I say, “RIP,” sadly thinking Christopher Hitchens is not.
The renowned liberal author and journalist died yesterday at the age of 62 following a short battle against esophageal cancer since summer 2010.
Hitchens spent his latter years evangelizing atheism. So he wanted it known he would not convert to Christianity at the end, and if he did he really didn’t. From Causa Celsum:
Hitchens suspected there would be rumors of a deathbed conversion – but even more he feared that he might actually call out to God. Speaking perhaps truer than he knew, he sought to give a preemptive strike against such a possibility, explaining that would not be the real Christopher Hitchens doing such a thing:
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. 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.)
But hope springs eternal. Wrote Denny Burk, associate professor of biblical studies at Boyce College:
I would like to think that perhaps his skepticism didnt win out in the end. I would like to think that the gospel he heard from Wilson and others might have broken through just in time as it did for the thief on the cross. Stranger things have happened, and the Lords arm indeed is not too short to save even in such a moment.
With such a bio, one might assume Hitchens was pro-abortion. While it is difficult to exactly explain his position, he was not that, in small or large part due to his history, as he explained in his Vanity Fair column in 2003:
I was in my early teens when my mother told me that a predecessor fetus and a successor fetus had been surgically removed, thus making me an older brother rather than a forgotten whoosh….
And Ive since become the father of several fetuses, three of which, or perhaps I had better say three of whom, became reasonably delightful children. There was a time, it seemed, when I couldnt sneeze on a woman without becoming a potential father….
[A]t least once I found myself in a clinic while products of conception were efficiently vacuumed away. I can distinctly remember thinking, on the last such occasion, that under no persuasion of any kind would I ever allow myself to be present at such a moment again.
This lucky abortion survivor must sometimes have asked, “Why me?” and other times, “Why not me?” And Hitchens obviously felt bad about killing his two of his own progeny.
These experiences gave him pause to reconsider the gravity of abortion, writing:
In the brisk paragraphs above, you will note that I have semiconsciously employed the terms birthplace, grave, and conceivable. This idiom of this argument is basic and elemental. Its about the essentials. Thus, the justification proposed by the right for its intrusiveness is that the fetus is also an autonomous individual, and that society cannot decently permit one body (or soul) to be owned or disposed of by another….
There was a time when the feminist movement replied to this with militant indignation. What individual? What person? The most famous title of the period – Our Bodies, Ourselves – captures the tone to perfection. If we need to remove an appendix or a tumor from our own personal spaces, then its nobody elses g**d*** business. I used to cringe when I heard this, not so much because in the moral sense fetuses arent to be compared to appendixes, let alone tumors, but because it is obvious nonsense from the biological and embryological points of view. Babies come from where they come from.
The diagram of a vacuum-suction abortion in Our Bodies, Ourselves gave the female anatomy in some detail but showed only a void inside the uterus. This perhaps unintended concession to queasiness has since become more noticeable as a consequence of advances in embryology, and by the simple experience of the enhanced sonogram. Women who have gazed at the early heartbeat inside themselves now have some difficulty, shall we say, in ranking the experience with the planned excision of a polyp….
That the most partially formed human embryo is both human and alive has now been confirmed, in an especially vivid sense, by the new debate over stem-cell research and the bioethics of cloning. If an ailing or elderly person can be granted a new lease on life by a transfusion of this cellular material, then it is obviously not random organic matter. The original embryonic blastocyst may be a clump of 64 to 200 cells that is only five days old. But all of us began our important careers in that form, and every needful encoding for life is already present in the apparently inchoate. We are the first generation to have to confront this as a certain knowledge.
Despite his rational conclusions about preborn human life, Hitchens nevertheless lapsed into moral relativism. From Newsweek, 2008:
At the same time, he adds, “I don’t think a woman should be forced to choose, or even can be.” Hitchens does not recommend the overturning of Roe v. Wade. What he wants is for both moral callousness and religion to be excised from the abortion debate and for science to come up with solutions to unwanted pregnancies, like the abortifacient mifepristone (RU-486), “that will make abortion more like a contraceptive procedure than a surgical one. That’s the Hitchens plank, and I think it’s a defensible one.”
No, it’s not, of course.
I wonder if Hitchens got to meet his siblings or his children