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Christopher Hitchens RIP


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#1 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 12:51 AM

I saw the memoriam at Vanity Fair linked at Realclearpolitics just now. I admired his tenacity in argumentation and his employment of the language to his purposes. I must say that even his ad hominem, even when directed at me and our kind here was a joy to read.

We differed on faith matters like opposites. However, I could do well to emulate his style, good nature, and command of English in my own argumentation. I pray that he is handled mercifully.

Edited by SDG, 19 December 2011 - 10:02 AM.


#2 SDG

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 03:54 AM

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him.

#3 Greg P

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 07:54 AM

I will greatly miss hearing his thoughts on politics, religion and current events. RIP.

I must say that even his ad hominem, even when directed at me and our kind here was a joy to read... We differed on faith matters like opposites. However, I could do well to emulate his style, good nature, and command of English in my own argumentation.


Amen to that. Only for me I found myself agreeing more and more with his views on religion. Maybe it was just that in debate settings, he never seemed to have a formidable rival. He used to make mincemeat of William Lane Craig and others. The more recent showdowns with his brother Peter were probably some of my favorites.

And let's be honest-- his takedowns and insults were nothing short of inspired, comedic brilliance. ("slobbering, weak-chinned dauphin of a son" was one of my favorites... so was his on-air eulogy of a famous televangelist, "if they gave (him) an enema he could've been buried in a matchbox"... )

Edited by Greg P, 16 December 2011 - 08:17 AM.


#4 NBooth

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 10:09 AM

I never cared to read Hitchens on religion, but I admired him for other reasons: namely, his article on waterboarding, which has more good religion in it (and more basic humanity) than many things written by self-confessed Christians.

EDIT: Here's Hitchen's last piece for Vanity Fair, in which he takes on the "whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger" mentality:

Before I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer a year and a half ago, I rather jauntily told the readers of my memoirs that when faced with extinction I wanted to be fully conscious and awake, in order to “do” death in the active and not the passive sense. And I do, still, try to nurture that little flame of curiosity and defiance: willing to play out the string to the end and wishing to be spared nothing that properly belongs to a life span. However, one thing that grave illness does is to make you examine familiar principles and seemingly reliable sayings. And there’s one that I find I am not saying with quite the same conviction as I once used to: In particular, I have slightly stopped issuing the announcement that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

In fact, I now sometimes wonder why I ever thought it profound.


Edited by NBooth, 16 December 2011 - 10:14 AM.


#5 winter shaker

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 01:25 PM

Amen to that. Only for me I found myself agreeing more and more with his views on religion. Maybe it was just that in debate settings, he never seemed to have a formidable rival. He used to make mincemeat of William Lane Craig and others. The more recent showdowns with his brother Peter were probably some of my favorites.


I have always heard the exact opposite.

I think that, of the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", he was the one I have the most respect for.

#6 Christian

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 03:22 PM

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon him.


If this post angers people, the "Faith Matters" moderator is free to remove it. It may be a subject for a spinoff thread.

I don't want to nip this expression of sorrow -- sorrow being appropriate following death -- but I admit that my first reaction to seeing "RIP" in relation to an avowed atheist is, "no way he's gonna rest in peace."

Not that I wish him eternal torment, or think it impossible that God might have worked to change Hitchens' heart. But my first instinct isn't to say "rest in peace," because although I might hope for that and wish for that, I have no expectation, based on the way Hitchens spoke of his own beliefs, that he's now resting in peace.

I'm happy to stand corrected if correction is in order. Indeed, that's why I'm posting -- to test my own reaction against the wisdom of others on this issue. Thanks.

#7 du Garbandier

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 03:49 PM

Peter Hitchens, In Memoriam of Christopher

Edited by du Garbandier, 16 December 2011 - 03:50 PM.


#8 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 03:59 PM

I think my favorite comment on this was the one by the guy who said he hoped Hitchens was pleasantly surprised right now. Many of Hitchens' opponents have said that he was a delight to be with, and, given how Hitchens himself openly admitted to changing his positions on certain issues, it would be nice to think that he'd be open to change here, too. And it would be nice to think that the Ultimate Opponent would enjoy Hitchens' repartee, too.

