is born on its own.Which looks silly.One part of scientists is so intelligent an the other part so so poor that it could not analyze how he/she came to exist without the impact of other power.Bad things happened to Hawkins that's why he says so.But bad things are not from God.It's satanic work

    February 1, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  3. Chris Parsley

    Stephen is an amazing man, but it is sad not to have any faith whatsoever. I have witnessed signs from God and miraculous things in my life. I just published a book on Amazon this past weekend detailing these signs. The book is called Chris's Crosses, for more information please see > http://www.amazon.com/Chriss-Crosses-ebook/dp/B006RKJM3I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325598765&sr=8-1#_

    January 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  4. sheri inman

    To be so book smart but to be so illiterate of the Bible, so sad. I will pray for you Mr. Hawkins. I sure hope your book doesn't turn people away from the belief in Jesus. Please believe that the Bible is God's word and is our past, present and future.

    December 19, 2011 at 4:13 am |
  5. Anwar Hasaan

    Steven Hawkings is right about information being lost in the black hole, he should not change his mind. The big bang created the universe from nothing. The black hole uncreate back to nothing. What type of scientific proof do any one have that there is a god of creation, we can only believe.

    October 27, 2011 at 12:51 am |
  6. Anwar Hasaan

    Steven Hawkings is right about information being lost in the black hole, he should not change his mind. The big bang created the universe from nothing. The black hole uncreate back to nothing. What type of scientific proof do any one have that there is a god of creation.

    October 20, 2011 at 12:39 am |
  7. Craz3


    September 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  8. nick

    Though Mr. Hawkings is brilliant and heroic, Physics isn't everything. There is more to lfe then just math. If our brains are merely computers, that doesn't seem to be saying much as far as human intelligence The thing is this has become politics
    trying to prove one political ideolgy since science, politics, religion, phillosophy etc... are inter related. To say that Mr. Hawkings has solved the God question just has created more questions.

    September 23, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  9. Tato Sugiarto

    YOUNG CHILDREN CURIOUSITY: "Grandpa, some older people told me that Heaven or Hell do not excist?"
    "Do you believe if they told you that Sweet Dream or Bad Dream do not exist? What is the meaning of exist? Now you have to travel faraway to the North Pole to see a white bear, but in the afterlife the White Bear and the North Pole suddenly come present in your super consciousness! You should compare it with a computer “Virtual Reality”, please, just try exercising with it. I hope you will understand in the future, so be a smart boy?"

    September 11, 2011 at 10:27 am |
  10. Justinstl

    Comet Elenin's magnetic field has reached the Earth....triggering volcanoes Earth quakes drought and many dissasters over the past few weeks. These dissasters WILL increase in magnitude as it nears us and passes us by . On the dates of September 24th ,25th, and 26th It will pass between the Earth and the sun and will block out much light causeing three days of darkness (just as said in the christian bible marking the near end times). On October 17 it will be at its closes point to the Earth and its effects will be the strongest...It will then be on its way away from us...But then ...on November third the Earth WILL pass through the trailing tail of this comet ..who knows what kind of effect this will have on the Earth but I imagine it will be something spectacular and will probably touch off many events that coincide with the eventsa portrayed in the book of revelations. There are also two giant bodies following this comet that will too reach us. We do not yet know much of these two objects but the American Indians proficize that these other two objects are called the "blue and Red Cachinas....that will bring about a new Earth and a major change to our way of life. This is Scientific fact....these events will happen! Call it Science or Call it "God" that is your choice! Just love your brother while you have the chance , and be greatful that you live in a time that you can witness these events that WILL be spectacular! Research this all yourselves if you want , You will not hear of this through the media. They do not want to cause panic! Think of all the things that your government has been doing lately,, Ask yourselves why they are doing things that they are doing these days.

    This is not a doomsday prediction by any means it is a factual scientificaly based thing that is fact and WILL happen. When this passed by saturn it disrupted the rings and turned the planet 90degrees off its axis (check it out ) When it passed by Jupiter it created a major planetary storm and disrupted the entire gas giant planet. ALL fact!! And yes Well known by your governments too!

