I only now have found out about Mr. Hitchens’ cancer, and am so sorry that it is serious. I so enjoy reading or listening to folks “who are ahead of me,” as I put it. Mr. Hitchens is such a person except in his world of atheism.
Mr. Hitchens has made such a big deal out of it, always forgetting that a belief in God is not science but faith. We are forever surrounded by the great UNKNOWN. We have been very, very fortunate in our western world to have been brought up by the JudeoChristian traditions of human purpose seeking that which is “good” and discovering that which is unknown.
The path has been bloody as well as inspiring. We will miss this heritage as it slips from us ever more speedily day after day.
It is not Mr. Hitchens’ faith in atheism that has impressed me. The man seems a snot. Yet, he is so worth paying attention to for his conversations and explanations. I love being challenged to think anew.
Here is the the New York Times article by Liesl Schillinger:
…….”Mr. Hitchens has made no secret of his illness. On June 30, on VanityFair.com, he revealed his diagnosis and announced the abrupt end of the book tour for his memoir, “Hitch-22.” And in the September issue of Vanity Fair, he published an essay in which he movingly describes his journey “from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.”
Startlingly, these updates have elicited hundreds of responses from well-wishers (and some foes), who urge Mr. Hitchens in online comments (and in their prayers, many write) to accept salvation. One wrote: “Your conversion could do for modern-day Christianity much what Paul’s did in the early days of Christianity.” Still another implored, “Mr. Hitchens, before you die give your life to Christ. Why not.”
On Aug. 6, The Atlantic posted a video interview with Mr. Hitchens at his home in Washington that has been much circulated. In it, the writer Jeffrey Goldberg asked Mr. Hitchens how he was doing.
“I’m dying,” he said. “I would be a very lucky person to live another five years.”
When asked, “Do you find it insulting for people to pray for you?” Mr. Hitchens responded: “No, no. I take it kindly, under the assumption that they are praying for my recovery.”
All the same, Mr. Hitchens dismissed both the notion that his cancer would lead him to make a tardy profession of faith and the idea that, if it did, such a profession would be valid.
“The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that such an entity wouldn’t make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark.”
This subject is one Mr. Hitchens has mulled over since childhood, when he decided, as he wrote in “God Is Not Great,” that it was “contemptible” to rely on religion just for comfort if it “might not be true.” As an adult whose hopes lay assuredly in the intellect, not in the hereafter, he concluded, “Literature, not scripture, sustains the mind and — since there is no other metaphor — also the soul.”
That idea was echoed by Mr. Hitchens’s closest friend, the novelist Martin Amis, in an interview last week on the Charlie Rose show about his new book, “The Pregnant Widow” (in which a main character is inspired by Mr. Hitchens). Mr. Amis said his friend, like other writers, surely believed that after death, “not all of you will die,” because the printed words they leave behind constitute a kind of immortality. He added, “The desire for immortality … explains all the extraordinary achievements, both good and bad.”
That thought also emerges in a new novel, “The Imperfectionists,” by Tom Rachman, who was born in Britain and raised in Vancouver, Canada. In the book, one of his characters, an obituary writer, interviews an aging feminist intellectual, Gerda Erzberger, who is dying of cancer. In a room that “smells of strong tobacco and of hospital,” she tells him that the greatest force in the universe is ambition.
“Even from earliest childhood it dominated me,” she said. “I longed for achievements, to be influential — that, in particular. To sway people. This has been my religion: the belief that I deserve attention, that they are wrong not to listen, that those who dispute me are fools.”
Mr. Hitchens was not the only embattled British-born intellectual whose faith in articulacy caught the public eye this summer. On Aug. 6, the day of the Atlantic interview with Mr. Hitchens, the fearless historian Tony Judt died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the progressive neurodegenerative disease. Throughout this year, as his illness worsened, Mr. Judt published essays in The New York Review of Books, with his characteristic, unflinching perception, about memory, history, politics and his struggle with A.L.S.
In one of his last pieces, which he dictated, unable to control a pen, he wrote: “Talking, it seemed to me, was the point of adult existence. I have never lost that sense.”
Meditating on the importance of language, he wrote: “I am more conscious of these considerations now than at any time in the past. In the grip of a neurological disorder, I am fast losing control of words even as my relationship with the world has been reduced to them.”
He told Saul Goldberg, a New York University student who wrote an appreciation of his teacher in The Observer of Britain last weekend, that he wanted his epitaph to read, “I did words.”
Christopher Hitchens, thank God, or thank whomever, does not yet need an epitaph. He is still doing words: talking, writing and perpetuating the belief that he has upheld throughout his life: the belief, as he wrote in “God Is Not Great,” in “free inquiry, open-mindedness and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.”
Comment: This does seem to be a miserable tribe victimized by narcissism, doesn’t it? Well, what else is there for these atheists to worship?…….