God’s Not Going To Lose Your Weight For You

Pastor Robby Dawkins (no relation to Richard, I assume) used to weigh 425 lbs. back in 2003. And though he claims to have seen a lot of miracles, praying to God just wasn’t helping him lose weight. He did have Graves disease, a thyroid disorder that may have been a reason for the excess weight, but he wasn’t eating too healthy, either.

One day, the fluctuating hormones in his body (a product of Graves Disease) stopped fluctuating– the doctor didn’t know why this was the case, but to Dawkins, this was a sign from God.

On a personal note, there’s a lot of truth to the saying, “There are no miracles; only misdiagnoses.” Still, this “sign” gave Dawkins the impetus to seriously exercise and eat properly. He’s currently at 210 lbs. and still working on losing the weight.

While atheists could have given Dawkins the correct advice from the start, here are some memorable quotations from the article:

But the solution to Dawkins’ morbid obesity didn’t come from a command on high, although prayer helped keep him focused.

“I realized that God wasn’t going to do it,” Dawkins said. “This was a discipline issue that I needed to learn myself.”

“Morbidly obese people always believe they can’t help themselves,” Dawkins said. “And that’s not true. You can do it.”

But God’s not going to do it for you, he said. At least not all of it.

The article states that the weight loss was a “miracle.” This is an unfortunate word choice. Give credit to Pastor Dawkins for coming up with a weight loss plan and sticking to it! Don’t attribute it to anything supernatural. This wasn’t a miracle. To say it was takes away from his perseverance and determination.

VJack is more biting in his criticism of the article, and rightfully so:

What? Weight loss through diet and exercise is miraculous? In what way? Just because something is difficult does not make doing it any sort of miracle.

(via Atheist Revolution)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Pastor, Robby Dawkins, God, Graves disease, thyroid, VJack, miracle, Atheist Revolution[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    What? Weight loss through diet and exercise is miraculous? In what way? Just because something is difficult does not make doing it any sort of miracle.

    You know, you guys have really got me thinking about this issue of miracles (not just in this post, but in many prior conversations) and I’ve come to the conclusion that I really think we (meaning both Christians and atheists) are operating with the “wrong” view of miracles (and by “wrong” I mean a non-biblical understanding of miracles). I think the assumption most theists and atheists make is that miracles are always “supernatural” events that are rightly contrasted with “natural” events.

    But I don’t think that’s a biblical (i.e. Hebraic) view of miracles. It seems to me that that natural/supernatural dichotomy has probably crept into Christian theology more through the influence of Greek philosophy (especially neo-Platonism). In a Hebraic view, miracles are events that demonstrate God’s Lordship over nature – that is, they are natural events that occur in such a way as to indicate that God is behind them (take, for example, the Ten Plagues – all of which have natural explanations, but which are intended to show that Yahweh, not the Egyptian gods, is Lord over nature.) There is no sharp dichotomy between what God does and what nature does. Nature is what God does.

    Anyhow, this misunderstanding is not the fault of atheists. You guys are just responding to the way most Christians talk about miracles too. I think we Christians have gone wrong in our theology. IMO, we need to get back to our Hebraic roots. (Though I’m sure you guys probably don’t care one way or the other. ;) )

    I’ve blogged more about this issue here. Comments are always welcome.

  • Ryan S

    I think there’s another difference at work here, and that is the fact that there is a fairly significant and pronounced drop-off in the definition of a miracle depending on whether the Christian is talking about the Old or New Testament (arguably, Hebraic vs Christian roots). The case of the plagues in Exodus 7-10 seem to me to not really follow the definition of a miracle (“an event which flatly contradicts the laws of nature”) with the exception of darkness, perhaps. It is reasonable to assume that locusts and hail existed during that time period, for example (I should think it quite unreasonable to assume the contrary, in fact) – but it is unlikely that under natural circumstances they would be…well…targeted and concentrated in such a manner. I like to think of Old Testament miracles as more of a manipulation of nature than a bold defiance of it.

    New Testament miracles on the other hand are just that…miracles. Walking on water, rising from the dead, water into wine…all examples of events which contradict the laws of nature. From a subjective stance you could call the N.T. miracles more ‘extreme’, but I think this misses the point which you illustrated very well of Christian theology’s departure from the norm in this regard.

