Published May 16, 2011
Stephen Hawking -- the world-renowned theoretical physicist -- finds no room for heaven in his vision of the cosmos.
In an interview published Monday in The Guardian newspaper, the 69-year-old says the human brain is like a computer that will stop working when its components fail.
"There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark," Hawking told the paper.
It's not the first time the world-renowned thinker has made controversial statements about religion and the existence of God. In "Grand Design," a book Hawking published last year, the physicist declared that it was "not necessary to invoke God ... to get the universe going."
For Hawking, the concept of religion is in constant conflict with his life's work -- science, and understanding the most basic ways in which the universe works -- and it's almost impossible to reconcile the two.
In an interview with Diane Sawyer last June, Hawking noted that "there is a fundamental difference between religion, which is based on authority, and science, which is based on observation and reason. Science will win, because it works."
He has maintained this position since very early in his career, telling German newsmagazine Der Speigel in 1988 that "what I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began."
"This doesn't prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary," he said.
Not that the existence of a happy after-life wouldn't suit the man -- diagnosed with a motor neuron disease at the age of 21, Hawking has been almost completely paralyzed for the majority of his life.
This hasn't stopped him from producing key scientific works such as his work with general relativity as well as a theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, which is now often referred to as Hawking radiation.
And it's his work that keeps him going -- even if there isn't a heaven. "I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."
Interestingly, Hawking has also made headlines in recent years over the existence of aliens -- and what interactions between our races would be like.
“If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.