But then, I have never thought that the dogma one subscribes to in this life was the best indicator of one's likely eternal fate. Character counts for something too. My hope is that Hitchens, when he (hopefully) sees that God really does exist, allows himself to let this information affect all his other thoughts; I would hate for him to end up like Mimi Rogers at the end of The Rapture, defying God even on the outskirts of Heaven simply because he's still pissed off at the way religions did things in this world.

#9 SDG

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 05:04 PM

My view as a Catholic is that we commend all who die to God's mercy.

For some we have great hope and confidence, and even in some cases assurance. For others we may not have that confidence, but death is a great mystery, and grace is a great mystery.

In the Catholic tradition we canonize saints based on the conviction that the saints in heaven and the Church on earth form one mystical body in Christ, and in and through that communion that we share with them in one Head we can arrive at confidence regarding the presence of certain souls in Heaven. We have no corresponding list of those in hell, as we have no communion with hell and no way to tell who may be there.

Here is a guess, almost a parable, at what I sometimes imagine death might be like: I don't think anyone is surprised upon entering the next life. I don't think atheists are surprised to learn that God exists, or that Christians of different stripes are surprised to learn what erroneous views they may have held. I think it's more like waking up and realizing that, of course, your dream was just a dream. You aren't surprised that your dream no longer seems real to you (though of course this world is real; it's only a parable). You may or may not welcome reality once you have to face it. Whatever the case, you recognize that reality is what it is, and you are what you are.

Scientists tell us that what we think of as our motivations regarding our acts are sometimes rationalizations made up to explain decisions made on some subconscious level. Often we may not know the deepest reasons we do things, where our actions or ideas truly come from. In the last few years I've come to regard my faith in God as something deeper and truer than my thoughts about God and even my thoughts about my own faith. I think I used to think I believed in God because of my apologetical arguments. I still think arguments are important, but I think now that I believe in God because He has given me the gift of faith, because He has revealed Himself to me.

When we meet God, we will know at once whether and how we love and have loved or not loved Him. Christopher Hitchens hated religion, and hated the idea of God. Did he die hating God? Was that the deepest movement of his heart? Did he love truth, goodness and beauty? These are refractions of God's eternal perfection in the order of creation. When he met the source and summit of truth, goodness and beauty, was the deepest movement of his heart hatred or love? I wouldn't even venture a suspicion. I commend him to God's mercy, and I am serenely confident that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

#10 Christian

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 06:02 PM

Very thoughtful reply, Steven. Thank you for taking the time to write that. I could argue with it, but I'm not sure I'd be addressing your points so much as raising more fodder for debate. So I'll let this settle.

#11 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 09:29 PM

That's beautiful, SDG. And I hope you're right.

#12 SDG

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 10:27 PM

Love this comment from an atheist (as I'm sure he is) in the comments of Peter Hitchens' in memoriam to his brother:

Your post has moved me & although I couldn't possibly relate entirely to your position, your colloquy has made me think, just for a moment, about you as a person.

I'm not quite sure what I'm trying to get across to you sir but, for what it's worth, may your god give you strength. Always.



#13 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 16 December 2011 - 11:12 PM

This won't be as succinct and elegant as Steve's explanation. However, I did start the thread. I am always hardpressed to come up with a different term than "rest in peace". It is not for me to consign anyone to rest or otherwise. What comes next after life is always vaguely and variously defined outside of the fires of Hell and eternal paradise. Details, sequence, and, timing are a real challenge to nail down. Hope is always a large component and I certainly hope that such a friend of mine on the page would now be at rest.

I also shudder to think of the appearance and attitude of, say RIT (rest in torment, so to speak). Imagine the salt on the wound for his immediate family. Imagine the appearance of gratuitous vengeance or sour grapes of such a hardassed position upon the death of a philosophical adversary not so gifted and creative. I cannot square something like that at all with patient and loving expression of the faith that is within me. I can't at all.

