Skip to comments.Christopher Hitchens: Don't Trouble 'Deaf Heaven' With Prayers for Me
Posted on 04/02/2011 7:04:30 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
With less than two weeks before Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day, cancer-stricken Christopher Hitchens is encouraging believers to hold off on praying for him.
I dont mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries, the atheist author wrote in a first-person article for Vanity Fairs October 2010 issue.
Unless, of course, it makes you feel better, he added, echoing a past comment.
Last month, in an interview with CNNs Anderson Cooper, Hitchens said he was well aware of the prayer groups that have formed since he announced late June that he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer the same cancer his father died of.
When asked if he told people not to pray for him, the devoted atheist told Cooper, No, but said those who feel better in doing so have my blessing.
In an interview days later with The Atlantic, Hitchens also said, I take it (prayer) kindly on the assumption that people are praying for my recovery.
Now, about a month after the interviews, Hitchens appears to have decided to discourage prayer particularly on Sept. 20 noting in his Vanity Fair piece that it would present him with another secular problem.
[W]hat if I pulled through and the pious faction contentedly claimed that their prayers had been answered? That would somehow be irritating, he wrote.
Author of the New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Hitchens is one of the most prominent figures in the new atheism movement, though the English-born author describes himself as an anti-theist.
Hitchens contends that organized religion is "the main source of hatred in the world" and has appeared in a number of debates with Christian theologians and pastors, including Pastor Douglas Wilson, who Hitchens engaged in a series of written debates on the question "Is Christianity Good for the World?"
In his Vanity Fair piece, Hitchens said Wilson was among those praying for him and that the Moscow, Idaho-based pastor was praying for three things that I would fight off the disease, that I would make myself right with eternity, and that the process would bring the two of us back into contact.
He couldnt resist adding rather puckishly that the third prayer had already been answered, Hitchens remarked.
To date, Hitchens says hes received an astonishing and flattering number of correspondences from people regarding his illness.
And very few, he said, failed to say one of two things.
Either they assured me that they wouldnt offend me by offering prayers or they tenderly insisted that they would pray anyway, Hitchens shared.
He also noted that there are some quite reputable Catholics, Jews, and Protestants who think that I might in some sense of the word be worth saving, including renowned geneticist and believer Dr. Francis Collins, who Hitchens described as one of the greatest living Americans.
He has been kind enough to visit me in his own time and to discuss all sorts of novel treatments, only recently even imaginable, that might apply to my case. And let me put it this way: he hasnt suggested prayer, and I in turn havent teased him about The Screwtape Letters, Hitchens wrote.
But not all, unsurprisingly, have been praying for Hitchens well-being. Some have been praying for him to die a horrible agonizing death, while others have been praying for him to burn in hell.
Some even believe the tumor in his esophagus is Gods revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him, though the cancer has yet spread to his throat.
But, as Hitchens noted, cancer is quite evenly distributed among saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers.
Furthermore, he says, even if my voice goes before I do, I shall continue to write polemics against religious delusions, at least until its hello darkness my old friend.
Even if he developed cancer of the brain and became a terrified, half-aware imbecile who near death would call for a priest, Hitchens insists while I am still lucid that the entity thus humiliating itself would not in fact be me.
[T]he god who would reward cowardice and dishonesty and punish irreconcilable doubt is among the many gods in which (whom?) I do not believe, he said, calling out those who ditch long-held principles in hope of gaining favor at the last minute.
While not mentioned, some have interpreted Hitchens' "entity" remarks to be a subtle reference to the late Professor Antony Flew, who became a deist six years ago after championing atheism for most of his life.
Flew, who died this past April, was one of the best-known atheists of his generation. And to this day, his conversion remains contentious as there were doubts over Flew's mental capacities after 2004.
"With his powers in decline, Antony Flew, a man who devoted his life to rational argument, has become a mere symbol, a trophy in a battle fought by people whose agendas he does not fully understand," wrote New York Times Magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer after meeting up with Flew in England prior to the professors death.
To guard against such an occurrence and to dispel potential rumors, Hitchens has insisted that any story about him making a death bed conversion should be quickly rejected.
If that comes, it will be when I'm very ill, when I'm half demented, either by drugs or pain where I wouldn't have control over what I say, Hitchens told Anderson Cooper last month.