    Why do you think that the Vatican now has an observatory and a giant telescope??? Why do you think that the US government is building underground facilities tohide in in order to protect themselves and try to continue to control the outcome. There is no hiding from the evolution of our planet . Wake up people. Do not believe man made religion...do not believe doomsayer profits....DO HOWEVER BELIEVE SCIENTIFIC FACT!

    September 1, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  11. Tato Sugiarto

    TORTOISE (Hinduism) and DRAGON (Taoism) are symbols for ENERGY or WAVE, both are analog with MAGEN DAVID (Judaism). "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is the metaphor, also Thawaf seven times circling around the Ka'ba and Sa’i oscillating along “the sinus” Marwah-Shafa during rituals of the Hajj (Abraham).
    "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME – From the Big Bang to Black Hole" by Stephen W. Hawking is the best scientific interpretation of AL QUR'AN by a non believer. It is also a “genuine bridge stone” for comprehensive study of Theology. Surprise, this paradox is a miracle and blessing in disguise as well. So, it should be very wise and challenging for Moslem scholars to verify my discovery.
    NeoSUFI visionary strategic thinking.

    August 24, 2011 at 6:27 am |
  12. Tato Sugiarto

    TORTOISE (Hinduism) and DRAGON (Taoism) are symbols for ENERGY or WAVE, both are analog with MAGEN DAVID (Judaism). "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is the metaphore, also seven times circling around the Ka'ba and oscilating in the Sa'i during the Hajj.
    "A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME – From the Big Bang to Black Hole" by Stephen W. Hawking is the best scientific interpretation of AL QUR'AN by a non believer. Surprise, this paradox is a miracle and blessing in disguise as well. So, it should be very wise and challenging for Moslem scholars to verify my discovery.
    NeoSUFI visionary strategic thinking.

    August 23, 2011 at 1:36 am |
  13. Ann

    As he compares man to a computer but he should know that man has a soul.
    I feel because of his condition he has a lot of hurt and pain.
    Deep within himself I think he knows different.)

    What I know is God forgives even when we don't understand.

    July 19, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  14. He that hath an ear

    On Stephen Hawking’s death bed will he cry out as so many other nonbelievers and testify as to what a fool he has been in his computer animated voice? Hawking is the one who believes in a fairy tale that he has helped author just the same as other fairy tale spinners such as Joseph Smith, Charles Taze Russell, L. Ron Hubbard, Mary Baker Eddy, Mohammad etc. He, like them, lacks the ability to believe and accept the truth that God created man, man sins, God sends his Son Jesus to die for man’s sins, Jesus Christ raises from grave, now if man repents and believes God sent his Son Jesus to die for man’s sins and that Jesus Christ rose from grave and trust God’s Son Jesus Christ to save him man gets saved from Hell, goes to Heaven.

    Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Romans 3:19-26

    This may seem like mean spirited attach on Stephen Hawking and the others mentioned, but isn’t trying to convince people to go to Hell worse?

    June 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • xenophilius

      YES!!! Amen, brother. I would pat you on the back if you were more than a few bytes of data stored on a computer. No sarcasm intended; I am not an insulting, judgmental atheist.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
    • Disciple Mikey

      It's not Christian-like to call men such as Charles Russell a fairy tale believer. What Charles Russell wanted to do was learn the truth about the scriptures. What's wrong with that? Religion at that time was based on false doctrine of men in an attempt to be more popular. Most of what you said is true according to the Bible except the part where all it takes is to "believe" that jesus died for our sins. It takes much more. We can't simply believe in Jesus and lead any kind of immoral lifestyle and still gain god's approval. Thats in contrast to the scriptures and what Jesus taught. It is commendable for you to stand up for Bible truth, though.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      HTHAEar, Hear this, Did not Christ say that this world is not the Kingdom of GOD? Did not Christ say to FIRST SEEK THE KINGDOM OFD GOD" And Finally DID NOT CHRIST SAY THAT- "THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS INSIDE YOU"?

      I say to He that hath an ear this, "Get a Magnifying Glass and then a Microscope and finally a Telescope." You may find that the inside is firstly that which ensues the outside to become likened to"!

