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February 18th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Facing death, a top pastor rethinks what it means to be Christian

Editor's Note: The short film accompanying this story, called "My Garden," comes from EdsStory.com. CNN.com is premiering the latest installment in the "Ed's Story" series.

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Ed Dobson is not afraid of dying. It’s the getting there that really scares him.

A former pastor, onetime Christian Right operative and an icon among religious leaders, Dobson has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him 3 to 5 years to live.

That was 11 years ago.

“I am a tad happy to be talking to you right now,” joked Dobson, whose voice has deteriorated since his preaching days, in a phone interview. Speaking with him feels like being exposed to a brief moment of clarity. He speaks slowly, but with an understated confidence and authority.

As pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a position he held for 18 years, Dobson would regularly preach to 5,000 people or more on Sundays. Back then, Dobson said he looked at himself as a man filled with lessons, proverbs and, most of all, answers.

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After retirement six years ago, the massive crowds went away.

“I went from 100 miles an hour to zero miles an hour overnight,” Dobson said. “That was a shock to my system.”

Dobson says the answers vanished with the crowds.

“I know that sounds a bit lame,” he said. “I know that that I should have all the answers, but the truth is, the more I live, the fewer answers I have.”

And yet the people Dobson comes in contact with – those who call him dad, husband and friend, or those who have read one of his 12 books and watched his short films, don’t agree with that assessment. To them, the last six years of Dobson’s life have led to a remarkable ability to put life into context. To them, Dobson is a man filled with lessons.

From 5,000 to 1

In the 1980s, Dobson rose to prominence as an executive at the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical political organization, which had influence with the Ronald Reagan White House. Dobson’s rise continued when he accepted the pastorate at Calvary Church in 1987. He cut a national profile, with Moody Bible Institute naming him “Pastor of the Year” in 1993.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Dobson suddenly felt unsure of himself. At times, he said, he didn't want to get out of bed. After years of intense Bible study, Dobson said this is not how he thought he would react to news of his own mortality.

“I thought that if I knew I was going to die, I would really read the Bible and if I really was going to die, I would really pray,” Dobson said. “I found the opposite to be true. I could barely read the Bible and I had great difficulty praying. You get so overwhelmed with your circumstances, you lose perspective.”

Eventually, Dobson regained perspective. But feelings of listlessness led him to take his preaching to a more personal level. He now meets with congregants one-on-one. Sitting with them in their homes or offices, Dobson provides whatever help he can. “Most of the people I meet with have ALS and basically I listen," he said.

“When I meet with someone and look into their eyes, it is like I am looking into their soul,” Dobson said. “We are both broken, we are both on the journey and we are both fellow pilgrims.”

Going from 5,000 congregants to one at a time was a big change for Dobson, forcing him to reevaluate his job as a pastor. “I am trying to learn that one-on-one is just as important as speaking to thousands,” he said. “I reemphasize – I am trying to learn that.”

During his one-on-one meetings, Dobson says he remembers Adam and Eve being charged by God to work the Garden of Eden. For years Dobson’s garden was Calvary Church – the baptisms, weddings, the Sunday preaching.

“Whether it is preaching to 5000 or meeting one on one, I am trying to take care of the garden,” he said.

The wind knocked out

One way Dobson strove to tend the garden is by writing a book about dealing with serious illness. In 2007, he wrote “Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness.”

Dobson’s son Daniel read the book while deployed in Iraq. After returning home, Daniel made it his mission to turn the book’s stories into videos.

He pitched the idea to Steve Carr, the executive director of a faith-focused production company called Flannel. “When I met Ed, when he came to our office, something really spoke to me,” Carr said. “Not too long before that, I had been diagnosed with Leukemia.”

“I thought that this guy, he has been where I am right now and he has somehow mastered it,” Carr said.

So far, Flannel has released five Dobson films, available through the company's website. There are plans for two more. Though the films range in topic, from loss and forgiveness to healing and growth, all are centered on lessons Dobson learned through his battle with ALS. The videos toe the line between a dark look at a dying man's life and an uplifting glimpse at someone who exudes clarity.

"My Garden," the most recent title in the series, centers on Ed’s struggle to deal with ending his preaching career.

Dobson talks about the films as if they are his swan song, his last words of encouragement to a group of supporters he has inspired for decades.

“My desire is that people who have had the air knocked out of them, whether divorce or losing a loved one or illness, that they will get a sense of hope by watching the films,” he said.

Surviving (with help)

The series’ first short film opens with Dobson explaining what it was like to be told he had ALS. After lying in bed, Dobson gets in the shower, brushes his teeth and starts the day. Even he would admit, however, it is not that easy.

Dobson has lost much of the function in his hands and is seen struggling to brush his teeth, his frail body using two hands on the small brush. Though he is able to do a lot, including drive, Dobson wouldn’t be able to make it on his own, a fact he is keenly aware of when about when describing his wife, Lorna.