I can't say that the entity wouldn't be me, he added. But while hes still lucid, Hitchens said he wouldnt do such a pathetic thing.
So if there is some story that on your death bed Cooper began to ask.
Don't believe it, Hitchens quickly responded.
We are told in Proverbs not to cast our pearls before swine.
I am not sure this is such a case but I tend to think it is.
Isn't that ironic.
I wasn't aware of this until now but will pray for him. What a testimony he would have!
Mans religion causes problems, Gods does not.
Boy this lost soul needs our prayers.
There isn’t any thing “swinish” about praying for the soul of another man. The Holy Spirit keeps working on him.
why are you now posting an article from last september 7?
Me thinks he doth protest too much.
God is most glorified in saving the worst of sinners.
I’m not saying Christopher Hitchens is the worst of sinners, but he would like us to think so.
The sad thing is that he apparently doesn’t understand the difference between religion and a personal relationship with God.
I used to think him to be quite a handsome young man. But then, I’m no beauty queen myself these days.
“Hitchens’ “entity” remarks to be a subtle reference to the late Professor Antony Flew, who became a deist six years ago after championing atheism for most of his life.”
Deist - well, isn’t that special. Not. Deism is agnosticism lite.
I can’t help but feel sorry for people like Hitchens who have no hope (even if he doesn’t view it that way). I’ve often heard Hell described as the total absence of God. So CH’s been living his life in Hell already, for a long time.
Why do such supposedly “enlightened, intellectual” people rail so vehemently against even the possibility of a Higher Power???
Hey. At least this guy is consistent to the end. If the mans last wishes are no prayers, I see no reason why I would disregard them. I always thought him a thoughtful man, even if I disagreed on points. I hope him all the best.
This guy is defiant and principled to the very end. Respect. Look, he doesn;t want your/our prayers, so be it. At least he didn’t change his tune like some liberal.
His brother is a faithful Christian, who, I’m sure, is praying hard for Christopher.
Hitchens and many of the people he argues with think of religion as something very specific, backed up literally by some holy book. But religion in the most general sense is a lot more fuzzy and squishy than that.
There is no reason for Hitchens to believe in an actual heaven and/or hell to be a Christian religious person. All of you who think otherwise, just continue with your viewpoint, in peace.
Pride and vanity. Hitchens has always been too brilliant for his own good. It’s a shame, he could have been a great force for good. He’s one of the great writers of our time.
I will miss him. But I’ll respect his wishes and reserve my prayers for the innocent. He’ll have his answers soon enough.
So he gets all these Christians praying for his recovery...does he still believe that religion causes most of the problems in the world?
That’s not exactly a logical conclusion.
He’s been consistent, belligerently so, for his entire career. That consistency has made him many enemies on his side of the aisle. And it’s why so many of us have so much respect for him. I never had a favorite Trotskyite until I started reading Chris Hitchens.
Yes, he’s a great writer and has a wonderful mind. I just pray for his heart and soul.
I will pray for him.
It makes me feel better - prayers for Hitchens...
Christopher Hitchens...who the heck is he? ANSWER: a pipsqueak.
He doesn’t come close to either thief on the cross....forget him
Dear Christopher, (whose name means “Christ-bearer”) prepare to be surprised.
He has been a man of consistent and honest beliefs - even though such consistency and honesty has brought him condemnation from former friends who hoped he would join them in hypocrisy.
This is rare and it’s to be respected.
I wish him well, though if it isn’t to be, then I wish him a dignified and painless death.
Poor bastard. Of course we should pray for him.
Love it. Harder cases have cracked under less duress. Praying that he lives to celebrate his change of heart.
“There isnt any thing swinish about praying for the soul of another man. The Holy Spirit keeps working on him.”
I didn’t mean to imply that it is. The verse seems to imply the rejector is a swine, certainly not the caster of the pearls.
Similarly, when Jesus sent His disciples out to preach the gospel, if they were refused, they were instructed to shake the very dust off their feet as a testimony against that town.
So I think there is a consistent sense of discerning times to witness and pray and times to not witness and pray.
I don’t pretend to perfectly know when those times are. I don’t think we are supposed to continually hold up the Lord and His sacrifice for abuse, though.
