Atheist Hitchens Credits Evangelical Francis Collins for Cancer Hope

World famous atheist, Christopher Hitchens, made a surprising revelation recently that his former debate opponent, outspoken evangelical scientist Francis Collins, is behind a new experimental cancer treatment that he is using.

In an interview with U.K. Telegraph Magazine, Hitchens said that Collins, who was formerly the director of the National Center for Human Genome Research and now serves as director of the National Institutes of Health, is partially responsible for developing a new cancer treatment that maps out the patient's entire genetic make-up and targets damaged DNA.

Hitchens, author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, said that he was asked a few weeks after he was diagnosed with cancer last year to be a guinea pig for a new genome sequencing treatment that could possibly cure cancer.

In June 2010, Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. The cancer is at stage 4.

"And the thing to note about stage four is that there is no stage five," commented Hitchens during the interview published on Friday.

Although he was told to not have any expectations for the treatment, he found out earlier this year that there was already medicine out for the genetic mutation expressed by his tumor.

Prior to falling ill, Hitchens had debated Collins, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, about the existence of God. Hitchens said he and Collins have become good friends despite their religious differences.

"It is a rather wonderful relationship," said Hitchens. "I won't say he doesn't pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn't discuss it with me."

He added, "He agrees that his medical experience does not include anything that could be described as a miracle cure – he's never come across anything."

Hitchens has been polite about the idea of Christians praying for his cancer treatment. But he has remained resolute that his cancer battle will not sway his religious opinion on God.

Last year, Collins wrote in a special piece for The Washington Post for "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day": "My prayer is not so much for a supernatural intervention – as a physician I have not seen evidence for such medical miracle in my own experience.

"Instead I pray for myself and for Christopher along the lines of James 1:5."

The verse James 1:5 says: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

Hitchens has said that he will not convert on his deathbed unless he is "very ill" or "half demented, either by drugs or pain where I wouldn't have control over what I say."

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