There was something about Christopher Hitchens that Christians liked. You can see it in the fond obituaries that have been written this past week, my favourite being Doug Wilson’s touching prose elegy in Christianity Today. I think Amy Hall at Stand To Reason also has a good insight into why he was appreciated by those who disagreed with him. (And earlier this year, I chipped in with this.)
Conscious of his status as one of the high priests of the “new” atheism, he knew that anything he might say on his deathbed – however delirious or demented – might be used as evidence against the position he gave his life to advancing.
Even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until it’s “hello darkness my old friend”. In which case, why not cancer of the brain? As a terrified, half-aware imbecile, I might even scream for a priest at the close of business, though I hereby state while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be “me.” (Bear this in mind, in case of any later rumors or fabrications.)
Fittingly for one who positioned himself in direct opposition to God, Hitchens here offers his own twist on the words in the Bible’s last chapter, the ones that warn against adding or subtracting anything from the written testimony. As a formidable writer, Hitchens certainly knew the power of the word, if not the Word.
However, one of the differences between John (the writer of Revelation) and Christopher Hitchens (the writer of God Is Not Great) is that the former had seen and heard things he could never disavow, not even in the pangs of death. Regardless of the torture, he knew he was in no danger of undergoing a deathbed conversion to atheism.
Hitchens, on the other hand, was just prophetic enough to recognise that when caught in the teeth of his final moments, his mind – in common with all human minds – might well default to certain strong convictions, many of which he gave his life to denying.
Is God a wishful delusion born of fear? Or is that a better description of atheism? Well, like John before him, Christopher now knows for certain.