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. Mark Henriksen

    He is begging the question since most people are afraid of the dark.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  2. Think about it

    Think about it... the most interesting things in life are born out of mysteries. The greatest mystery of all is why are we here, and what happens to us after we die? Hawking, now that he has solved that mystery (for himself), must be pretty bored with himself. The rest of us can live happy knowing that there is no answer to the mystery, and therefore it will always remain interesting to us.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  3. Edgardo

    Well..Stephen Hawking don't believe Heaven and Hell...but where he came from. The knowledge of human being has limitation no matter how good you are a physicist, doctor, president anybody has a life can not match the power of almighty. Nobody would know if a person will die today, tomorrow or next month. Believe me or not there's heaven and hell on judgment day.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  4. J

    Ya, We are so much better off with our electricity and cars and refridgerators, etc. etc. That has made so many people happy. This world is sooo better off. Having stuff and being selfish is where many are at. 2 income families, divorce, kids with life time social and abandonment problems, kids with no fathers. I would say the reason societies get to be where individuals are not better is that they stop loving God and loving their neighbors and love themselves or Government.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  5. Jonah

    I like talks like this. Mr. Hawking is a brilliant man but he will soon see that you cannot challenge God. May 21st is coming rapidly people!!!

    3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. 6 By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. 7 By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. -2 Peter 3:3-6



    May 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • ummm

      That's one whale of a tale.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  6. EJS

    Friendly advice to Hawking (and all of his followers) – take a break from Theoretical Physics and read C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity"

    (Lewis, an intellectual equal to Hawkings, had similar beliefs as Hawkings and actually set out to logically disprove the existence of God).

    May 17, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • Atheist/Buddhist turned Christian

      changed my life forever....actually, I should say....my outlook as well as the changes I made to my life after reading CS Lewis have changed my life forever. A year ago, I was an unfullfilled atheist that would be writing these kinds of comments. I have a ton of patience for anyone who felt like I did.....I hate the warped view that I once had.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  7. David

    One thing I have noticed tho.. is a little bit of a sick "delight" that atheists get out of trying to somehow "break" someones faith in their religion...

    If you're an athiest congratuations..does that mean you have so little of a life or so little time that you feel the need to endlessly try and "convert" christians into atheists or somehow try and disprove the bible..

    its just about as sad as the christians who do the opposite...

    Guess Highschool "cliques" never end

    May 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  8. mary

    Unless Hawking has died, looked into this, gotten proof, and came back . He knows no more than the rest of us.
    He is limiting the possibilities based on his own imagination..

    May 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  9. Tom G

    Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man and an incredibly logical thinker. The concept of heaven was created by Man to ease the fear of the unknown, much like religion. It is as likely to exist as "god", which is to say...not very. If religion comforts you, then have at it. Just don't try to convince others of the existence of "heaven" or "god" just by saying that something is in the bible. The bible was written by man, selectively edited over the centuries, and translated many times over. It is an interesting storybook that teaches some great lessons, much like Grimm's Fairy Tales.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • J

      So you have read the bible??

      May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Tom G

      Catholic school from age 8 to 22...yeah, you could say that.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • mary

      If you can't touch it feel it or see it, It "doesn't" exist?
      Tell me then, why did they build the large hadron collider? Looking for some thing not yet felt, seen or proven?
      Seems there is a lot of belief by scientists in things not seen? So when one man 'Hawking' claims there is no god or after life.. It seems that is a ridiculous statement to be made by one who is supposed to be so brilliant...

      May 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • SAYS WHO

      Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
      "Stephen Hawking is a brilliant man and an incredibly logical thinker"....he is also a foolish thinker.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • Tom G

      @SAYS WHO, quoting the bible as evidence is WEAK.

      May 17, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
  10. CindyB

    How do you know that your dog knows there is God. Did he tell you?

    May 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  11. SAM


    May 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  12. SAYS WHO

    No doubt there is "no heaven" for YOU but for the righteous people there is a wonderful heaven waiting.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Jacob

      LOL, when you die, so does your imagination.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
    • Jacob

      What validity does the bible have? the entire first half was stolen from Judaism, the entire second half was fabricated by the counsel of Nicea, ordered by constatine, the emporer of the Romans who crucified jesus and many other thousands of Jews. There are at least 10 religions that predate Christianity that have a Savior who, died for the sins of man, was the son of god, rose from the dead after 3 days, the bible has plagerized so many religions it is unreal, How can you give this book validity without being a follower of 10 different religions?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
  13. Slovensko

    He can't even prove his own statement though...where is the scientific method Stephen? You vehemently deny the afterlife methinks because you are afraid of what it might hold...

