The Working Title Is…Heaven and Howard Stern

The self-proclaimed “King of All Media” has been labeled a narcissist, a misogynist and a pig. Before moving to satellite radio, the undeniably provocative and controversial radio host amassed more than $2.5M in FCC fines for airing material deemed indecent.

He can be crude, his guests often lewd, his callers notoriously rude, and yet, strangely enough, I love the dude.

I am an avid listener. Many years from now, when my grandchildren ask what I remember about the horror of September 11, I will begin by telling them that as I dropped their mom off at pre-school, it was Howard Stern who told me a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.

Does he gross me out sometimes? Totally. When he travels a path I find less than entertaining, I exercise my right to change the channel. But I change it back when the naughty stuff is over because the man is truly a gifted interviewer.

Aspiring journalists, broadcasters, even those studying human resources, psychology, law enforcement and future litigators should study his craft. It is beautiful to “watch” the verbal dance through which he draws people into his web of interviewing genius. Guests, who have clearly stated that they do not want to address a specific topic, will spill every bean…and then some. He is disarming, engaging and cleverly persistent.

I’ve heard him claim to be an atheist or an agnostic. I’ve also heard him admit to praying when he’s scared or sick or during his co-host Robin’s recent battle with cancer. I’ve heard him deny the existence of heaven and offer his opinion that our death is like a computer being shut off. The End.

This week, Steve Carell provided a fascinating interview. During the conversation, Carell described himself as a devout Catholic, and Howard dove into the whole God/heaven/hell discussion.

You could almost hear the sweat beads dripping off Carell’s publicist’s brow as soon as the topic turned to religion. They were probably prepared—even hoping– for Stern’s signature dirty talk, but instead he went to the core of religious belief.

Howard Stern was respectful in his line of questioning, and Steve Carell offered a perspective that resonated as the musings of a fellow Cafeteria Catholic. He struggled, as many of us do, to offer an explanation on those issues he accepts on faith alone.

This interview got me thinking. People who gain strength and define their character through spirituality or organized religion accept certain things on faith alone. Belief comes without empirical evidence or proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and often, faith defies logic.

So what if we set our faith aside for a moment and took Stern at his premise? What if when our heart stops beating, it’s over. Done. Finito. No afterlife. Nothing. All a big scam.

If heaven doesn’t exist (which it does) and it fails to make good on the promise to eliminate all suffering and pain, or falls short on being a place of perfect knowledge, comfort and joy (which it won’t) then the fact will remain that people of faith spent their lives committed to creating a bit of heaven here on Earth.

It’s an old argument in the atheist vs. theist debate, but age doesn’t diminish accuracy.  Atheists appear to be devoted to advancing debate, but I’m hard pressed to find any measurable, collective positive impact they desire to make on our world.  And they always seem so cranky.

Faith based organizations make a palpable impact on our world.  Almost 20% of all US hospital beds are in faith-based medical systems.   Students are being educated in more than 1,200 faith-based colleges and universities and 16% of all K-12 students are educated in faith-based schools including Jewish, Christian and Muslim programs. The largest private foundations donate upwards of $70M annually to support faith-based social service programs aimed at making a difference in our communities.

Acknowledgement even extends to government. The opening paragraph of the 2012 annual report of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief reads, “Without the contributions of our faith-based organization partners, (we) could not have achieved the extraordinary impact on the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the past decade.” It goes on to say, “Faith Based Organizations have long been symbols of hope to millions of people.”

Hope is powerful.  I have watched as people struggle to put their faith into words, but are able to put their faith into practice with relative ease when it comes in service to others. And so I will continue to work to make a little bit of heaven here on earth, and I will support others in their attempts.

More than a narcissist, a misogynist and a pig, Howard Stern seems to be a little lost and seriously lacking in self-esteem. You don’t have to be a gifted interviewer to figure that out.

I hope he can find peace in his heart without having to find definitive answers to his questions because that, quite frankly, is heavenly.


PS: Check out Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The episode featuring Howard Stern is funny. And sad in a way too.



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