“She is my right hand, my left hand, my left foot, my right foot, my heart and my brain,” Dobson said. “Without her, it would be impossible to go on.”

Standing in the kitchen in one video, Lorna helps puts Ed’s belt and gloves on. The two don’t speak on camera, but their love is obvious.

“Our love has grown each year of marriage,” Lorna said. “I didn’t want to just wither in the sorrow of how our life was changing. It took a while to get used to what our life was going to be like but I realized that I needed to be more available to him.”

Dobson says he is also more available to her.

“I am no longer a preacher,” said Dobson. “Today, I would say I am a Jesus follower. Period.”

Lorna said she continues to learn from her husband. Throughout their life together, she said she learned by being in church with him, by raising three kids together and by loving one another.

The last 11 years, however, their love has changed. Dobson's illness has taught her to focus on the important things, she said, primarily their kids and five grandkids.

After tending the garden for decades, Dobson is now being tended himself, largely by Lorna. “ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding of what it means to obey Jesus,” Dobson said in the latest film.

“It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose," he said. "But the good news is out there – there is a purpose for everyone.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death • United States

soundoff (3,195 Responses)
  1. LouAz

    Since man started walking on two legs he has denied what is self-evident. He is born, he lives, he dies, and death is forever. All religion is derived from this denial.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:46 pm |
    • Diyogee

      Thank you. It's uplifting to know that I am not alone; that there's someone else who gets it.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:05 pm |
  2. skepticelt

    I pity the poor man to be striken with such a terrible disease. I hope his pain in minimal and when the time comes his passing peaceful. I do not believe in a god but that is not to say there is not one. I just find the idea wishful thinking, living forever, seeing old friends and relatives. If there is a god I sure hope christianlty is not his/hers faith of choice. How can a god be called merciful when the bulk of humanity is going to be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" for all eternity. Thats a merciful god! I don't think so.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
  3. kenny

    An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.
    An atheist doesn`t have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can`t be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.
    If god is real then we might as well let Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny come out of hiding too.
    When faith is given credibility as a tool to understand the universe, no flavor of espoused nonsense should come as a surprise.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:24 pm |
    • momoya

      Brilliant.

      Believers, a true hypothesis has to be verifiable and falsifiable. If it's not verifiable or falsifiable then it's myth. It's that simple.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:33 pm |
    • Believer

      It is testable, if life can start without any outside interveniance then God does not exist. As of yet we have no evidence of this happening.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:48 pm |
    • J.C.U.

      well, "santa claus" was a real person, saint nicholas, bishop of myra. and the "easter bunny," it comes from alsace tradition, a region between france and germany. so, in one sense your examples are hopelessly naive, and in another incomparable and somewhat uneducated. perhaps atheists do believe the things you mention. it is ironic that the religious are actually the ones WHO in fact build those things.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • momoya

      @Believer

      You said: "It is testable, If life can start without any outside interveniance then God does not exist"

      My 1st question: How do we perform that test?
      My 2nd question: Why and how does this test prove god does not exist?
      My 3rd question: How does the existence of life prove a god?

      You said: "As of yet we have no evidence of this happening."

      My 1st question: Since you don't know that god jump-started the life you see around you, you have no idea if it happened without "interveniance" (whatever that means) and therefore the life you see disproves god according to your own hypothesis. By what reasoning do you claim that life proves god's existence?
      My 2nd question: Why do you presume the existence of a life-starting god in your hypothesis that tries to answer the question of god's existence? Don't you understand how that's extremely sloppy reasoning?

      Your hypothesis fails completely and doesn't even make basic sense. Again, I ask you, what TESTABLE hypothesis, that does NOT presume god as already proven as interfering in some process or other, can we use to determine god's existence?

      February 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm |
    • kenny

      J.C.U. You can not convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is based on a deep-seated need to believe.Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.Which is it, is man one of God`s blunders or is God one of man`s?

      February 23, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • GT

      The problem is, if you want to overgeneralize as you have, that atheists do none of those things.
      Atheists, especially those that post on CNN, are ridiculously self-righteous.
      Atheists like to talk about solving the worlds problems but what they really do is discuss implausible global utopias with world peace, no wars, and no internal combustion engines. Christians are the ones offering up their own dollars and time to help people.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • momoya

      Well, good grief, you believers are 88% of the population. Stop telling people how to live and start solving some problems already. Science has got your back when it comes to evolving flu strains and incredibly complex medical equipment; you guys claim to have all the heart. There's millions starving around the world, but somehow god heals headaches and reserves a parking spot near the door at the Wal-Mart before he gets to those dying without clean water or a meal. Get some stuff done, already. Just because god's in no hurry over the matter doesn't mean you should drag your feet.

