The British-born essayist and author of God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, died at as 62 from esophageal cancer. The diagnosis in June 2010, slowed, but didn't still, his publishing in Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and Slate and his public appearance schedule as he roamed the country debunking religion.
Slate calls him an "iconclast and public intellectual" and notes in his last published work, just days ago for Vanity Fair, he had hoped he would be conscious to the end...
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.Last August, he told The Atlantic that no one should believe any word that might be circulated claiming he called on God with his last breaths.
The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain. I can't guarantee that such an entity wouldn't make such a ridiculous remark. But no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark.The British magazine Freethinker called Hitchens "ferocious."
Still, Hitchens was gracious about campaigns to pray for him. Rod Dreher, then at Beliefnet.com,
... praying for his healing, body and soul. Somehow, I doubt the author of God Is Not Great would object; cancer has a way of humbling one in this regard. Anyway, he suffers, and has more to suffer, and needs us to stand with him in whatever way we can.
An Associated Press reporter who saw Hitchens, thin and frail that month, reported that he was gracious about the prayers, calling the efforts "nice'" but fruitless as he rebuffed the idea of heaven.
Karen Spears Zacharias, guest blogging at Christianity Today on Her.meneutics, disagreed with Hitchens' spurning redemption for himself, but, she asks...
Why are so many people campaigning for Hitch's salvation? Is it because his salvation would in some disingenuous way affirm their own? Hitchens isn't fooled. He knows that for the Christian community, he's the Big Fish. Netting him would be like hauling in Jonah's whale. The salvation of Christopher Hitchens would get widespread play in New York City and far across the Atlantic. There would be a media feeding frenzy of apologists and bobble-head Christians, all yammering about the rejoicing in heaven over this one soul.There is no report of last words to the Lord. There is no frenzy of rejoicing -- among atheists who mourn a champion and believers who mourn him as well.
Douglas Wilson of Christianity Today, who did frequent debates with Hitchens, writes:
Christopher Hitchens was baptized in his infancy, and his name means "Christ-bearer." This created an enormous burden that he tried to shake off his entire life. No creature can ever succeed in doing this. But sometimes, in the kindness of God, such failures can have a gracious twist at the end. We therefore commend Christopher to the Judge of the whole earth, who will certainly do right...