Finally, we sometimes think and speak of these things casually. Sometimes. However, is it not at least hubris and arrogance to assume someone's eternal reward publicly based solely on one's public behavior and output? Dare I say that it might come close to blasphemy to aggressively assert the path of another after death. All of that is in God's hands. Speaking for God is always a delicate and careful undertaking in the most simple of circumstances. Someone's death is never one of those circumstances.

And I raise a glass to Hitch, wherever he is, for sparking this discussion as well as so many others. Christopher Buckley has a moving memoriam of an unlikely 30 year friendship. Very moving and generous.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 16 December 2011 - 11:27 PM.


#14 Attica

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 03:55 AM

When we meet God, we will know at once whether and how we love and have loved or not loved Him. Christopher Hitchens hated religion, and hated the idea of God. Did he die hating God? Was that the deepest movement of his heart? Did he love truth, goodness and beauty? These are refractions of God's eternal perfection in the order of creation. When he met the source and summit of truth, goodness and beauty, was the deepest movement of his heart hatred or love? I wouldn't even venture a suspicion. I commend him to God's mercy, and I am serenely confident that the Judge of all the earth will do right.



If it's of any benefit to this discussion. I sometimes think of certain people like Christopher Hitchens as operating out of a profound misunderstanding of God based upon deception. In other words it's quite possible that deep down inside his heart there was a certain love, desire for truth and beauty, but his perception of God and Christianity didn't/couldn't line up with this, for various reasons. Some of his comments and views very well could have come out of a misguided love and morality.

We so often have a hard time understanding what childhood or life influences have helped to shape ourselves, to see the world, and understand God, the way we do, never lone understanding others lives. On this thread it probably wouldn't be proper to debate as to the how fors of his afterlife...... but I would think it's surely proper to speak of a certain compassion for him and his journey. The best way for Christians to prove someone like Hitchens wrong, is to love them.

Edited by Attica, 17 December 2011 - 04:05 AM.


#15 Tyler

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 07:07 PM

Ian McEwan on visiting Hitchens in the hospital.

Edited by Tyler, 17 December 2011 - 07:07 PM.


#16 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 06:51 AM

Thanks Tyler. I've been avoiding reading that one. It went contrary to my expectations, being about the deceased and pretty much only the deceased with gracious comments about close relatives there at the end. As Hitchens' best friend, I would say that McEwan demonstrates a most profound point in our little discussion here about how to treat the dead. He could have been ungraciously triumphalist in attacking those of us who prayed for Hitchens, delivered backhanded insults toward his adversaries, used Hitchen's final days as a gang tackle of theism.

He focused on the man's way of dying as how he lived. He was even gracious to Hitchens' adversaries on the Iraq War and couched the God Wars in a breif and subtle summary of Hitchen's case against Chesterton. Judging from the memoria I've read from Hitchens' friends, I imagine this has been a subject of long and animated late night conversation since Hitchens has had long late night conversations and the author is well acquainted with Hitchens' arguments against Chesterton. Thank you Mr. McEwan. That's how to do it.

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 18 December 2011 - 06:56 AM.


#17 Ryan H.

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 09:00 PM

Scientists tell us that what we think of as our motivations regarding our acts are sometimes rationalizations made up to explain decisions made on some subconscious level. Often we may not know the deepest reasons we do things, where our actions or ideas truly come from. In the last few years I've come to regard my faith in God as something deeper and truer than my thoughts about God and even my thoughts about my own faith. I think I used to think I believed in God because of my apologetical arguments. I still think arguments are important, but I think now that I believe in God because He has given me the gift of faith, because He has revealed Himself to me.

I have some qualms with the idea of commending a man who openly declared war against God and His Church to light perpetual, though I nevertheless resist any claim to certainty about Hitchens' fate. This is nevertheless a wonderful thought and reminds me how very much depends on the grace of God.

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. May the Judge of All the Earth do right.

#18 Rich Kennedy

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 09:17 PM

I have some qualms with the idea of commending a man who openly declared war against God and His Church to light perpetual, though I nevertheless resist any claim to certainty about Hitchens' fate.