      February 23, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  4. Nii Croffie

    OhYeah my God is YHWH n I don't deny this one bit. He also gives salvation to all who love people . As 2 X'nity, atheism n all other religions they r a tool 2 de end that we all become emotionally mature(spiritually enlightened). If u let it blind u... Thats ur problem. I believe in God not rites.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Oh Yeah

      Nii Croffie
      I love people, but don't believe in God. So does that qualify me for salvation?

      Atheism isn't a "religion". You can call it a faith position, if you will. Kinda like having a favorite football team. All the believers out there pick which faith they support as their "team." Some even like multiple teams, but atheists just don't like football enough to participate. It's a world of football fans (believers of all stripes) and people who aren't football fans (atheists). Not watching, or playing, or being a fan of football doesn't make someone a football fan, if you see what I mean?

      If you don't participate in rites, then how do you express your belief in God? Prayer is a rite. Don't tell me that you don't even pray?

      February 23, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  5. Sarah

    I love how his taking care of the garden of eden moment is accompanied visually by jumping into a massive planet-bashing SUV. Bloody hell.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
  6. kenny

    Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration–courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.
    To explain the unknown by the known is a logical procedure; to explain the known by the unknown is a form of theological lunacy.
    It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring
    the power of god has given men the ability to realize that he does not exist.
    I would argue that those who see god in everything are the ones who have a problem seeing life`s true value. They`re not able to see the enormous beauty in the immense improbability of our very existence. If god created us all for a purpose, we`re just doing a job, pawns in his cosmic game. But if we just happen be be here by random chance, then the lives we have are truly something to value, enjoy, and celebrate

    February 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
    • Believer

      I do not think you understand Christianity. I am a christian and I hold true to all of those things you just mentioned, and plenty of christians do too.
      Do you realize how many christians have held true to their convictions with a gun pointed to their face? That seems like courage to me.
      I also disagree with the idea that christians are not clear thinkers. We just happen to disagree on the subject of God, that does not mean that one of us is an unrational thinker. It just means we disagree.
      As for the others, I am an honest man, I try to treat everyone as fair as I can and I love the truth. I just happen to think that the truth equals God. You disagree and there is no way of knowing who is right until we die.
      As for Christians not appreciating life the way you do, once again I must disagree. I appreciate the sheer fact that God created me and that life is to be cherished and enjoyed. I believe that we are to enjoy all of Gods gifts and blessings to the best of our ability. I enjoy value and celebrate all that God has given me. Once again we have the same emotions, just different reasons why.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:58 pm |
    • Fred

      It really is all about perspective. The things you listed that you hold in value – courage, integrity, search for truth, etc. can also be things that Christians seek as well. For example, it takes courage to forgive. And as far as truth goes, a true Christian does not blindly accept the Bible as truth – it takes soul-searching, in conjunction with faith, that leads him or her to that belief.

      And you say that being given a purpose is like being "pawns." Others may see it as serving a highly significant role in this world (which I think is true of all people). You say that people who think their existence is pure chance appreciate life more. But those who believe they were made to be here may appreciate life just as much, seeing it as a gift of grace.

      It's all about perspective, and your comment, I think, reflects a one-sided view that doesn't quite understand how the same ideas can be true about believers, albeit arrived at in a different way.

      February 23, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • kenny

      What has your God done for you that you couldn`t have done for yourself? The key to praying is talking to yourself and pretending someone intelligent is listening. The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike . Praying is like a rocking chair – it`ll give you something to do, but won`t get you anywhere. While on the verge of death, pray to god. If life prevails, it is a miracle. If death prevails, it is god`s plan. Praying is for feeble minds. It would be amazing if there was an invisible friend who magically solved all my problems by just asking him. Unfortunately that isn`t true, and I`m not gonna lie to myself into thinking so just because it makes me feel better. Faith is belief without and against evidence and reason; coincidentally that`s also the definition of delusion.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  7. Paul

    My grandmother died of complications from ALS, after surgery to remove her tongue. It was no longer in her control and threatening to choke her to death. Never having had surgery before, she probably was responsible for her own demise in part, because she awoke confused and tore away the tubes meant to drain the surgical wound. Not being able to talk at all was torture enough for her,so that it may have been for the best. My sympathy for pastor Dobson, whose work and philosophy is quite alien to my own, is because I know how human it is to want be able to communicate.

    February 23, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
  8. Margie

    he was drawn to tell people God says love me or burn in hell. he would have been much better to be a physician. The cult of christianity isnt about healing like Christ taught but about self righteous bigotry and condemnation. Im so happy i left christianity to find the christ in myself

    February 23, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • mjschumaker

      Margie: Sometimes, one has to leave "Christianity" to find Christ. Other times, pride leads us away from Christ, to make a false Christ in our own image, someone who is more "acceptable" to us. Somewhat like a man looking down a well in search of someone only to find a reflection of himself in the water below. Although our experience of Christ can vary, Jesus is a real person, who exists in real time and space, and who desires to know us and for us to know him. I hope you have found the real Jesus, not someone of your own invention.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • kenny

      You can not convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it is based on a deep-seated need to believe.Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.We must question the story logic of having an all-knowing all-powerful God, who creates faulty Humans, and then blames them for his own mistakes.Which is it, is man one of God`s blunders or is God one of man`s?

