Legendary physicist Stephen Hawking lived for decades with the prospect of death hanging over his head, but unlike the rest of us, he never worried about what’s next.
Hawking, who died at 76, spoke candidly in a 2011 Guardian interview about what he believes happens when people die. He told the Guardian that while he “wasn’t afraid of death,” he was in no hurry to die.
“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail,” he said. “There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
It should come as no surprise that Hawking was not religious. In Hawking’s 2010 book, The Grand Design, Hawking said a creator is “not necessary” in the narrative of how the world was created.
The 76-year-old was confined to a wheelchair by a form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a neurological disease that impacts movement. He communicated via a speech synthesizer. Hawking was diagnosed with ALS at 21.
For years, Hawking has warned that humankind faces extinction from a slew of threats ranging from climate change to destruction from nuclear war and genetically engineered viruses. Hawking recently estimated that humans have 100 years left on Earth — if we’re lucky.