    I have to argue that a probable reason that miracles in Christian theology have fallen away from the more conventional Abrahamic-era definition is simply because those allegedly perpetuated by Jesus do not fit said definition, and branch off into more…miraculous territory. To ask Christians to get back to Hebraic roots with regards to miracles is a bit unfair, methinks, when the New Testament, which many Christians base their faith upon more strongly than the Old (even if they hesitate to admit it), holds to a completely different definition of a miracle.

    Just my $0.02. Your mileage may vary. :)

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    Hemant, why does calling it a miracle take away from his perseverance and determination?

    I’ve often seen atheists make that objection but why can’t it be both/and rather than either/or?

    Also, yes, what Mike C said ;-)

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    Thanks for the link, Hemant. This remains one of my favorite blogs, so I’m always honored to be mentioned here. You are an inspiration.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Hemant, why does calling it a miracle take away from his perseverance and determination?

    Calling the weight loss a miracle (by my definition) attributes something supernatural to the event. It takes away from the fact that it was one guy’s determination.

    If I survived a difficult medical operation, it’s most likely because of the fine work of the doctors, not because God intervened. If I passed a difficult test, it wasn’t a miracle. It was because I studied.

    Why deny the fact that you did it yourself? You didn’t need the extra help!

  • Karen

    Calling the weight loss a miracle (by my definition) attributes something supernatural to the event. It takes away from the fact that it was one guy’s determination.

    If I survived a difficult medical operation, it’s most likely because of the fine work of the doctors, not because God intervened. If I passed a difficult test, it wasn’t a miracle. It was because I studied.

    Why deny the fact that you did it yourself? You didn’t need the extra help!

    I totally agree with you, Hemant, and it bugs me no end to see things called “miracles,” because so often the actual natural cause behind them gets no credit. Whether that actual cause was one person’s very admirable grit and self-control and hard work at dieting, or a team of medical specialists employing cutting-edge technology and incredible diligence and smarts.

    Helen, what I see happening is that people say, “That was a miracle!” and go on to talk about how everyone they know was praying for it, or “God surely had a reason to keep me alive!” etc. They very rarely add (at least in what I’ve seen): “And boy, those doctors were fantastic, and we’re so thankful for the years of scientific research and hard work behind this new medical technique!”

    When science, and physicians, or even individual effort gets publicly credited for these non-miraculous “miracles,” that translates very readily into actions like more funding for research, more respect for science, more hope that other overweight people CAN lose weight. When god gets the credit, none of that happens. And that’s a tragedy, to me.

    Lance Armstrong is the only person I’ve seen give absolute and total credit to science and his doctors for saving his life. And he, of course, is an atheist.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    the definition of a miracle (”an event which flatly contradicts the laws of nature”)

    That’s kind of my point – I don’t think that’s a very good definition of a miracle.

    I like to think of Old Testament miracles as more of a manipulation of nature than a bold defiance of it.

    That’s closer to what I think a Hebraic definition of miracles ought to be.

    But you’re right to point out the contrast between these OT miracles and some of Jesus’ miracles. I’m not pushing for a hard and fast definition one way or the other. I think it can be a both/and. Sometimes a miracle is more of a manipulation of nature, and sometimes it’s a supernatural suspension (or acceleration) of nature (for instance, there’s nothing unusual about water turning into wine – grape vines do that all the time – Jesus simply sped up the process and did it without the help of the vines ;) ).

    A New Testament understanding of miracles is complex – I can’t fully develop the theology of it here – but it’s important to realize the purpose behind Jesus’ miracles – i.e. the message they were intended to convey. They aren’t just magic tricks to “prove” that Jesus was divine. They are an integral part of communicating his message. And that message is essentially about new creation, about a coming and now present kingdom that reverses the worldly order of things (i.e. the systems of power, wealth, violence, death, destruction that rule human societies) and establishes a new order of peace, healing, freedom, love, generosity, etc.

    That is why Jesus’ miracles are referred to as “Signs”. They signify the character of the kingdom. So when Jesus heals the sick and the blind, it’s a sign that the kingdom is about healing (both physical, emotional, and spiritual). When he turns water into wine or multiplies loaves and fishes, it’s a sign that the kingdom is about abundance and generosity. When he raises the dead, it’s a sign that the kingdom has broken the power of death and brings new life (both physically and spiritually). When he casts out demons, it’s a sign that the kingdom is about setting people free from whatever oppresses them (whether spiritual or political/systemic).

    In other words, I think Jesus’ miracles tend to be more “beyond” the laws of nature because they are meant to illustrate the remaking and renewing of Creation that Christ’s kingdom is all about.

