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December 16th, 2011
04:45 PM ET

My Take: An evangelical remembers his friend Hitchens

Editor's note: Larry Alex Taunton is the founder and executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation. This article is adapted from his book “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.”

By Larry Alex Taunton, Special to CNN

(CNN)– I first met Christopher Hitchens at the Edinburgh International Festival. We were both there for the same event, and foremost in my mind was the sort of man I would meet.

A journalist and polemicist, his reputation as a critic of religion, politics, Britain's royal family, and, well, just about everything else was unparalleled. As an evangelical, I was certain that he would hate me.

When the expected knock came at my hotel room door, I braced for the fire-breather who surely stood on the other side of it. With trepidation, I opened it and he burst forth into my room. Wheeling on me, he began the conversation as if it was the continuance of some earlier encounter:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has effectively endorsed the adoption of Sharia law. Can you believe that? Whatever happened to a Church of England that believed in something?” He alternated between sips of his Johnnie Walker and steady tugs on a cigarette.

My eyebrows shot up. “‘Believed in something?’ Why, Christopher, you sound nostalgic for a church that actually took the Bible seriously.”

He considered me for a moment and smiled. “Indeed. Perhaps I do.”

There was never a formal introduction. There was no need for one. From that moment, I knew that I liked him. We immediately discovered that we had much in common. We were descendants of martial traditions; we loved literature and history; we enjoyed lively discussion with people who didn’t take opposition to a given opinion personally; and we both found small talk boring.

Over the next few years, we would meet irregularly. The location was invariably expensive, a Ritz Carlton or a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. He disliked cheap restaurants and cheap liquor. In his view, plastic menus were indicative of bad food. I never ate so well as when I was with Hitch.

Christopher Hitchens, standing, debates his friend Larry Taunton.

More than bad food, however, he disliked unintelligent conversation. “What do you think about gay marriage?” He didn’t wait for a response. “I don’t get it. I really don’t. It’s like wanting the worst of both worlds.” He drank deeply of his whiskey. “I mean, if I was gay, I would console myself by saying, ‘Well, I’m gay, but at least I don’t have to get married.’” That was classic Hitch. Witty. Provocative. Unpredictable.

Calling him on his cell one day, he sounded like he was flat on his back. Breathing heavily, there was desperation in his voice.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, anticipating some tragedy.

“Only minutes ago, I was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.” He was almost gasping.

I didn’t know what to say. No one ever does in such moments, so we resort to meaningless stock phrases like, “I’m sorry.” Instead, I just groaned. I will never forget his response:

“I had plans for the next decade of my life. I think I should cancel them.”

He asked me to keep the matter private until he could tell his family and make the news public. Hesitatingly, I told him that while I knew that he did not believe in such things, I would pray for him. He seemed genuinely moved by the thought.

“We are still on for our event in Birmingham, right?” He asked. I was stunned. Sensing my surprise, he continued. “I have made a commitment,” he insisted. “Besides, what else am I going to do? I can’t just sit around waiting to die.”

Hitchens brothers debate if civilization can survive without God

As time approached, he suggested a road trip from his D.C. apartment to my home in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Flying has become a humiliating experience, don’t you think?” He said. “Besides, I haven’t taken a road trip in 20 years and it will give us a chance to talk and for me to finally take you up on your challenge.”

Arriving in Washington some five months after his diagnosis, I was shocked by his appearance. Heavy doses of chemotherapy had left him emaciated, and hairless but for his eyelashes. His clothes hung off of him as though he were a boy wearing a man’s garments. He was, nonetheless, looking forward to our journey, having packed a picnic lunch and, predictably, enough Johnnie Walker for a battalion. After breakfast with his lovely wife, Carol, and his sweet daughter, Antonia, Hitch and I headed south on an eleven-hour road trip.

“Have you a copy of Saint John with you?” He asked with a smile. “If not, you know I do actually have one.” This was a reference to my challenge of two years before: a joint study of the Gospel of John. It was my assertion that he had never really read the Bible, but only cherry-picked it.

“Not necessary.” I was smiling, too. “I brought mine.”

