Do we have any volunteers to pray for Christopher Hitchens? He’s the self-proclaimed “atheist/anti-theist” and stunningly clever wordsmith. He leapfrogged puzzled agnosticism to a pledged rebellion against God.
He’ll be a tough turn-around, so thick is his ironclad ignorance of the divine.
In a recent Newsweek, he cynically dissects Mother Teresa’s dark theological struggles, a postscript to his derisive 1995 book, “The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.” A week ago, he was a featured speaker for an Atheist Alliance conference in Washington, D.C.
Hitchens’ latest book, “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” maligns the devoted, be their god Creator or counterfeit. “Holy books,” including the Bible, are “mythological morality tales,” and he suggests any religious training is child-abuse.
“The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species,” Hitchens says, putting Christians such as Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce and 1997 Nobel Prize winner (Physics) William D. Phillips on par with prokaryotes, single-celled bacteria.
To his credit, Hitchens writes with an articulate panache. He dismisses God with such alacrity that before a defender inhales, Hitchens has embroidered an impenetrable semantic tapestry. And his self-deprecating narrative in Vanity Fair’s October issue about his stint at a chic California spa is a genuine belly-laugher.
But this engaging literary acrobat is doomed to the blazing repository unless someone arrests his descent. And the only ones who can pray him out of his self-determined fate are the very ones he pillories.
No, Christopher, whose name ironically, means “Christ-bearer,” is not an appealing prayer candidate. Then again, neither are most infidels.
“During the time I was engaged in the slave trade, I never had the least scruple as to its lawfulness,” said prosperous atheist and slave-trader John Newton. “It is accounted a genteel employment … very profitable.” But through the undeserved kindness of a fellow ship’s captain, Newton’s spiritual blindness was reversed and he went on to write, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. …”
Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of Harvard Law School, severely ridiculed Christianity and determined through judicial evidentiary methods to debunk the resurrection “myth.” Coming to the opposite conclusion, Greenleaf embraced the faith and spent the rest of his life writing extensively in defense of biblical accuracy.
Werner von Braun, the Third Reich wunderkind and father of the United States space program, was known in his early years as a “merry heathen,” having no interest in religion, the church or its Bible. The genius von Braun epitomized what Hitchens idolizes – science, logic and overall smarts. However, von Braun did a religious about face and became unabashedly evangelical whenever asked about his faith.
“In fact God deliberately reduced Himself to the stature of humanity in order to visit the earth in person …,” von Braun wrote in 1976. “The universe as revealed through scientific inquiry is the living witness that God has indeed been at work.”
Geneticist Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, thought faith “was a carryover from an earlier, irrational time … we didn’t need it anymore.” But Collins did a U-turn to Christ and says now, “God’s creation is majestic, awesome, intricate and beautiful – and it cannot contradict itself. He is the same God, whether you find him in the cathedral or in the laboratory. He is in the laws of physics, but he is also the ultimate source of love and forgiveness.”
For all Christopher Hitchens’ cantankerous ramblings, it is undeniably plain that his pedantic snobbery has acutely stunted his spiritual aptitude. His denunciation of all things religious reflects a brain crammed with data but devoid of wisdom.
Though it is easier to leave Christopher to his stultified self, we “religious crackpots” must heed the directive to pray for prodigals. And time’s a-wasting; the man is a sot and tobacco addict with an abbreviated life expectancy. This theological curmudgeon will sink below the flames before we know it.
And God will grieve the loss of a brilliant man.
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