Since Christopher Hitchens
was diagnosed with cancer in June, he has received thousands of letters and e-mails, some from believers asserting that he’s getting what he deserves, more from people saying they’re praying for his recovery. Hitchens says he has been overwhelmed by the outpouring. But he is annoyed that some writers hope he’ll have a last-minute conversion to Christianity.
“Under no persuasion could I be made to believe
that a human sacrifice several thousand years ago vicariously redeems me from sin,” he says. “Nothing could persuade me that that was true — or moral, by the way. It’s white noise to me.”
His brother, Peter, is equally blunt: “There is actually no absolute right or wrong if there is no God
,” he says
Peter once shared his older brother’s views; he burned his Bible when he was a teenager in boarding school. But as he chronicled in his book, The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith
— which he wrote as a response to his brother’s anti-religious book — he felt drawn back to his Anglican
faith starting in his late 20s.
He says his work as a journalist in Somalia and the former Soviet Union convinced him that civilization without religious morality devolves into brutality
. Moral behavior requires more than higher reasoning, he says; it requires God.
“I’m praying for Christopher Hitchens,” says
Chrisina Odone at The Telegraph
Noting that columnist Johann Hari said that we shouldn’t pray for the author, she writes: I find myself in a quandary: upon hearing that an acquaintance has throat cancer, of course I instantly want to pray for them. Hitchens is not only an acquaintance, but a life-enhancer. Even when he’s in vicious mode, his prose fizzes and dazzles: “Shepherds”, he informed Canadians during a lecture tour, “don’t look after sheep because they love them — although I do think some shepherds like their sheep too much. They look after their sheep so they can, first, fleece them and second, turn them into meat. That’s much more like the priesthood as I know it.”
I won’t say “Amen” to that, but I would like to get on my knees and say the “Our Father” for someone for whom I have a sneaking admiration, Odone adds while wondering whether it is it right to pray for someone who claims to find prayer hateful.