      February 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • momoya

      Fantastic Margie! Me too, it's all so silly when you look back at it! I can't believe I wasted so many decades in cultish thinking.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  9. Sancte Tigriel

    Atheists are expressing their hatred of God and religion here. I want to point out that it is they who are unrealistic and unscientific: they deny the proof of God's existence because they wish that He did not exist.

    There is nothing realistic or scientific about ignoring a fact of reality. And God is not just any fact of reality, but an extremely significant, enormously consequential fact of reality.

    In a free society, most people know that God exists; atheists are in the minority. This is because God's existence is obvious, the proof being abundant. Only those who wish that God did not exist deny the proof that He does.

    And this is not only unrealistic and unscientific, but foolhardy as well.

    February 23, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Snapple

      To challenge your assumption a little, let me assure you I'm in what seems to be a very small minority – an atheist who wishes that a personal God did exist. The world around us is amazing, beautiful, and mind-boggling, no doubt, but logic and Bertrand Russell's teapot led me away from belief in a deity. That said, I have a residual fondness for Christian culture and bear Christians no ill will.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • kenny

      If Atheism is a religion, then health is a disease!
      I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world

      February 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
    • momoya

      How does saying that something does not exist equate to hatred?

      February 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Ibjonnyc

      Jesus said"You will be hated because of Me'" Just remember those words and worry not where the hatred comes from. It comes from many different levels.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
    • momoya
      February 23, 2012 at 7:17 pm |
    • momoya

      http://www.sodahead.com/entertainment/from-charlize-therons-fake-tan-to-bjorks-swan-dress-biggest-oscar-faux-pas/question-2475947/

      February 23, 2012 at 7:19 pm |
    • Diyogee

      "There is nothing realistic or scientific about ignoring a fact of reality. And God is not just any fact of reality, but an extremely significant, enormously consequential fact of reality."

      And yet, you offer no proof.

      What you can't admit is, there is no way to prove that God exists to another. What you don't understand is, that there is no reason to do so. There is only to know, and fully accept, that through your own experiences,God exists within you.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  10. Snapple

    As a former Christian, current non-believer, please don't judge us all by the nasty comments you see on message boards. Do I agree with Ed Dobson? No. Am I sorry that a fellow human being is suffering and dying? Of course. Here is a man who devoted his life to counseling and helping others. I don't care if you're an atheist, a Christian, or a member of any other religion, I think it's important to see the value in that. I value his contribution not for what it will bring him in the afterlife, but for what he's done for others in this life.

    February 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • GGayle

      Well said, Snapple.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  11. Mike

    What a waste of a life, spent in the study and pursuit of an imaginary super-being. Think of all the real good he could have done instead of pandering to some magical sky-daddy.

    February 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • W M McCrocklin

      Faith in God is not something anyone who does not have it can challenge because they do not know its benefits and cannot know them. It is absolutely appropriate that the pastor struggled with his own mortality. Death is not something any person can take lightly.
      I find great hope in the story and I am sorry you are so hopelessly cynical. If you will seek God you will find Him. May the God you do not believe in bless you.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • jimtanker

      I'm sure that you do find great hope in this story and in your delusion. That is why people believe in these fiary tales. Some people, however, want to believe in things that are real and care about why they believe what they believe.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Marie

      He has done something; he's brought comfort to many. Just because you don't agree with something, doesn't mean you have to condemn it. He's found happiness and his purpose. What have you done?

      February 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • cwmaxson

      Your response to another person's dying is horrific.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • AJ

      This man is just Human..Sometimes we end up on the other side of the fence to fully understand a cirlce of thought. It is never a waste to live. Even if it's in Question. I feel like as though you might want to look to your life to make sure it doesn't feel like a waste. Maybe the "magical guy in the sky (like you believe he states) may live in us, around us, in our actions..

      February 23, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • cory

      I suppose he should have been more useful like you. What have you contributed? It will be a sad day when you beg for Christ's mercy and he replies "I never knew you"

      February 23, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
    • Michael

      Ah, the Christian revenge fantasy. "You don't believe as I do? I'm sorry to say you will burn forever." Except they never seem very sorry to say it.