      July 16, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
    • BL

      Respectful of all your views, from a different (Buddhist ) perspective, the "ultimate" question of who created the universe and why is moot. The Absolute (call it whatever you wish) is eternal, no beginning or end. Nothing was ever created or destroyed. Because we think in terms of linear time, there must be a chain of cause and effect so that our minds can wrap around an ultimate source. There is no such thing as time. From my point of view, everything within the Absolute (including us) blinks in and out of existence in a timeless, eternal Now. Not an authority on Christian Bible, but I believe God expresses this concept when he says, "I am that I am."

      August 8, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  15. Daniel

    The problem is we as humans like to feel we are a superior race, and that we have a deep knowledge of the cosmos...even though a lot of our science is still theoretical. If God is the ultimate being and law of the entire visible, and invisible universe that is totally aware, and in control of everything in the cosmos, then how do we even begin to understand it's plans and reasons for the 'why' and 'how' of all that exists. We are too ignorant to see that we like to give God a human personality, or put ourselves in its shoe's or that we know better. I don't believe we have even begun scratching the surface of the laws of the universe.....but we like to think we have...

    June 16, 2011 at 10:16 am |
  16. stewman109

    I admire and respect Stephen Hawking and his opinions. He is right that the Universe did not and does not necessarily need a divine creator to exist. However, just because the laws of our known Universe do not require the presence of God does not mean God does not exist.

    June 16, 2011 at 9:15 am |
  17. Ron B

    Man has not evolved beyond the point to worship that which he does not understand.
    Well spoken mister Hawkins.

    June 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  18. Ruben

    At some point Scientists thought there was a turtle and some other animals holding the world... human mind makes it's own cunclusions and decides "how things are" when unknown hits out brains, we end up in stupid ideas somedays. By the way, I took a nap yesterday, when I woke up God was at my couch, gave me a hug and talked to me while preparing dinner, I love him. 🙂

    June 15, 2011 at 11:08 am |
    • xenophilius

      Wait . . . is that sarcasm? I can't tell.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:27 pm |
    • Disciple Mikey

      It's interesting that you mentioned that. Did you know that thousands of years ago when these were the popular ideas about the earth, bible writers explained it in accurate detail....

      Isaiah 40:22- 22 There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth, the dwellers in which are as grasshoppers, the One who is stretching out the heavens just as a fine gauze, who spreads them out like a tent in which to dwell,

      Isaih refers to the earth as a circle when the popular idea was that it was flat

      and Job 26:7- 7 He is stretching out the north over the empty place,
      Hanging the earth upon nothing;

      .....he refers to the earth being suspended upon nothing when the popular idea was that it was sitting on a turtles back.

      July 8, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  19. iLuv8T

    Exactly becauseIf God did exist he d have to be created too and you can t create yourself with no hands and God would have to have a beginning also example GOD's first day of existence or first microsecond or hour or the first thing God ever did was on this date or that date
    I AM THE I AM is not enough

    there is no after life there
    The only thing i disagree is when mr S.Hawkins says that there is no after life because i do believe in the Spirit world
    I have seen a ghost and i have also heard a bad spirit spoken through a woman in a man 's voice a a church once in front of some 120 people i remember the spirit even told the Pastor his name. i think the spirit is what causes us to speak it s not just s tongue or brain thing but it lives in us causes to move walk the body is just a house for the spirit.
    Things we don t understand yet but the God thing makes no sense because of what space and is teaching us.
    Evolution is the thing.
    Hooray Brilliant man

    June 14, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • xenophilius

      It doesn't make sense that you would believe in spirits, but not take it an inch further and believe that God is that spirit. You have seen ghosts? How do you know that wasn't a demon, or an angel? You have heard a woman channeling a spirit? How do you know she wasn't channeling the Devil? It seems there is a huge roadblock in front of you that separates your beliefs and God; you are having difficulty crossing that roadblock. Hawking appears to be pulling you down even as you are beginning to climb it.

      June 27, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  20. Wes

    As a scientist Hawkins should know better then to make a statement such as, "God did not create the universe," without scientific proof. However, having had a parent who suffered and died from ALS, I can begin to understand his deep anger with God. He wanted to remove any thought of a devine creator from physics. Revenge on a non-existent creator? I think not.

    Perhaps he should consider all that he has accomplished, and ask would he have done that if he had been "normal?" He was given a gift of scientific insight and cursed with the time to use it. Job well done.

    June 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
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