A few hours later we were wending our way through the Shenandoah Valley on a beautiful fall morning. As I drove, Hitch read aloud from the first chapter of John’s Gospel. We then discussed its meaning. No cameras, no microphones, no audience. And that always made for better conversation with Hitch. When he referenced our journey in a televised debate with David Berlinski the next day, various media representatives descended on me to ask about our “argument.” When I said that we didn’t really argue, they lost interest.

But that was the truth. It was a civilized, rational discussion. I did my best to move through the prologue verse by verse, and Christopher asked thoughtful questions. That was it.

A bit put off by how the Berlinski event had played out, Hitch suggested we debate one another. Friend though he was, I knew that Hitch could be a savage debater. More than once I had chaired such engagements where Hitch went after his opponents remorselessly.

Hence, I was more than a bit anxious. Here he was, a celebrated public intellectual, an Oxonian, and bestselling author, and that is to say nothing of that Richard Burton-like, aristocratic, English-accented baritone. That always added a few I.Q. points in the minds of people. With hesitation, I agreed.

We met in Billings, Montana. Hitch had once told me that Montana was the only state he had never been in. I decided to complete his tour of the contiguous United States and arranged for the two of us to meet there. Before the debate, a local television station sent a camera crew over to interview us.

When he was asked what he thought of me, a Christian, and an evangelical at that, Hitch replied: “If everyone in the United States had the same qualities of loyalty and care and concern for others that Larry Taunton had, we'd be living in a much better society than we do.”

I was moved. Stunned, really. As we left, I told him that I really appreciated the gracious remark.

“I meant it and have been waiting for an opportunity to say it.”

Later that night we met one another in rhetorical combat. The hall was full. Christopher, not I, was of course the real attraction. He was at the peak of his fame. His fans had traveled near and far to see him demolish another Christian. Overall, it was a hard-fought but friendly affair. Unknown to the audience were the inside jokes. When I told a little story from our road trip, he loved it.

The debate over, I crossed the stage to shake Christopher’s hand. “You were quite good tonight,” he said with a charming smile as he accepted my proffered hand. “I think they enjoyed us.”

“You were gentle with me,” I said as we turned to walk off the stage.

He shook his head. “Oh, I held nothing back.” He then surveyed the auditorium that still pulsed with energy. “We are still having dinner?” he asked.

“Absolutely.”

After a quick cigarette on the sidewalk near the backstage door, he went back inside to meet his fans and sign their books.

There was something macabre about it all. I had the unsettling feeling that these weren’t people who cared about him in the least. Instead, they seemed like a bunch of groupies who wanted to have a photo taken with a famous but dying man, so that one day they could show it to their buddies and say, “I knew him before he died.” It was a sad spectacle.

Turning away, I entered the foyer, where 30 or so Christians greeted me excitedly. Mostly students, they were encouraged by what had happened onstage that night. Someone had spoken for them, and it had put a bounce in their step. One young man told me that he had been close to abandoning his faith, but that the debate had restored his confidence in the truth of the gospel. Another student said that she saw how she could use some of the same arguments. It is a daunting task, really, debating someone of Hitchens' intellect and experience, but if this cheery gathering of believers thought I had done well, then all of the preparation and expense had been worth it.

The next day, the Fixed Point Foundation staff piled into a Suburban and headed for Yellowstone National Park. Christopher and I followed behind in a rented pick-up truck. Accompanied by Simon & Garfunkel (his choice), we drove through the park at a leisurely pace and enjoyed the grandeur of it all.

The second chapter of John’s Gospel was on the agenda: The wedding at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. “That is my favorite miracle,” Hitch quipped.

Lunching at a roadside grill, he regaled our staff with stories. Afterwards, he was in high spirits.

“That’s quite a - how shall I put it? A clan? - team that you’ve got there,” he said, watching the teenage members of our group clamber into the big Chevrolet.

“Yes, it is,” I said, starting the truck. “They enjoyed your stories.”

“I enjoy them.” He reclined his seat and we were off again. “Shall we do all of the national parks?”

“Yes, and maybe the whole Bible, too,” I suggested playfully. He gave a laugh.