      February 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
  12. Madonna Stark

    For those of us who are facing a daily challenge such as this man, I can say that I appreciate how honest he was in this article. It is very difficult to feel physical pain, and for it to be something that limits your ability to do things. When faced with this challenge, I had to discover for myself if I truly believed what God's Word said. Each step has taken me closer and closer to Him. What I had to decide was did I trust that no matter what I face, He will give me the grace and strength through His power to face it. We face a daily battle that involves making a decision to run our race spiritually. I have the opportunity to speak to so many people who are facing extreme challenges that make me feel like what I deal with seem trivial. When you get your mind off what is happening to yourself, and begin to speak to others, it makes you thankful that you are able to do some of the things they are not able to do. Changing our preception involves choice. I choose to continue to believe and to daily praise God for all of His goodness and mercy. He is able, and there is nothing impossible, so any moment your miracle can happen!

    February 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  13. Dan

    Wow! The callousness of most of these statements is a surprise to me. Why search out a topic like this if you are so sure that we are but light bulbs waiting to burn out and end in nothingness? Why spew out actual hate on a topic you obviously care nothing about? Why not just enjoy that fact that you know it all and let those who must lack the great understanding you have live their life? If they live their trying to be a good person, doing the right thing (or at least attempting) What harm does it bring?I believe in God. I believe I have seen his work in and around my life and in the universe. I don't even know why I am leaving this remark since it will no doubt be mocked, ridiculed and belittled but there it is. I do understand that there have been many who claimed to be religious and have done evil things, just as there have been atheists who evil things. But there are also folks that try to be more than a hunk of meat slowly rotting away. They strive to better themselves and others. My God is my God. I am sorry if that seems to build an anger or some sort of defensive reaction out of some but I have seen the proof all around me. Does that impact you? Only if you want it to. What kind of impact do I have on those around me? In my opinion and hopes, I leave a positive impression most of the time. I am not perfect but I strive to be better. Now look at the attacks on here. What kind of impression are they leaving on those around them?

    February 23, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
    • momoya

      I guess its the sort of standard boring reason almost every believer gives. I don't see why anybody should attack you for it, though.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Marie

      Very well said, Dan.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • momoya

      Of course we don't know much, Joel. We have no idea what we don't know. That's why it's silly to believe in something for which there is no proof. That's why faith is stupid; it asks you to pretend to know until you convince yourself that you do know. The problem is, it can't be tested or proved. Talk about arrogance!

      February 23, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Kate

      Right on, Dan! I appreciate your articulateness. I was raised by atheists and I consider myself a Christian (hopefully a good one) and it always struck me that atheists need deity-believers more than "we" need them. I always found that interesting.

      February 23, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • momoya

      Kamp, science doesn't say why the big bang occurred, nor does it say that it came from "nothing," like so many believers erroneously think. Science says "We don't know, and we will continue to look for a verifiable answer." Science does not say, "There's no proof at all, but some big magic genie uttered a few magic words and 'poof' there it was." Science is honest. Religion makes sh.i.t up.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  14. Rick

    Death really has a way of making the pompous suddenly become humble.

    February 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • JoeBananas

      Death sure has a way of making humble people suddenly become....Quiet!! hehehe!!

      February 23, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  15. momoya

    @Francis

    Scientists don't have faith. Scientists are continually searching for answers. They don't assume that the answer to every question is "Goddidit," but remain open to other possibilities. Instead of thinking that a cell or the universe is the product of some magic words by some being never proved, they look into how the cell operates and find the cool rules of chemistry. In the case of the universe, since science doesn't assume a simple answer, science looks and discovers that what seem like "lesser lights" are vast, swirling galaxies–some of the much, much larger than ours.

    God believers are the ones who don't search for truth. They think that all the complexity of the cell and the universe just "poofed" into existence with some incantations. They make guesses as to what the evidence means, but they don't bother to put forth hypothesis that can be tested to show what mechanics their god used to make all the cool stuff. Thus, rather than build more and more evidence for their particular god (that just happens to be the one of their dominant culture and who agrees with all their opinions), they wait for science to test the evidence with falsifiable theories and then when science announces their discoveries they say "Proof of my Jeebus!! Hay Halerlooya!!"

    Something being nifty does not equal to evidence of some god or other. It's a stupid argument. Science looks inside and studies the nifty stuff.

    Science makes falsifiable hypothesis and then collects evidence. If the evidence proves the hypothesis wrong, then science discards that hypothesis and tries a different one. Science self-corrects.

    Science doesn't say that the universe or the cell "just happened." Indeed, science seeks the reasons why and how they happened. Believers are the ones who say that god "just is," and by his incantations caused the universe and the cell to "just happen."

    February 23, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • Oakspar

      Scients remain "open to other possibilities," as you state, which means they must be open to the idea that indeed there could be a higher power at work. Science is not religion.

      Atheism, however, is religion, and many confuse it with science. If at any time in your science you say there is no god, then you have forsaken science and entered into religion, for there is no proof that there is not a god (indeed, negatives are impossible to prove, so you would be a fool to try).