Oh, I don't "commend him to light perpetual". It would be presumptuous to do so at the very best. It would be presumptuous of me to do so for anyone. Only God knows the heart. To say "rest in peace" is really the only graceful and/or loving option. Besides, there is nothing wrong with wishing or praying that God would or has granted him mercy and eternal rest. He was a worthy adversary on these matters. Even though I am "a man of the right" and he of the left, there were many issues on which we agreed and I cheered him on. His eternal soul was an issue between him and God, between him and his conception of eternity. I have many friends who might lean more in his direction than mine on matters of faith. I wish that they would come to know the Lord, King of All Creation. Failing that, I at least wish that God would grant them mercy. Sometimes merely for the reason that I love these friends so. Why would Hitchens not be accorded the same courtesy? By me at least?

Edited by Rich Kennedy, 18 December 2011 - 09:20 PM.


#19 Ryan H.

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 09:42 PM

Oh, I don't "commend him to light perpetual".

Steven did so, not you. I'm not taking issue with your sentiments.

Besides, there is nothing wrong with wishing or praying that God would or has granted him mercy and eternal rest.

Well, no one wants to be caught playing the part of Jonah. God forgive me should I ever feel that his mercy has ever gone too far.

But at the same time, I don't, well, want to simply brush off Hitchens' active and exceedingly publicly waged war against God and His Church. How does the Church properly respond to the death of one of its strong enemies? Hopefully with grace. But at the same time, the bit of the text Steven quoted, a particular text that is directed explicitly toward the Saints, seems to me a very, very precious thing, so precious that, either rightly or wrongly, I am emotionally reluctant to extend it to Hitchens.

Edited by Ryan H., 18 December 2011 - 09:45 PM.


#20 SDG

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Posted 18 December 2011 - 10:30 PM

Oh, I don't "commend him to light perpetual".

Steven did so, not you. I'm not taking issue with your sentiments.

Besides, there is nothing wrong with wishing or praying that God would or has granted him mercy and eternal rest.

Well, no one wants to be caught playing the part of Jonah. God forgive me should I ever feel that his mercy has ever gone too far.

But at the same time, I don't, well, want to simply brush off Hitchens' active and exceedingly publicly waged war against God and His Church. How does the Church properly respond to the death of one of its strong enemies? Hopefully with grace. But at the same time, the bit of the text Steven quoted, a particular text that is directed explicitly toward the Saints, seems to me a very, very precious thing, so precious that, either rightly or wrongly, I am emotionally reluctant to extend it to Hitchens.

FWIW, I don't brush off Hitchens' avowed opposition to the Faith ... and I respect and appreciate both Christian's and Ryan's qualms about my prayer for Hitchens. I'm glad for their cross-examination of my prayer, for it gives me an opportunity to make a valuable clarification.

Hitchens went to his death, to all appearances, in a most deplorable state. It is a fearful judgment he goes to. There is no torture in the world you could impose upon me, God help me, that would make me agreeable to die with a tenth part of the public statements of Hitchens' last year alone on my conscience.


I agree that the Church, qua the Church, could not extend to Hitchens the hope signified by the rite of Christian burial in which is found the words I quoted. This would be scandalous in the proper sense of that word; not that people would be upset or offended (though it's certainly true that both Christians and atheists would certainly take umbrage were such words spoken in any official capacity at Hitchens' funeral!), but that it would give bad example to people who would wrongly be encouraged to think that one's final state doesn't really matter in the end.

But I am not the Church. I am an individual Christian, offering a private prayer for Hitchens' soul. I think that Hitchens himself would not be offended at this prayer, and would even appreciate the good will behind it, though he would also take no comfort in it.

The words of that prayer are the words I cannot refuse to pray, as a private Christian, for anyone in the world. To me this is an obligation of charity. I love Hitchens in the love of Christ, and I would rejoice to meet him in Heaven. Having this perspective, I cannot withhold from him the prayer that, against all appearances, he should somehow find in his death the mercy of God who not willing that any should perish, but wants everyone to come to repentance.

There is no overlooking the latter clause. No one can be saved without repentance. Hitchens was adamant, toward the end of his life, that he would not turn to God in the end, that any story of him turning to God in the end would not reflect his true heart and state of mind. As I say, he died in a most deplorable state. I am far from sanguine about his eternal state.

God can decide what to do with my prayer. May light perpetual shine upon him.