- NY Times: “Polemicist Who Slashed All, Freely, With Wit”
An atheist of many striking contradictions and ironies passed away on Thursday. Christopher Hitchens, the acerbic author of God is not Great—How Religion Poisons Everything, was known as one of the “new angry atheists.”1 His public lectures/debates, frequent appearances on TV, and countless articles and books gave him a large following even beyond the intelligentsia. He died of cancer-related causes at the age of 62.
At one moment, Hitchens could use his considerable wit and mastery of the English language to skewer politicians (e.g., President Bill Clinton) and religious leaders (Mother Teresa, even), and at another moment, he could use his tongue to be disarmingly polite and charming. It’s the latter that was on display when he toured the Creation Museum in 20102; his celebrated caustic side seemed to be more on display when he had an audience to play to.
As a young man, Hitchens was a radical socialist. Through the influence of the writings of George Orwell and others, Hitchens’ youthful exuberance for leftist beliefs moderated over time and he came to distrust big government. Hitchens even backed a Republican president’s war in Iraq this past decade, although his support of President Bush’s action was motivated more by his antipathy towards the Abrahamic monotheistic religions than anything, in this case extremist Islam in the Middle East.3 He was not easily pigeonholed in other ways. Hitchens’ unpredictability was manifested when he became one of the rare secular humanists who believed that human life begins at conception. Additionally, there were surprises within his family: his brother Peter is a well-known Christian writer in England, and one parent was a Christian and the other had a Jewish heritage. Also, we note with irony that Christ was in this atheist’s name, for Christopher means “Christ-bearer.”
Without an absolute standard other than a trust in his own reasoning, it was still merely his opinion when he issued his moral pronouncements, including what he determined was evil.
Hitchens was largely unashamed of his licentious life, unrepentant even in his final months (e.g., when interviewed for a Charlie Rose PBS-TV program). His “wild side” somewhat lessened his reputation as an intellectual. Nevertheless, his considerable intellect and language skills garnered many opportunities for him to challenge what he considered to be stupid (such as biblical creation) and nefarious (especially Christianity and Islam). While Hitchens often marched to the beat of his own drummer and could confound friends with his unexpected views, one thing did not moderate in his life: he was in an ongoing crusade against the “evils” of the three major monotheistic religions. But without an absolute standard other than a trust in his own reasoning, it was still merely his opinion when he issued his moral pronouncements, including what he determined was evil.
As we have written many times on this website, the Bible tells us that God is the Creator of everything and, therefore, all things belong to Him; thus He is the One to define absolute standards of behavior, which He has written down in His Bible. Atheists may label actions as good or evil, but in their meaningless, purposeless, and evolution-formed universe, they do not have an ultimate foundation for defining what is good and evil. But God’s Word does.
Furthermore, God gave us the answer in the Bible as to why there are diseases like the cancer that struck Hitchens and the death it can cause (as taught in Genesis 3; see the PDF of our booklet Why Is There Death and Suffering), but He also offered a solution: eternal life through Christ.
The use of logic and language (Hitchens mastered the latter with his rapier-like wit) only makes sense in an ordered universe made by the omnipotent God who created everything. Furthermore, the apostle Paul taught that people are without excuse if they reject a belief in God, for they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools . . . .”
Hitchens is no longer shaking a fist at his Creator. The ultimate and saddest contradiction of his life (unless we become aware of a deathbed conversion) was that at the end, he repudiated God’s Word and God Himself.
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