      So, science can at best say "we believe that we understand this or that" – but it can never say "never."

      The problem is that there is so much that humanity does not know, and we are so uncomfortable with the humility of admitting that, that scientist like to make guesses to plug the holes in their science. Believing in the guesses is faith (though having such theories can be helpful – they should always been seen with skepticism as theoriest).

      Believing in the guesses gives poor scientist and foolish people the notion that we know enough about the universe to make qualifies statements like "there is no god." Sure, we know enough about the planet Earth to state that there are no 800' tall birds walking around it, we do not, however, know enough about even our own galaxy to do more than make baseless questions about god(s), extra terrestrial life, or a host of other issues that fools like to argue over as if science knew the answer.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • momoya

      @Oakspar

      Science studies what humans can measure. Science makes no claims about what it cannot measure. That's why science does not claim that god exists or does not exist; there's nothing to measure.

      God believers are the ones who insist that this magic-man exists. Intelligent people don't make claims about what they don't know, so they ask the god-believers for some sort of verifiable evidence. Since no religion can provide testable evidence for their particular god, the intelligent person correctly withholds belief in that god. Intelligent people recognize that if the person making the claim cannot prove the claim, it makes more sense to say that no god exists–since one has not been proved.

      It's why you wouldn't buy a bridge from me without me first proving to you that the bridge exists in my name.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • momoya

      @Oakspar

      Atheism is not a religion for a very simple reason–bald is not a hair color. Atheists say that no god is evident; there's no rules, no magic, no stories of yore, no set of beliefs. Most atheists will believe in god when he can be proved as existing. Why isn't god as testable and sensible as math?

      As to scientific "guesses" I don't know what you mean. Usually guesses in science take on the form of a testable hypothesis which can prove the guess to be right or wrong. (Something religion is incapable of doing). Scientists rightly doubt that for which there is no evidence–thus, most scientists don't believe in a god. Science doesn't say "there is no god," for the same reason that science doesn't say "there are no unicorns." The scientific method just states that there's no use believing in a thing as if it were real if it can be shown to exist.

      February 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Mike Duncan

      So by POOF! You mean something like scientists coming up with the BIG BANG THEORY. They are just hypotheses and many times they get dis proved by other scientists later on. So what is your point exactly!

      February 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • momoya

      No, Mike. If you think that is how scientific theories are produced, you have major problems in your education. Science continually weeds out bad hypothesis by testing whatever can be measured about that hypothesis. Bad ones don't make the cut. The more a particular theory is proved by thousands and thousands and thousands of experiments and data points across the scientific disciplines, the more solid it becomes. If a scientist comes along who can make better and more efficient sense of the data, his theory overthrows the old one.

      God believers offer an invisible being that can't be proved in any way and say that this magical skydaddy "poofed" everything into the way it is. Other than that, they've got nothing to offer. Fairy tales are fairy tales. There's nothing to test; no knowledge to be gained, no medical equipment to make, no new molecular engines to describe, no process of chemistry.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Joel

      Your arrogance is astounding. I personally have an IQ measured at 135 – and I KNOW that I don't know much. I am pretty sure that you don't know a lot, either, despite your Faith in science. I don't see any contradiction between science and faith; I believe they are apples and oranges, and I believe in both.

      Now carry on with your smug life while we cretins follow our fairy tales...

      February 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • momoya

      @Joel

      Of course we don't know much, Joel. We have no idea what we don't know. That's why it's silly to believe in something for which there is no proof. That's why faith is stupid; it asks you to pretend to know until you convince yourself that you do know. The problem is, it can't be tested or proved. Talk about arrogance!

      February 23, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Kamp

      Science does the same thing under the pretense of open minded thought – Where did the big bang come from? Oh thats right an incantation of the scientific community!

      February 23, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Ibjonnyc

      Seems to me that most of the scientific disciplines were created by the religious.But hey rant on.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:19 pm |
    • momoya

      @Kamp,

      Science doesn't say why the big bang occurred, nor does it say that it came from "nothing," like so many believers erroneously think. Science says "We don't know, and we will continue to look for a verifiable answer." Science does not say, "There's no proof at all, but some big magic genie uttered a few magic words and 'poof' there it was." Science is honest. Religion makes sh.i.t up.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
    • momoya

      @lbjohnnyc

      So? Astrology led to astronomy; alchemy led to chemistry. It only makes sense to move away from unprovable supposition to testable hypotheses and then on to well-established fact.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • cory

      Scientist are always proving themselves wrong. The answers have been and always will be in the bible. Nothing was poofed into existence it was created by god. There were no mistakes or accidents. Evolution is the funniest theory I've ever heard. Honestly think about it. There is this thing called the food web in which every living being depends upon every other living being for survival. If you take any piece of that puzzle away the picture falls apart. Why would life need to develop in the first place. What's the point? Why would we need to evolve. We do evolve with our environments. We don't change into other species though. The genetic information doesn't work that way. A cat can't turn into a dog or vice a versa. The truth is there if you seek it. Science has a purpose. It's our way of trying to understand god without talking to him. God is just as real as an atom or a cell or the wind. He lives in our hearts. Just because you deny his existence doesn't change the fact that he is real.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Ibjonnyc