“Oh, and Larry, I’ve looked at your book.” He added.

“And?”

“Well, all that you say about our conversation is true, but you have one detail wrong.”

“And what is that?” I feared a total rewrite was coming.

“You have me drinking Johnnie Walker Red Label. That’s the cheap stuff. I only drink Black Label.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Larry Alex Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (1,648 Responses)
  1. Neutron Grinch

    Anyhow, I cannot debate fools (Liberals/Atheists: same thing).
    Not one liberal has made one intelligent remark about God or why He can't exist.
    all I can say is, every morning, without fail, the Sun rises, why? Why does the sun set at certain times, it seems to me, the precision here is beyond explanation, it is for liberals, because emotions dictate their thinking. They hate, because that's what CNN wants, a foolish indoctrinated chimpanzee. You were descended from apes, that's your birth-right, Uncle Bonzo at your local zoo, he's your ancient ancestor.
    Liberals, you must be proud, now put down your joints and start thinking logically, with some insight.
    This is from Ecclessiastes: "where there is no insight, the People perish"... my friends, you have the opposite of King Solomon as the president of the United States...he's leading this nation straight into the dirt.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Jim

      I can send excerpts from my daughters 4th grade science book regarding the orbital period and rotation of the Earth. You may find it interesting.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Observer

      Why does the sun set at certain times?

      Basic Science 101: The earth is rotating and alternating sides face the light (called the "Sun").

      WOW!

      December 17, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • DaveB

      Sometimes a comment comes along that is so inexplicably lame that it's difficult to respond. The above post is such a prime example. Apparently basic science is a foreign concept to this yahoo.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Observer

      – Matthew 5:22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery Hell.” [Jesus]

      Ooops! At least there should be plenty of Christian hypocrites there, too.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Guitar

      You seem to be the one spewing hate and intolerance..... Happy Sun and Solstice Day on December 25th! Let's hope you can leave the hate out of your heart for at least one day! (Yeah, real Christ like – aren't you?!!)

      December 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • BNB42

      Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  2. Jim J

    If God doesn't exist, how did he create man in his own image? Checkmate, atheists!

    December 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Observer

      Checkmate? Wow.

      That is one of the most ridiculous analogies I've ever heard. That God created man in his image (gay, etc.) is just your OPINION. That God doesn't exist is just the OPINION of atheists.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • sas

      That was the weakest argument I have read all day. You are not qualified to debate this. Leave the debates to more intelligent believers. You are assuming atheists agree that the bible is written by God. Atheists believe the bible was written by man so therefore anything written in the bible is not true. Just because the bible says it is true doesn't actually make it true. The bible is not some magical book written by God. You only THINK it is.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • DaveB

      That statement doesn't prove the existence of God. Just because your book written by man says it, doesn't make it true. It's just what you believe. I'll put my faith in science, not some random, drug induced ramblings of a bunch of losers from 2000 years ago/

      December 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • BNB42

      God is a creation of man, not the other way around.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • christopher

      Which came first? The Chicken or the egg? Checkmate Christians! Not really but it makes as much sense as your comment and your conclusion.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Larry Allen

      You are right, man created god in his own image.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:56 pm |
    • Michael

      Allegedly created man in his own image. I'll leave the proof up to Christopher Hitchens, a free thinker and a man brave enough to question the mind numbing status quo.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Jim

      Am I the only one who got the joke?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
  3. killallthewhiteman

    All of the theist in here that are advocating a faith based religion, are only helping to justify all of the other faith based religions. The people who blow up themselves and innocents, believe in a god just as much as you do.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • George

      Nobody gets into heaven except through Jesus. That immediately excludes the others you are talking about.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Calvin

      Amen, George.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • DaveB

      Well George. then heaven doesn't seem like a very interesting place. Besides, it it's filled with evangelical Christians. who want to spend eternity around them??

      December 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Tiger Stripes

      And since Jesus is long dead, wasn't a god, and rotted away into nothing long ago, nothing can now happen "through him". Ergo, no one gets to heaven.

