Monday, April 25, 2016

The Faith of Christopher Hitchens?

“The Faith of Christopher Hitchens,” by Larry Alex Taunton. Photo courtesy of Fixed Point Foundation

A few years ago I would browse in the religion and spirituality sections of book stores and be annoyed to no end by the presence of Christopher Hitchens book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. As a so-called New Atheist he aggressively attacked religion of any stripe. Why would stores include his book in the religion section? While he had a brilliant mind he had a reductionist, almost cartoonish view of religions seemingly making no differentiation between extremists using religion as an excuse for mayhem and those who were devout, open, and genuinely making a difference in the world.

Well, Hitchens died young, and according to him, that's that. Now there is a new book by an evangelical Christian Larry Alex Taunton who arranged debates between Hitchens and high-profile Christians. They became friends over the course of three years and they developed a warm relationship despite their profound differences. Taunton claims that in conversation Hitchens pondered a change of heart regarding his atheism. Of course, Hitchens had a brother, Peter, who became a Christian, and the two debated along the way.


Friends of Hitchens say that Taunton's claims are preposterous, that he never considered recanting his atheism. Since these purported conversations were personal and unrecorded, there is no hard evidence to support or refute the claim. And what would change as a result of being able to prove that the conversations occurred? If Hitchens found the comfort of Christian faith as he died, I would be happy. But it really doesn't matter all that much to me. I wouldn't shout "aha, God 1, Christopher no score!" Nor would I feel better about my own faith.

Now, if atheist United Church minister Gretta Vosper would toddle off to some new community affiliation as she has been purported to be considering...

What are your thoughts about Taunton's book? Do you care whether Hitchens had a deathbed spiritual awakening?

3 comments:

David Mundy said...

I think Judy intended this comment for this blog rather than the previous one:

Would that we could all be so generous in spirit as to be happy for those who convert at the last minute - if only because it recognizes a mustard - seed size bit of faith in that person - and a much greater belief in God's grace than we are normally willing to admit.

Judy McKnight said...

Yes, I did - thanks, David...

northierthanthou said...

Actually, no I don't care if Hitchens had a death-bed conversion. I do care that a shameless apologist can make money off a book in which he first trashes Hitchens entire life and work then raises te prospect of a conversion only to equivocate over the possibility. Taunton's work is condescending and deceitful. No-one should treat a friend as he does.