    May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
  14. mm

    To paraphrase Billy Graham, " I would rather live my life believing God exists and die to find out He doesn't than to live my life believing there is no God and die only to find out there is. Believe what you want, only you can account for yourself.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Rational

      Pascal's Gambit is a waste of productive time.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
  15. Canuckperson

    I don't believe in Stephen Hawking! He states the Universe was not created by a supreme being. Something does not form out of nothing so what created the matter to make the something? Science can always come up with a theory. (That,s right only a theory) but nothing concrete on how and why it became something. Is anyone foolish enough for instance to believe the still fully unknown human brain came from nothing and was not created by a master something?
    The only way Hawkings will be able to know if there is no heaven is when he dies and then he can't tell us about it.
    Science is only one little piece in the Human puzzle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Rational

      Like so many others before you, you are confusing "theory" with "hypothesis". A theory is well-reasoned and has plenty of supporting evidence. A hypothesis is an educated guess.

      Also, there are not two competing theories here: If Mr. Hawking is wrong about creation, then you are free to provide an alternative theory that adequately explains it.

      Just saying "I don't believe science's argument, therefore it was god's doing" is absurd.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  16. Jon

    Atheists have faith that God does not exist. Just because you lack evidence of something doesn't prove that it does not exist. Therefore, in the absence of evidence supporting the existence OR the non-existence of God, it requires the same amount of faith to believe in God than to believe that God does not exist.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Steven

      Um, no. The onus is on those who out forth such preposterous theories, not upon those who disbelieve them.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • George P

      Well said!!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Maya

      Faith requires a belief. Do you have faith that a fuzzy pink unicorn doesn't run the universe? No, because you don't need faith for that. You don't believe it because it is absurd.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • Jacob

      That is not true. I can't see a million dollars in my closet, would I be crazy iuf I believed there were a million dollars sitting in my closet, or not? Sure, I can believe whatever I choose to beleive or, I can use common sense, rationale and logic and be realistic and believe that there is not a million dollars in my closet. Orrrrrr, I can can be delusional and believe that there is and raise my children to believe the same and we can only socialize with people with people who have the same beliefs. Oh my, then we would be more like Christians!!

      May 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Sandra S.

    @Benny – you said "If I am just here then I die and that is it-why follow any rules–kill, steal , cheat-why not ? I am just going to die anyway and then thats it. If no moral compass –why follow any laws or rules. Live for yourself totally."

    So the only reason you don't kill, steal, or cheat is because of your fear of punishment in the afterlife? One doesn't need that fear to have a moral compass - all one needs is compassion for one's fellow travelers through the game of life (so to speak). In fact, I'd say that someone who doesn't do evil things only because of the fear of retribution is not moral at all.

    Personally, I don't see how one can conclusive prove or disprove the existence of some sort of "god" - that's why I'm an Agnostic. I'm skeptical that any of the Earth's religions have "the truth," but that doesn't mean it's impossible that there's some kind of supernatural power somehow involved in the universe. But whether there's a divine being is a matter of faith, not science and, as such, cannot be proven, nor does it need to be.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Atheist/Buddhist turned Christian

      You sound just like me, and I mean that in a good way 🙂 Seriously, read "Mere Christianity"....its changed my life.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  18. Atheist/Buddhist turned Christian

    I understand those with differing opinions, just as long as they have really considered and researched the topic of religion. I was a buddhist/liberal ect, who came to terms with the fact that Jesus really did exist. From there, I read and read and read. Read CS Lewis' Moral argument in "Mere Christianity". Learn about the stuff you most disagree with and you will become a more balanced person. We are more than matter. Dont let the crazy Catholics/Christians deter you, they still freak me out!

    May 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Jacob

      Just because Jesus did exist, does not make him the son of god who died for our sins. I exist, does that mean I did for the sins of all of mankind? There is no ounce of factual evidence that any religion is the way to get to an after life. Why would you believe in something that has no eveidence of being true whatsoever? Why would a god that could create us and this entire universe need to copy multiple religons to form christianity? Wouldn't the god that is capable of creating the entire universe be capebale of putting the bible together on his own?

      May 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Bella

    JESUS X......

    You sound 12...and like youre trying to work people up. And why is it that no one can reply to your posts????
    Its a shame you have no direction and no foundation.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
  20. Frank

    Mr. Hawking cannot prove his opinion on this matter anymore than a person of faith can prove their beliefs about heaven. Ultimately, none of us, scientists nor religionists, have any idea how the universe came about or what will happen to us when we die. Mr. Hawking's theory on the universe creating itself is no more based on known fact that the creation stories found in nearly all major religions. Ultimately, it's a mystery, and for me, that is what makes the universe so exciting and impressive. I've noticed a certain self-righteousness of late among people who are not "believers" when arguing against the religious beliefs of others. Sadly, that self righteousness is no different than that of many religious people who do not accept science.

    May 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Truman

      You can not also prove that there is a giant eye orbiting a star 400 light years from here, but it figures there is not as there is nothing like that that we have ever seen. Just because you can't disprove something does not make it fact.

      May 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
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