Tuesdays with Hitchens August 6, 2010

Tuesdays with Hitchens

Seriously, if Christopher Hitchens wrote a book about facing death as an atheist, wouldn’t you pick that up immediately?

He spoke with CNN’s Anderson Cooper about his esophageal cancer. It’s a point of view you rarely hear on television — an atheist with a potentially life-threatening disease responding to Christians who are praying for him (or praying against him).

I love this exchange regarding deathbed conversions:

Cooper: In a moment of doubt, isn’t there… I just find it fascinating that even when you’re alone and no one else is watching, there might be a moment when you want to hedge your bets.

Hitchens: If that comes, it will be when I’m very ill, when I’m half-demented either by drugs or by pain, and I won’t have control over what I say. I mention this in case you ever hear a rumor later on — because these things happen, and the faithful love to spread these rumors, “On his deathbed…” I can’t say that the entity that by then wouldn’t be me wouldn’t do such a pathetic thing, but I can tell you that, not while I’m lucid, no. I can be quite sure of that.

Cooper: So if there’s some story that on your deathbed…

Hitchens: Don’t believe it. Don’t credit it.

Good to know his mind is still working at full-speed.

I also enjoyed Roger Ebert‘s reaction to the video:




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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Hitchens is the man. I admire his courage and intellect.

  • Aaron

    When I was in the ER having a pretty big heart attack (I was lucky to survive it, it was a doozy), convinced I was going to die, I was not calling out to God. I was calling for my wife to make sure she new about my life insurance policy.
    Christians who use their ideology to feel better at someone else’s expense disturb me. Making up lies about the dead person’s behavior is evil.

    I have never head of atheists spreading false rumors of some religious figure’s deathbed apostasy, have you?
    “Didn’t you know? Mother Teresa renounced Jesus on her deathbed. She said she knew it was a crock all along.” Ridiculous.

    I know exactly where Hitch is coming from. Some people ask why me. I asked “Why not me? I am not special.”

    It is the only dignified way to face it.
    I would rather die in peace like my grandfather, rather than screaming and crying like the people in his car. Sorry. I just love that joke.

  • Viggo the Carpathian
  • I just watched this on whyevolutionistrue, and it’s very moving. At least he’s staying strong, despite the horrible situation.

  • Edman

    Gah, that whole “hedging bets” thing is ridiculous.

    Well, since we’re doing that, we may as well start worshipping *every* god that people have claimed exists. It’s gonna’ be a long service…

  • Brian Holly

    Reminds me of the way Boswell kept pestering David Hume, hoping Le Bon David would have a deathbed conversion.

  • Roger Ebert’s blog is great. He’s basically an accommodationist when it comes to religion, but he routinely and uncomprimisingly speaks out against nonsense. His refusal to give Ben Stein’s Expelled a “proper” review was epic. What a guy!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Headlines from tomorrow’s theist newspapers: “Roger Ebert cries out for God.”

    Those people are too dim to understand irony.

  • Luther

    Recently I read a biography of a moderately famous person, written close to forty years ago. The intro said that he was a freethinker, the whole book did not talk about religion. But then at the end there was a statement that he converted in his last couple days, no details. I am suspicious, very suspicious.

  • stephanie

    I hope I have half of Hitchens’ grace and dignity to face mortality when it’s my turn.

  • I loved this video by Hitchens. He is seriously one of my heroes. My little brother just finished treatment with a form of cancer and PET scan came out clean. It took a lot of my strength not to be snide when my parents posted on their Face…book: “Thanks all for your thoughts and prayers for Connor. We do believe that they made a difference.” I screamed inside my head that a few hundreds years ago, he would have died and it is because of science and medical technology. But of course I did not post that becaue I enjoy keeping a civil relationship with my parents. They already know how I feel about religion. I wish everyone looked at cancer and other forms of illnesses like Hitchens. I love how he is able to look at it as a realist and not give up hope, not because of a deity but because of medical advancements. ?

  • @Ashley
    I know what you mean. When I had an illness, there was a particular drug on the market that worked wonders and basically cured me. The drug was so effective, I felt like writing personal thank-you letters to all the scientists who worked tirelessly to bring the drug to market. It’s unfortunate that people thank “God” when it was, in fact, the efforts of their fellow human beings that helped them out.

  • Icaarus

    I would love to read an extension to his autobiography, which I do not think he will have time for. I will settle for a final good-bye article similar to his one that just appeared on Vanity Fair. My favourite comment from said article “I had plans for the next decade, and I worked hard enough I think I deserve … ” I hope he gets to spend the rest of his days (be it 1 or 10000) as he chooses surrounded by ONLY those he chooses. Let the vultures, religious fanatics and reporters be damned.

    @Ashley – great to hear about your brother, the successes of modern medicine always brighten my day.

  • Tara

    Nobody knows how much time Hitch has. On average, the odds of 5-yr survival are 5%. But nobody is average, and Hitch is astronomically distant from average, in a good direction. I hope a whole lot of people are letting him know how much his work means to them. I think he’s the greatest writer of the 21st century.

  • David

    Pascal’s Wager? Really?

  • Rich Wilson

    In AC’s defense, the discussion of ‘closure’ was great.

  • Dan W

    That was a great video. I admire Hitchens for how well he’s handling his situation, among other things. I hope that when I find myself facing death I’ll be able to do so in a similarly calm, rational, and dignified manner.

  • Samiimas

    I’ve never understood why you would be proud of converting someone on their deathbed. That’s basically admitting that your arguments only work on someone when they have more drugs in their system than Amy Winehouse and their brain is being strangled of oxygen.