Requiem for Christopher Hitchens the Anti-Theist
Christopher Hitchens went to his reward on December 15, 2011. The question of the eternal fate of such a vitriolic foe of faith and religion has received two responses. Douglas Wilson – Hitchens’ theist debating partner – in Christianity Today said that since we cannot assume that Hitchens called on God, we must assume that he is lost forever.
Eric Reitan, philosopher and author of Is God a Delusion? A Reply to Religion’s Cultured Despisers focuses on Hitchens’ search for truth. Reitan sees Hitchens’ motto “religion poisons everything” as an exaggerated reaction to the truth that there “is much that is poisonous in the religions of the world.” As such, Hitchens’ wasn’t necessarily anti-God as much as he was repulsed by the evil practice of religion. Reitan sees salvation for Hitchens because of his dedication to truth. Reitan cites Simone Weil’s famous statement:
I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before failing into his arms. – Waiting for God, Simone Weil 1951 page 69
Reitan’s view is much more Christian in the sense of Jesus own concern with truth and sincerity over the sham invocation of doctrine or religious law.
The words of the Fourth Eucharistic Prayer come to mind: “… remember now all for whom we make this sacrifice: … those who take part in this offering, those gathered here before you, your entire people, and all who seek you with a sincere heart.”
Another passage from Simone Weil comes to mind regarding death:
I always believed that the instant of death is the center and object of life. I used to think that, for those who live as they should, it is the instant when, for an infinitesimal fraction of time, pure truth, naked, certain, and eternal enters the soul. I may say that I never desired any other good for myself. I thought that the life leading to this good is not only defined by a code of morals common to all, but that for each one it consists of a succession of acts and events strictly personal to him, and so essential that he who leaves them on one side never reaches the goal.
Perhaps, those of us who feel comforted in faith and the promise of Heaven should not rely so much on dogma but on a life of truth – a life of authenticity.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. – Matthew 21:31-32
Image: Orion Nebula Galaxy – Courtesy of NASA In the Public Domain