“Why do such supposedly enlightened, intellectual people rail so vehemently against even the possibility of a Higher Power???”
Wow, he's saying he'd rather be dead than see God get any credit for his recovery. He'd rather die than be wrong in his atheist beliefs. Thus, essenstially, he'd rather be dead than have to live with God. It's a shame he will very probably learn the eternal implications of that mindset the hard way.
When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Thanks, I understand. I guess I have a hard time letting any one go regardless how they behave.
He calls Heaven “deaf”. This hints at anger and self pity. It is not the statement of an unbeliever.
RE: why are you now posting an article from last september 7?
1) Is there any reason why I should not ? I did not post it in the NEWS section did I?
2) It was posted in the RELIGION section. Religious issues are TIMELESS and can be discussed ANYTIME.
3) I have posted articles that are over a year old that have never been posted in FR. Is there a rule in this forum that tells us we can only post articles that are most recent?
Yeah, that line stuck me the same way. Hitchens has got himself into the sort of lethally ironic situation in which the only way he wins is if he loses--only he won't be around to gloat about it when he does. And if (may God will it despite him) he does live, it will be under conditions that he at least fears will serve to undermine everything he's been going on about--if not in the minds of his targets, then--perhaps most unbearably of all--in his own mind. To save face, he's already pre-emptively ruled out any effect that a death-bed conversion might have on popular opinion by claiming that it would be the result of failing mental powers, drug-induced dementia, or mortal terror, which are apparently the only motives he can conceive of for a belief in God--which is part of his problem. (Not that mortal terror can't be a good place to start--it's just not a good place to still be at a couple of years down the road.)
It's a shame he will very probably learn the eternal implications of that mindset the hard way.
Probability and the history of the personality involved certainly suggest that this is the most likely outcome. But you never can tell--mortal terror has the effect of (in the words of Samuel Johnson} clearing the mind wonderfully, by displaying sharply antithetical (and absolutely final) alternatives and then demanding what might be called an existential leap. What happens under those conditions, no man--not even the one making the leap--may reliably predict until the moment is upon him, and he may not be consciously aware even then why he has chosen what he has chosen--only that some unsuspected and essential something has compelled him to leap one way or the other. Moments like this are hidden in glorious mystery, and are, I suspect, one of the reasons God created us with free will in the first place, and refuses to affect it directly--so that (in a sense) even He can be "surprised" by what happens next!
In our discussion of all this, I am afraid that we may forget that Mr. Hitchens is not a lay figure or a straw man in an idle philosophical debate--he is an actual man actually dying: and I would hate for any reluctance he might have about surviving after our prayers for him to be based on his very likely suspicion that he would be twitted and jeered at by many for changing his mind about God on the edge of disaster, or that our prayers would forever after be thrown back into his face as "evidence" that he was wrong about us after all. He is standing at precisely that point--in fear of his life--that most of us would do anything to avoid facing, but will nevertheless have to face eventually, one way or another; and whether he agrees with it or not--and especially if he doesn't--he needs our prayers.
What he does with the results of them is up to him. And the same goes for us.
Hitchens is true to the template: every modern atheist I’ve met has been an arrogant selfish “intellectual” who fashions himself the smartest person in any room. Their arguments are delivered with an elitist sneer.
I'll pray for him anyway...God doesn't pay any attention to whether we wish his grace or not..He gives it anyway.
The Holy Spirit has softened harder hearts than Christopher Hitchens'.
Like Christopher, I’m a sinner deserving of nothing. I’ll pray for him.
He’s painted himself into a corner, a lose/lose situation. The only way out is for him to just forget everything that he’s ever said and start out fresh. It’s called being born again.
Good call--it sounds as if there was something he prayed for desperately that he didn't get. He sounds like C. S. Lewis in his atheist days, when he didn't believe that God existed, and was very angry with Him for not existing.
People like Hitchens are closer to being believers than they want to admit, or even suspect. The passion and vehemence with which they proclaim their disbelief often means that they are very invested in the idea of God, but sort of on the "dark side" of the subject. An anger because of failed expectations of God can indicate a strong need to believe.
Or it could indicate that he just enjoys yanking believers' chains.
If Heaven doesn't exist, how could it be deaf?
Prayers going up.
Oh my goodness, he looks terrible. Sure hope he turns around soon, as he is running out of time.