This generations’ most famous atheist is dead today. Christopher Hitchens passed yesterday at age 62. He gambled to the end that he was right about there being no God. Now he knows for sure, something he asserted vehemently that was not knowable in this life.
Joel Siegel of ABC News writes of Hitchens:
"Hitchens became the public face of atheism. Critics assumed his cancer diagnosis, in 2010, would lead Hitchens to relent and embrace God. But he remained a proud non-believer to the very end, as he made clear in an early October 2011 speech at the annual Atheist Alliance of America convention in Houston, as he accepted the Freethinker of the Year Award. His body gaunt from the ravages of cancer, Hitchens said, 'We have the same job we always had: to say that there are no final solutions; there is no absolute truth; there is no supreme leader; there is no totalitarian solution that says if you would just give up your freedom of inquiry, if you would just give up, if you would simply abandon your critical faculties, the world of idiotic bliss can be yours.'"
Lots of humanity in that quote, huh? Lots of misconceptions about what becoming a Believer means. Lots of hostility. Lots of strong words—too strong.
Strong words can belie doubt. Not always, of course. But I’m just saying: the superlatives in Hitchens' acceptance speech caught my attention.
Lots of Christianity’s brightest minds debated Hitchens, ostensibly believing that by intellectual argument they could convince heartfelt assent. Apologetics are for Believers. Unbelief isn’t about belief at all. Unbelief is a conflict of wills—the divine in tension with the human.
Life and death are a wager. Pascal said in essence, if I believe in God, and govern my life according to that belief, only to die and discover I was mistaken—i.e., there is no God—then what have I lost? On the other hand, if I live a life of unbelief, and die to discover I was wrong, then I have lost all eternity.
I can’t help but wonder this morning: Does Christopher Hitchens live today only in his legacy or somewhere more profound?