      Its funny that Scientist"s seeking out what caused the hypothetical Big Bang calls it The hand Of God. Not that I think most believe there is one cause most of them don't. Nor do I think they will ever find out why there was nothing and then boom: everything. Sure they can make up a theory and agree on it but its not really the truth.Science in a way is pushing me to believe more and more in a grand design. Especially when they explain all the things that had to happen by chance to this little planet of ours in order for life to even exist. The best theory however is that at the moment of creation if the timing was off by one quintillionth of an inch then we have no Big Bang and no universe. That is equal to one grain of sand among all the beaches on the planet. Pretty amazing if you believe in chance. I play the lottery,and have since it started every Tuesday.They say my chances of winning are 1 in 7 million.Sad to say I haven't one it yet but those chances are a trillion times better than 1 in a quintillion.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • momoya

      Cory, you made so many wrong statements in that one post that I lost count. You should probably seek to make a living in the clergy of some Southern US extremist Pentecostal church or something like that. Cheers.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:41 pm |
    • momoya

      lbjohnnyc

      Scientists do not say that there was nothing and then the Big Bang occurred. The big bang describes the expansion of a very small dense point of energy. People win lotteries all the time, even against incredible odds. If you deal yourself a hand of cards–any hand– do you know the statistical possibility of getting that hand? 2,598,960 Yet, you dealt it to yourself–every time.

      Long shots and incredible stuff does NOT indicate a particular god. Sure, you can believe in a "designer" if you want, but that's still a guess, and it's still a long, long, long, long, long, way from proof of any of the several thousand gods who have been thought up and worshiped over the millennia. Why are the principles of math so obvious and the principles of god aren't? Everybody uses the same math, no matter what god they believe in through blind faith.

      February 23, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Dmlmd

      One really can be a faith filled scientist. If you think it's either or, you don't understand either one.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:32 pm |
  16. Freon

    So glad to hear he's still driving, even though he can hardly brush his teeth. Why should drunk drivers have all the fun of causing deadly crashes?

    February 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  17. Lex

    But remember, for better or worse, once you die, there is nothingness.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:33 am |
    • JoeBananas

      True. So, Live Now!! This is your One and Only Life....Value and Protect and Celebrate YOUR LIFE!!

      February 23, 2012 at 11:03 am |
    • Erik

      Lex, where do you get that idea??

      February 23, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • JoeBananas

      Eric, Lex gets that idea from Reality! YES!! From his experience of his friends and neighbors and family who pass into death and do not return! It is True! And, of course if you ever read a newspaper, yew never hear about Returning from death. DewYew? Um....we also have Science which informs us about Reality! KICK A ROCK, DUDE!! LoL!
      (ohyeah....betyewbelievejesusisdesigningamansionferyew...yes...ongoldenstreets...but...yewgottadiefirst!! hehehe!)

      February 23, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Francis

      Your frame is narrow Lex. Here is a good read for you. There is life after death. There is more to the world than what our minds can comprehend. We think that because we are the most evolved species on a small blue planet somewhere in one of many universes, that we have all of the answers. JoeBananas- I admire your faith! You have faith that everything that you see around you (e.g.,stars billions of light years away from you), and everything you don't see (e.g., sub-atomic particles) just happened. Just came from nothing. The absolute complexity of the human cell and our vast universe is just the product of probability...luck. Your ignorance- and apathy- your refusal to search for truth and weigh the evidence in at your disposal to make an educated decision about your faith- might end up costing you after you take your last breath. I say might, because in the end God's mercy might outweigh your apathy and ignorance.

      Closer to the Light (Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children)

      February 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Francis

      Sorry....the read

      Closer to the Light (Learning from the Near-Death Experiences of Children)

      February 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Francis

      OK, CNN.com is not letting me post the link. The book is Closer to the Light. Best book I have ever read on NDEs.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  18. Steve Sanders

    I think the comments say more about the Christian worldview than any teaching lesson could. The hatred and bile being spewed by so many here is quite illuminating. Here a Christian man is dying and all you can do is cast insults. When Christopher Hitchens was dying, believers all over the world were praying for both physical and spiritual healing. The difference is stark. Cause and effect in action.

    February 23, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Bob

      Praying for Christopher Hitchens is as much an insult to the man's memory as the Mormons baptizing Ann Frank.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • Pete the Ninja

      @Bob much like asking an atheist to be nice to a dying christian is an insult to the atheist. Nice.

