No, Don’t Pray for Hitchens
Just hope he gets well
“Prayers are being said for Christopher Hitchens—despite his anti-religious beliefs—with the news that he has cancer of the esophagus,” reads Page Six. Since the item doesn’t actually say who is doing the praying, I can only assume that they are either snarking at a sick unbeliever, or that they are ignorant of their offensiveness. Hitchens (a Tablet Magazine contributor who late in his life discovered that his mother was Jewish) has devoted a good part of his intellectual life to ferociously battling the idea that God exists, culminating in his 2007 best-seller God Is Not Great. I find that suggesting prayer for a man who resents even the concept that there is Someone to pray to is pretty repugnant (and I say this as one who would not mind prayers if I found myself in Hitchens’s current position).
I think he would agree. Here is how he concludes his recently published memoir, Hitch-22, brilliantly merging his unbelief with his apparently parallel crusade against earthly dictatorship:
Over the course of the last decade, I have become vividly aware of a literally lethal challenge from the sort of people who deal in absolute certainty and believe themselves to be actuated and justified by a supreme authority. To have spent so long learning so relatively little, and then to be menaced in every aspect of my life by people who already know everything, and who have all the information they need …
After various past allegiances, I have come to believe that Karl Marx was rightest of all when he recommended continual doubt and self-criticism. Membership in the skeptical faction or tendency is not at all a soft option. The defense of science and reason is the great imperative of our time … To be be an unbeliever is not to be merely “open-minded.” It is, rather, a decisive admission of uncertainty that is dialectically connected to the repudiation of the totalitarian principle, in the mind as well as in politics.
Pray for Christopher Hitchens [Page Six]
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