Christopher Hitchens, oh how little you know. You think that religious people obsess over belief and try to convert atheists, that they evangelise, that they worry about who’s being prayed for. You think that religious people – evidently belying fundamental insecurities about their own faith – worry about whether the prayed-for atheist will respond with a miraculous conversion or die without ever feeling the need to embrace the cosy myth. But you’re wrong, wrong I tell you. Let me explain it all for you in this gossipy article I wrote for the Catholic Herald… which I’ve entitled “Christopher Hitchens has mellowed, but his idea of Christianity is still grossly distorted”, in which I obsess about your beliefs, recite who’s now trying to pray for/convert you or otherwise, and speculate in a roundabout way as to whether or not you’ll recant your atheism.
[... Dr Francis] Collins is the former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute; and it is his research which has pioneered the experimental treatment that Hitchens is receiving for his throat cancer. Interestingly, Hitchens, as well as naturally hoping that this treatment will efficiently target the site of his tumour, has become good friends with Collins and has publicly debated religion with him.
The Holy Father, as is generally known, is a Catholic; Francis Collins is an evangelical Christian, and author of The Language of God: A Scientist presents Evidence for Belief; and Hitchens, in case you didn’t know it, is a devout atheist. “Devout” is probably the wrong word but “keen” or “committed” don’t quite convey his evangelical brand of atheism. Some Christians hope that if the experiment, involving Hitchens’s DNA, is effective and he is cured, he will undergo a change of heart. But conversion doesn’t work so straightforwardly; you have to be open to grace at some level and, judging from his public pronouncements, Hitchens has slammed this particular door shut. Yet who am I to judge him? As Carson McCullers once wrote, the heart is a lonely hunter.
What is obvious, though, is that in Hitchens’s case, it is not a question of Christianity having been tried and found wanting: it has simply never been tried – or understood… [blah, blah, blah, Hitchens, prayer, belief, religious language, Hitchens should be prayed for, yadda yadda]
Thanks Francis Phillips! That’s really helpful.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]Hitchens is wrong about everything, says helpful Catholic Herald reviewer,