      You lose, George. But more seriously, think about why it is that your god wouldn't let into heaven fine upstanding people in other cultures of the world who simply were brought up to believe in a different god than you do. The reason is that your whole set of beliefs is simply complete nonsense.

      Thanks for coming out to CNN, though, George. Remember to click on the ads so CNN makes some money after all the server time of theirs that you waste.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Observer

      George,

      "Nobody gets into heaven except through Jesus."

      Yep. God doesn't give a rip how good of a person you are if you've never heard about him like the millions of people who lived in North and South America for thousands and thousand of years.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Tiger Stripes

      DaveB that comment of yours was so spot on.

      If heaven means spending time alongside demented folk like George, thanks for the offer, but I'd prefer the hellfire option.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • George

      @Tiger Stripes

      "why it is that your god wouldn't let into heaven fine upstanding people in other cultures of the world who simply were brought up to believe in a different god than you do."

      This is why we are called to preach the Good News to other cultures/religious traditions. The Bible is quite clear on this matter, and I don't question God.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • George

      @Tiger Stripes

      "If heaven means spending time alongside demented folk like George, thanks for the offer, but I'd prefer the hellfire option."

      You may get what you ask for.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • Tiger Stripes

      George, re "I don't question god", it's high time you did take a closer look at your beliefs. Don't you even read all the stuff that people post that counters your statements? Wow, the load of baloney that you've fallen for.

      Really, get out in the sunshine and do some questioning. It'll do ya good and you'll be a better, freer person for it.

      Now think about just this: centuries ago, communication tech wasn't what it is today and millions of good people died without ever even hearing your religious stories. According to your statement, those people never had a chance at your "heaven". That's some mean, unfair god that you've created for yourself.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  4. Neutron Grinch

    THIS IS A LIBERAL TALKING-–>Binky42

    2,000 years from now they could make the same argument for Harry Potter.
    ****that's how foolish immature liberals respond to the question of the existence (or not) of God, I say God, our Heavenly Creator is so very real.
    I can offer scientific proof, while a Liberal simply rolls hemp into a joint and tries to figure out when a UFO will pick him up and drop him off on another planet where Christians don't exist. I hope one day, these 'Aliens' do recover as many liberals as possible off the face of the Earth and deposit them onto a planet where they can be coal miners for an eternity.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • Observer

      Neutron,
      "I can offer scientific proof"

      If you could, this wouldn't even be a discussion right now. Get serious.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
    • Ben

      Cite your scientific proof 🙂

      December 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • Observer

      Neutron,

      Still waiting.What happened to your "proof"?

      December 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • Guitar

      ....there you are spewing that HATE again! Jesus isn't going to like that!! 🙂

      December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
    • Larry Allen

      Good Christian thought.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  5. James

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlG28B-R8Y&w=640&h=360]

    December 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
  6. wooow

    Atheism is based on ignorance. It thrives through ignorance and it draws strength from arrogance, and when you combine ignorance with undiluted arrogance, it becomes the most dangerous combination of elements. Christopher Hitchens was indeed an embodiment of Ignorance and Arrogance. He new some day that he will expire, yet his arrogance blinded him from the truth, and his unfortunately misled thousands who think they are independent thinkers. If you had no say about our arrival in this world, and if you have no say about your expiration date, then you shouldn't think that you can think act independently from God. God created you when you were nothing, out of nothing, and he takes your life without your say. I know truth hurts, but for those of you who don't believe in God, well wait and see, because your expiration date could be anytime and any minute.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • sas

      Take out the word "atheist" and replace it with the words "fundamentalist Christian" and I will agree with your post.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • Jim

      Atheism is the arrogant belief that the world was not created just for us.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Tiger Stripes

      wooow, lots of declarations in your post, but you've given no evidence to support them.

