I can tell you my opinion of Physics, and Its merely an opinion. Stephen Hawking says “that heaven is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark.”
I dealt with this question in my Holy Week series on Stereotypes of Religious People, one of them being that Religious People invented Heaven to make Life Easier.
Fr. Dwight Longenecker deals with this at Crisis Magazine here:
As I am both a lover of fairy tales and a believer in heaven, I am not sure whether this is an insult or a compliment. Although I do not believe heaven is a fairy tale, it is my love of fairy tales that makes me believe in heaven. Like G. K. Chesterton, I believe that fairy tales are (in their own way) more true than the barren facts of yesterday’s newspaper; and it is because of the solid truths of the fairy tales that I believe in the solid truth of heaven.
Mark Shea also deals with this at the National Catholic Register here.
Hawking is the beneficiary of the high priestly status our civilization confers on scientists and, most especially, celebrities. Somehow, people seem to think that Hawking has access to some special knowledge and, in some cases, they actually seem to think that if Hawking thinks something, it is ipso facto true that this renders it a Scientific Fact (the capital letter is essential)…
Now here’s the deal, kidz. When the subject is physics, Hawking is your man. He has forgotten more physics than most of us will ever know. But, if the subject is, say, how to costume the cast of “The Wiz,” or which sort of pipe to use to re-plumb your house, or how to deal with that drunken, swiving man of yours, or hot air ballooning, or, dare I say it, whether or not Heaven exists, Hawking has no more competence to speak than the veriest lush at the local bar (and sometimes even less if the lush happens to have training and experience in theatre costume design, plumbing, family therapy, hot air ballooning or philosophy and theology)…
What Hawking fails to take into account is that Christian belief about the afterlife comes, not from somebody’s need for comfort in the dark, but from a Man who came back from the dead to announce himself Lord of the Living and the Dead. It was he who announced the reality of both Heaven and Hell, not because they are convenient or even expected, but because they are the weird shape reality takes. The apostles were quite ready to believe in ghosts. What they didn’t expect was a resurrected man capable of eating fish. Christian belief in Heaven (and Hell) comes from him, not from some wish fulfillment fantasy.
I don’t know that there is anything I can say on the matter. But I must repeat this. Saying that heaven is for people who are afraid of the dark, says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING on the existence of heaven, only the existence of weak fearful people. It is, however, belief and hope of heaven that gives us the daring bold courage to face tomorrow in the midst of our current suffering, the daring bold courage to live for something greater then our current misery.