Stephen Hawking lived with the prospect of death for more than 40 years but always said that, while he was in no hurry to die, he wasn't scared of death either.

Hawking, who wasn't expected to live to see his 25th birthday, defied all odds and died yesterday, aged 76.

For nearly 50 years, he admitted death was never far from his mind.

It's not because he thought he'd done enough to grant himself a spot in Heaven - far from it. Hawking was a staunch atheist who firmly believed Heaven was nothing but a fantasy.


"I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years," Hawking said in an interview. "I'm not afraid of death, but I'm in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first."

Hawking on God (or lack thereof)

Hawking often shared his pragmatic views on God and religion.

For him, there absolutely is no god, no heaven, and definitely no afterlife.

"I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail," he told the Guardian. "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

In an interview with Time magaznie, he explained: "God is the name people give to the reason we are here."

"But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God."

Hawking on atheism

In an interview with El Mundo, Hawking explained why he refers to "God" in his seminal book A Brief History of Time, if he doesn't believe in the existence of such a figure.

He said it was natural to believe in God and the divine before we understand science – but that science had now provided a better explanation.

"Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation," he said. "What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a god, which there isn't. I'm an atheist."

Hawking on the universe and its meaning

Despite his atheism, Hawking did believe in the meaning of the universe and thought it was important to cultivate that sense of wonder.

"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist," Hawking once famously said. "Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at."