    Again, I’m sure as atheists all this theology is probably moot to you guys. I guess the point to me is simply that it can be a both/and, and not every miracle has to be a suspension of natural law.

    But on the hand, as a theist I have no problem believing that God can sometimes work in ways that are beyond natural law as well. If I believe that he created it all in the first place, and put the laws in place, then it’s not much more of a leap to believe that he could possibly bend the rules sometimes too.

    That’s why I think it’s irrelevant to argue over miracles. If you believe in God, then there should be no problem with believing that miracles (whether natural or supernatural) are at least possible. And if you don’t believe in God then there’s no possibility they could exist anyway. Why bother arguing that miracles can’t exist when what you’re really arguing is that God doesn’t?

  • Professor Chaos

    This doesn’t make any sense. Perhaps I should read the full article first, so I don’t make myself look stupid, but I have Graves’ disease, and it doesn’t make you gain weight. It keeps you from gaining weight. I know virtually all there is to know about the disease.

    I am 6,0″. Before my treatment, I would eat about four-five meals per day and I weighed 135 lbs. Not a good weight for a six-footer.

    *****I put my post on hold and read the article. Methinks he’s not being truthful.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Maybe the article got the name of the disease wrong. My mom has a thyroid disorder and, similar to Dawkins, she has a lot of trouble losing weight no matter how much she diets or exercises. I don’t know exactly what it’s called, but it’s similar to Graves Disease in that it involves a hormone imbalance. It’s just different in its effects apparently.

  • Professor Chaos

    What Graves’ does is affects the thyroid gland, which regulates your body’s metabolism. Many women (and men) suffer from thyroid problems, most commonly an overactive thyroid, known as “hypothyroidism.”

    But Graves causes the reverse – hyerthyroidism. Basically, the metabolism of your body doesn’t stop. To this day my body aches from head to toe because after metabolizing all of the food I would take in, my body was still looking for more – and aimed at muscle tissue.

    My bullshit filter is a little more sensitive when dealing with theists claiming divine intervention. But upon further review of this article, it just doesn’t make sense.

  • Karen

    My bullshit filter is a little more sensitive when dealing with theists claiming divine intervention. But upon further review of this article, it just doesn’t make sense.

    Okay, thanks for that info. It didn’t make sense to me either. I have borderline hyperthyroidism myself, and as I understood it Graves disease is an extreme form of HYPER-thyroidism, not HYPO.

    So Graves would make it impossible for him to gain weight, not impossible to lose it. Something’s wrong somewhere – I don’t know if it’s intentional misleading, or just confusion about the medical terminology or what.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “hypothyroidism”

    Yeah, that’s what my mom has. Sounds like that’s what Dawkins had too. I notice that in the article he never actually says “Graves Disease” the article writer is the one who mentions that term. I’m in the Beacon News’ distribution area, and out here we call it the “Be Confused” because they’re always getting stuff like this wrong. I’m guessing that Pastor Dawkins knows what disease he has. My money is on the reporter getting it wrong. That whole paper is staffed by a bunch of rookies just out of journalism school anyway – like I said, these kind of mistakes are a regular occurrence over there. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Actually I know some folks that go to Pastor Dawkin’s church, I should just ask them…

  • Professor Chaos

    You’re probably right, Mike, thanks for the heads up. :)

  • Mriana

    My mother had Grave’s Disease in the 70s. She put on a lot of weight too, but after they had her drink radiation (I kid you not) most of her thyroid was dead and they put her on thyroxin to replace the hormone it produced. She lost most of the weight after that too. Sorry, there was no divine providence there. Just medical science.

  • Professor Chaos

    Precisely, Mriana. Which is why I said “after treatment.” The radiation of which you speak is actually RAI, or radioactive iodine. I opted for surgery because I was trying to have children at the time.

  • Mriana

    Yes, that is it.. BTW, 5 years ago, she had Breast Cancer. According to my great grandmother, shocked by the news when it was Dx, there has never been a case of Breast Cancer in the family before. Just goes to show, we either didn’t know enough back then about MAI and it lead to breast cancer, or environmental factors or something triggered a dorment gene. Whatever the case, I now have to watch for Graves Disease AND breast cancer. :( Luckily my mother is a Cancer Survivor for 5 years now. :D

  • Mriana

    ACK! No edit button. I meant RAI

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  • Dirtboxnap

    Robby had surgery and pills. Funny how now, in 2012, he weighs more than he ever did. God changed his mind?


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