      Let's just pick one of your statements, and blow your post out of the water: "Atheism is based on ignorance. " Really? Then how is it that atheists generally know the bible better than Christians do? I'll even re the Christian Science Monitor to support that:
      http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0928/In-US-atheists-know-religion-better-than-believers.-Is-that-bad

      So which side were you saying was "ignorant"? You yourself are a pathetic ignoramus.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
  7. Woow

    Atheism is based on ignorance. It thrives through ignorance and it draws strength from arrogance, and when you combine ignorance with undiluted arrogance, it becomes the most dangerous combination of elements. Christopher Hitchens was indeed an embodiment of Ignorance and Arrogance. He new some day that he will expire, yet his arrogance blinded him from the truth, and his unfortunately misled thousands who think they are independent thinkers. If you had no say about our arrival in this world, and if you have no say about your expiration date, then you shouldn't think that you can think act independently from God. God created you when you were nothing, out of nothing, and he takes your life without your say. I know truth hurts, but for those of you who don't believe in God, well wait and see, because your expiration date could be anytime and any minute.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
    • Observer

      A recent poll/test showed that the average atheist and average agnostic know more about the Bible than the average Christian and have higher educations.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • killallthewhiteman

      “If every trace of every single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

      December 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Kevin

      Unlike you, many of us non-believers are ready to face that expiration date like men, not dogs.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • BNB42

      All the atheist is asking the theist to do is to use the same logic he used to deduce that all religion other than his is false to deduce his is also false.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:34 pm |
    • Binky42

      Atheism is based on ignorance? Well, how come a 2010 Pew study revealed that atheists and agnostics are more knowledgeable about religion than any religious group? 50% of Christians couldn't even name the four gospels that make-up the foundation of the modern church.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
    • Edwin

      How is atheism ignorance? You talk about the existence of God as if it were fact. But the existence of god is disputed, so it is not fact. If I understand your argument, it is this: if God exists, atheists are wrong. This is semantically true, but it doesn't add to the discussion.

      Prove God exists, or accept there is no proof. Indeed, most religions expect people to believe on faith, not proof, so I think it is doubtful you can find any real evidence that cannot be logically countered.

      You are probably one of those people Hitchens abhorred - one who cannot understand the fundamentals of the argument.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
    • MN Man

      Woow, your words would pack more of a punch if there were even a trace of proof behind them.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • mozz

      This is the most ignorant post I've read in a long time. To be religious because of fear of death is a sign of cowardice, not faith....

      December 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • Ben

      Man, I was going to say something snarky about citing sources for the "atheism is ignorance" quote, but everyone beat me.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • Guitar

      "....because your expiration date could be anytime and any minute." – And YOUR's Couldn't?!!! Please re-read your statements and then step back and really think about how ignorant it all reads. BTW, doesn't your bible state that "God made Man of his own FREE WILL?" Do feel sorry for you, but wishing you a Happy Celebration of the SUN and Solstice on December 25th, the original celebration of that day, before the christian church decided to steal it, (how sinful of them!)

      December 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • saneCanadian

      Would be easier to take a lecture on ignorance from someone who knows the difference between "new" and "knew".

      December 17, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • tallulah13

      @Woow

      This is how I would translate your post: You are afraid of dying so you believe in god. When other people don't believe in god, it threatens the illusion that you will live forever. Therefore, you will call them "ignorant" in hopes that it will scare them off so that you can continue believing in something for which there is no proof.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  8. James

    What if when you die your soul go's to The Twilight Zone or some other dimension? .........That would be freaking Awesome!

    December 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  9. killallthewhiteman

    God punished him? You religious nuts make me sick. What about everyone in your family that has died? Were they being punished? Leave the judging to your god, sit down, and shut up.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Edwin

      Don't judge real, decent human beings who believe by the actions of arrogant posters and trolls. If someone on a board like this says something horrible, it reflects on them, not all believers/atheists.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  10. logan5

    One of you made a point that Hitchens either helped people reaffirm their faith in the Christian god or he inspired them to dig deep inside and find the courage to embrace apostasy. This is his contribution and I totally agree. As for me personally, thanks to Hitchens I was able to make more sense of why I abandoned Christianity and embraced atheism. Like it or not he was a truly inspirational individual for Christians and atheists alike. I have never been more proud to be a non believer!