      February 23, 2012 at 10:50 am |
    • JoeBananas

      Everyone Dying or Living is a Mortal. We are the Same. We can all have empathy. Because we are all the Same. Did I mention that we are all the Same?

      February 23, 2012 at 10:56 am |
    • JoeBananas

      Preying to some god is, history proves, a useless exercise in futility. Whatever will be, will be. Prey to Doris Day...Same result!! Expressing sympathy and encouragement, however, can be appreciated. Love is Beautiful. Yew dew not have to be the Same. I don't really want to see, everybody just like me! Although I am Beautiful (at tymes...hehehe). Celebrate our Beautiful Differences and unite on the many ways we are Just the Same!

      February 23, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Eric O

      Maybe because Christopher Hitchens wasn't a member of the Moral Majority. The Moral Majority has used a 2,000 year old book as an excuse to persecute people for DECADES and make life miserable for anyone who didn't follow the MM's particular interpretation of that book. Is the persecution of people unlike the Moral Majority "What Jesus Would Do?" I think not. And that is what I most have a problem with. I know Christians that are very good people and lead their lives trying to help others less fortunate than themselves. And I know Atheists who have done the same. Treating other people with kindness and dignity is not something we needed the Bible to tell us to do, as evidenced the millions of kind people in this world who don't believe in the Bible.

      But more people have died at the hands of someone killing in the name of their God than for any other reason throughout the history of mankind. And that hypocrisy is what I have the most trouble with.

      February 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bob

      Pete the Ninja
      How would you like us to be "nice"? Fake prayers and say empty religious plat.itudes about going to heaven? Come on, nobody expected Christians to politely go against their beliefs and reassure Hitchens that there really isn't a hell awaiting him, but they could have done the human thing and just offered basic comfort and support, as you would a Hindu, or a Taoist acquaintance. As a recent article here stated most dying people aren't interested in talking about spiritual things.

      Ed Dobson isn't dead yet, so how would you want us to be "nice" to him? Give his bigoted views a polite pass? Nobody stopped challenging Hitchens views just because he was sick, and I doubt that he would have appreciated such treatment anyway.

      February 23, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • Marie

      Steve – Sad, isn't it? I don't understand why there's so much hate.

      You are the same people who cry out for everyone to accept gay marriage, because they're not hurting anyone, they only want equality, right? I believe in God, I have no problem with gay marriage. Yet you're the same people who will jump at the chance to bash on a Christian simply for having a belief. How are they hurting you? Do you see your hypocrisy? Grow up.

      February 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Ibjonnyc

      Wrong Ericb. I think more people died in the name of secularism than any other belief ie Stalin's Russia. However you believe what you want, the religious will believe what they want, and in the end one is right and one is wrong.

      February 23, 2012 at 6:26 pm |
    • Eric O

      Wrong lbjonnyc (and I'm Eric O, not b) – It has been proven by statisticians and even the Catholic Church has agreed that when you look at things like The Inquisition and The Crusades and all the wars where people invoke the name of their God. Not to mention the Middle East vs Israel, which is two religions pitted against one another. And then there's the Holocaust, millions of people of the Jewish faith killed right after Hitler created the state religion of German Christianity in 1938 and called the Aryan race "God's chosen people". And these are only a few examples.

      February 24, 2012 at 5:45 am |
  19. Nii Croffie

    Loving your fellow humans as yourself, loving your enemies, forgiving those who hurt you is what God demands as worship. Feeding the hungry, clothe the naked, water to the thirsty, visit the sick and prisoner. This is true sacrifice to God. Even if u r atheist these will not harm you wud they?

    February 23, 2012 at 10:12 am |
    • JoeBananas

      Er....Gods do not need that. It is Fraudulent Thinking. No mourning or sadness on Goldenstreetsheaven!! hehehe!!

      February 23, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • JoeBananas

      Er....Yew are quoting from a Man'sBook, the HolyMolyBibleBook!! LoL!! Gods did not write That. Only Men thousands of years ago. They expressed some wisdom, some timeless poetry, some foolishness, just like Real Men Today!! Seriously, do yew believe in flyingangels and pregnantvirgins and walkonwater?! Wake the Flock Up!! This is our 21st Century, Dude!~

      February 23, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Oh Yeah

      Nii Croffie
      A great many people do these things every day with pleasing other gods, or with pleasing no gods at all as motivation. It's just part of human nature to help others, and you want to hijack this impulse and claim it as something uniquely Christian. Come on, you know that this is just silly, right?

      February 23, 2012 at 2:05 pm |
  20. Dee

    I pray he doesn't die too quickly. That would be so very tragic. Hopefully the disease will spread slowly and take a long time before it consumes him.

    February 23, 2012 at 9:57 am |
    • Francis

      Is that sarcasm? Ignorance? Evil? I am confused by the comment. Perhaps your hope is that the longer he lives- the more time to the Lord's work?

      February 23, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.