    December 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Binky42

      Agreed. Hitchens, and men like him, have helped others to start thinking about these issues again. Most Christians and atheists don't really understand what they do or don't believe in, but this man inspired them to think deeply about it. Blind faith, or blind lack of faith, are both equally non-nonsensical.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Neutron Grinch

      I disagree, I think Hitchens was a wealthy opportunist, who left England for obvious reasons, just as the Rolling Stones did, the Beatles, and why any other rich celebrity leaves England, and that's to preserve their wealth, if you don't realize that, you're living in a dream world.
      Hitchens didnt' always spend his time discussing Religion, in his hey day, politics was the order of the day: and he hated the lying Clintons, I guess he got that right, lol.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  11. Neutron Grinch

    I'll offer this proof of God, that was the life of Jesus...who did exist and his life has been chronicled in writing, REAL WRITINGS, NOT FABRICATIONS AND ATHEISTS CLAIM...Jewish/Israeli archeologists have been finding proof of Jesus, the Dead Sea Scrolls which accurately date back to the time of Jesus, offer a glimpse into this Supernatural Being. A Man who could walk on water, who could feed the masses from very little, who could restore life, when only death was the option.
    Again, I'm not here to be anyone's pastor, you either investigate or you can continue to be what CNN wants you to be, a foolish atheistic ideologue, where "it takes a village" is more important than Self Discovery.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Observer

      The existence of a person named Jesus does not in any way prove that God exists.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Trevor

      You have an imaginary friend and we're the fools?

      December 17, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Binky42

      2,000 years from now they could make the same argument for Harry Potter.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Don

      The Dead Sea Scrolls do not mention jesus at all. In fact, they are a different textual family than the one used for the bible.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • fred

      Observer
      Are you saying because you cannot see or know God, God does not exist? Soon you will be dead and according to atheist belief will see nothing, be noting and basically not exist. So you never existed either.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Binky42

      Fred – I see this in reverse. Because atheists do not expect another life after this one, they are more likely to appreciate this life, live life to the fullest, see the beauty in nature, and take better care of the planet. We may not see anything after death, but so many religious people are so focused on the afterlife, that they aren't fully seeing this life.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • Observer

      fred,

      "Observer, Are you saying because you cannot see or know God, God does not exist?"

      Never said that or anything close. What I have said it that the existence of God can be neither proved nor disproved.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:36 pm |
    • fred

      Binky42
      If Christians actually follow Christ they are to live this life to the fullest with Joy and wonder knowing the days are short. They are love as Christ, weep with those who weep and jump for joy with those who celebrate life.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
  12. George

    Atheists should not be surprised that Christians see this as God's just punishment of a sinner. The 5th commandment says,

    "Honour your father and your mother: that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God giveth you."

    Hitchens dishonored his Father in heaven every chance he got.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Binky42

      I think his punishment was more related to his smoking and drinking habits.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • Observer

      The Ten Commandments also have a corollary that says that anyone working on the Sabbath should be killed, but let's skip that one.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:23 pm |
    • ron

      How is it that punishment and sin are such a huge part of religion. Most atheists are not judgmental nor filled with hate and tend to be very peaceful and thoughtful people. Hope you have really good holidays this year.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Jim

      My mother-in-law died from a similar form of cancer. She was a devout Catholic. My father died from lung cancer, he was a devout Southern Baptist. I do not see the connection between Mr. Hitchens' Atheism and cancer.

      Mr. Hitchens was a great man, the world is much poorer without him.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:35 pm |
    • George

      @Jim

      Actually, the world is better off without him. I wonder how many more people he would have led astray had he lived longer.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
    • Jim

      @George, I wonder if you've read any of his work, he commented on many things outside of religion. He was probably one of the smartest men I have discovered, first at "The Nation" then at "Vanity Fair". Although I disagreed with his positions on many things, he always brought a well reasoned and usually sharp viewpoint to a discussion.

      I assume of course you're talking about Mr. Hitchens and not my father...

      December 17, 2011 at 2:57 pm |
    • Observer

      George,

      Well done. Just another example of Christian HYPOCRISY. Sorry you missed the part in the Bible about not judging others. Is there an asterisk on that page saying " * doesn't apply to George"?

      December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  13. David

    My "head" tells me that my soul will not survive my physical death. But, emotionally I long to be reunited with the people who meant the most to me in this life; my parents, and a woman that I loved very much. If I could spend one more week with her and be able to tell that I loved her and kiss her one last time, that would be heaven enough for me,

    December 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
  14. Sean

    Most Christians forgot the real message from Jesus.... if you don't want to follow me.. so be it. Christianity is about living Christianity yourself, and not imposing the lifestyle onto others.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
    • BNB42

      Pressing 'Like' Button Repeatedly....

      December 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
  15. localdelii

    Hitchens lived life, so it seems, on his own terms and with worldly success, but he, like the majority of us, couldn't dictate the terms of death Many say the debate is over for him through death, but it was really over for him in life, which is when it truly counts. To believe in God, which I do, one must love a great mystery.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm |
  16. A4mrtheist

    Two hands helping other do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.

    Madalyn Murray O'Hair

    December 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
    • Neutron Grinch

      Madeline O'Hare was murdered, hacked to death by her own atheist followers over MONEY.
      THAT'S A FACT MY FRIEND, YOU NEED TO RECONCILE YOURSELF WITH WHAT we puny christians, call the Truth.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Observer

      Neutron Grinch,

      Priests and ministers have been murdered over money and that's a fact.

      What was your point, if any?

      December 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • killallthewhiteman

      "Madeline O'Hare was murdered, hacked to death by her own atheist followers over MONEY.
      THAT'S A FACT MY FRIEND, YOU NEED TO RECONCILE YOURSELF WITH WHAT we puny christians, call the Truth."

      LOL!!!! The guy names one example of one person dying. Open a history book my friend, religion has killed millions and still does.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  17. TheDudeAbides

    Friendship, tolerance and good will; the best religion of them all. Nice article.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  18. BoldGeorge

    The only thing that would concern me and I don't see it mentioned in this article is if Mr. Hitchens was presented with the Gospel and if he had assurance of his salvation through Jesus Christ and his eternal dwelling. That is basically (not that there is anything basic about it) my main concern for everyone.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Binky42

      You can bet Hitchens was well versed in all major religions, as are most intellectual atheists. Knowing about the concept of salvation still does not make it logical. As a Pew study revealed last year, atheists and agnostics are more knowledgeable about religion than any religious group. Ideas without evidence, no matter how convincing they can be when taken on faith, will not sway an atheist.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:21 pm |
    • Sarah

      What a terrible thing to say. You should be ashamed of yourself. You didn't care for the article at all, only what PR your silly little religion could get out of it.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm |
    • sas

      Of course he was presented with the Gospel. He knew it inside and out. Better than you I would imagine. Yet he despite this, he still rejected the notion of God. But thankfully not all Christians hold a fundamentalist view that he will burn for all eternity. I am sick of these well meaning, yet misguided Christians claiming that the book cannot be misinterpreted yet they are constantly cherry picking passages and twisting the meanings for their own ideological agendas.

      And worst of all, sheepishly following fundamentalist ideas that came at the end of the 19th century and had no place in traditional Christianity. What modern Christians preach today, is much different then what Jesus was teaching.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      I understand about the intellect and all things intellectual...but it's no wonder why in the Bible it is written:

      1 Corinthians 2:14 – But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED.

      It cannot be any clearer than this and the Bible is clear to comprehend, that is if you approach it as it is telling you in the verse above. I understand as you do about intellect, believe me. But our intelligence is a joke compared to God's wisdom.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  19. Deist 1#

    Christians won't be happy until they've tamed Americans enough with their fake book that the Pope Can 'Dirty Sanchez" the President without a wimpier.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Mike

      Wow... so much tolerance in your words.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:14 pm |
  20. finkster

    Believing you will continue after death does not mean you're religious.
    Just someone who thinks the soul is eternal.
    Maybe we are all Gods who are heading towards the other side of infinite.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Kebos

      Yeah, and maybe were not. Very likely we're not.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Jake

      Hoping that will happen is one thing...thinking it's likely is just as ridiculous as religion.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Binky42

      Religion is just faith in something that is not otherwise provable. And yes, believing you continue after death is a religious belief, because it cannot be empirically proven.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.