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.


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.


“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. George

    Hitchens was no better than a murderer. He tried to murder God, but God is more powerful than a blowhard. For those who think that Christians focus on punishment, aren't you glad when a murderer is brought to justice? We're sad for the wasted life, but certainly support justice being meted out. It's no different in the spiritual realm.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • Matt

      What god?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Simply a laugh. You attribute death at the age of 62, as punishment for sins? Im sure the amount of children dying and abused everyday stand as testament to your lie or if not, to your immense hatred of humanity and the gift of life.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
    • i wonder

      Maybe if Jesus had lived 62 years he could have done a better job of proving his as.sertions.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • Beth

      George, we are sorry for your wasted life. What awful things you said about a dead man.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:25 pm |
    • HisNoodlyAppendage

      You are mentally ill. Seek help.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • George


      Hitchens often said bad things about people who had just died. But the difference is that I am trying to warn others who might be taken in by this charlatan.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
    • Deist 1#

      Sorry he tried to murder you imaginary friend. WAIT CHECK TO SEE CAN YOU STILL COMMUNICATE WITH HIM TELEPATHICALLY!

      December 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
    • BH in MA

      So your loving, forgiving god killed Hitchens on purpose and you're happy about it? No doubt Hitchens is currently on fire in hell, screaming in agony, where he will remain forever. You religion and your god sound awesome. Where do I sign up?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • Deist 1#

      Your versions of GOD are all laughable Farce's and a big hoax perpetuated Throughout time...SEE THE ONE TRUE RELIGION OF THE FOUNDERS OF THIS NATION: DEISM........http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism

      December 17, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • George


      "Where do I sign up?"

      Any good, conservative, Bible believing, Evangelical church.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • agonyflips

      @ George. "...certainly support justice being meted out."

      Does that include the death penalty?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jake

      I remember the day my parents murdered Santa Claus. It's amazing the police still haven't caught them.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • i wonder

      "Any good, conservative, Bible believing, Evangelical church."

      How do you know if they are "good"? Where do you go, George?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • agonyflips

      Has George Left the building???

      George, I asked you a question, regarding your statement. So, do you support the Death Penalty?

      December 17, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • BoldGeorge

      TO I Wonder....I go to the Bible. A true Christian can definitely determine if a church is preaching sound doctrine. It's simple to just walk in and have a talk with its pastor and ask to read their oath of faith of their church. That's a start.

      December 17, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  2. Deist 1#

    My Religion is the only True Religion to follow. and also a Truly Fierce Rival Atheism...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deism

    December 17, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
  3. Jake

    Neutron, let me give you some information that I promise you, is not debatable: The statements you've been making don't even approach logical thought. I promise you, even people who agree with your religious views recognize that your posts are pretty much insane.

    There are endless flaws with your attempted logic, but I'll give you one quick and easy example. You continue to equate atheists with liberals. Obviously, there are conservatives who are atheists and liberals who are religious. Therefore, "liberal" is not equal to "atheist". This type of clearly faulty logic is prevalent throughout your posts.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • agonyflips

      All I know is that THE TRUTH IS, Johnny Walker BLUE is the Good Stuff.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jake

      I'm more of a bourbon fan myself.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:45 pm |
    • agonyflips

      Ah, Bourbon. Something like Parker's Heritage Gold is nice, or Hirsch Selection 28 if you don't mind breaking the bank.
      Bourbon never makes you drunk. It makes you crazy.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
  4. Reuben

    If you are a Christian, the most important thing is where you are going to spend eternity! The way Hutchins lived his life there is no doubt where he is going to spend eternity. But, no one knows for sure. May be he repented even when he was not able to speak. It is so ironic though that a person can say stupid (supposedly inteliigent) things all his life, and just days before he dies he cannot even speak!! It is also ironic that Hutchins brother is a believer!!!

    December 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • supreme

      Well, if you believe like i do, then only God knows man's hearts. We have no place to judge.If i recall, there is a part of the new testament where Jesus and his disciples come across a group of non-believers. The disciples start criticizing them, and Jesus said to them "HUSH! These people follow my commandments more closely than any of you, so do not criticize them, learn from them"

      December 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
    • Answer

      Do you think his brother now thinks that Christopher is in hell?

      That is the kind of thinking that matters.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • LouieD

      Reuben, the cliche' you're getting at is called Pascal's Wager. It's a logical fallacy. Look it up.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • glenn

      Let's see, spend eternity with Jerry Falwell, nuns, Bush/Cheney or in hell with Playboy bunnies, Tom
      Paine, Ben Franklin

      December 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • supreme

      ben franklin was not an atheist, sorry to burst ur bubble.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm |
  5. GodofLunaticsCreation


    December 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • Matt

      Hitchslaps for the win!

      December 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      "Im glad of your chains" LOL!!!!!!

      December 17, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • HisNoodlyAppendage

      Very sensible post!

      December 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
  6. rick

    Asbestos suit? jimmy, jimmy, jimmy......you'd best start workin on that G.E.D.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  7. iamacamera

    What is described here is the way it should be. No caustic arguments or hateful, personally damaging, rhetoric. Two, highly intelligent, educated men, being friends and showing respect. Where has our society come to that only people who agree,and walk in lockstep, can be friends? I don't know either man but this is highly refreshing. The way it should be.

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

    Amazing love! That's all about.. A mutual respect and trying to reach out in a beautiful way. What a blessing.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
  9. Neutron Grinch

    BY christopher hitchens was NOT A GREAT MAN, BY ANY STRETCH...He was not a statesman, he was a book writer, he was a writer for vanity fair and other liberal rags... he didn't invent ANYTHING...he didn't create anything, in fact, a "GREATER" THAN HE, existed 100 years ago, his name was Bertrand Russell. Why argue with emotional liberals, that's why your allowing your country to be destroyed by the communist in office, Obummer.

    December 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Observer

      So have the dim bulbs decided Obama's a communist this week? Tell all the morons who say he's a Muslim or United Church of Christ racist? Or don't the morons know the differences?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • Livingston

      If this is an example of the love that Christianity teaches, deal me out. I'm reminded of words spoken many years ago. I like you Christ, I do not like you christians. They are so unlike your Christ.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  10. Neutron Grinch

    By the way, the where's, how's, why's...what I meant was, WHY DOES IT DO THAT, LOL.

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

      To the fellow atheists who would love to tear this man's logic apart... Do not feed the trolls... Thank you! 🙂

      December 17, 2011 at 3:00 pm |
    • wangfeihong

      shut the f___ up

      December 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Observer


      You are spouting that science just like you heard it for the first time instead of in the 4th grade like everyone else. Why tell people what they learned in elementary school?


      December 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Neutron brings to mind a people in the throws of death, bleating nonsense and condemnation.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
    • Livingston

      Wow. I mean, wow. I've struggled mightily to describe in a few words what the problem is in this country. I yield to the unattainable clarity and convincing force of the author's colloquy and retire from my previous effort, utterly defeated.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:56 pm |
    • Ruspanic

      Tide goes in, tide goes out. You can't explain that.

      December 17, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
  11. supreme


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


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

      Much respect to hitchens. He'll be missed. I enjoyed a lot of his work, it helped me to think critically and do my own research about my own faith, and the results are amazing and positive, he has enhanced and strengthened the foundation of my faith for me, and though we may have differing outlooks on the concept of God, i am thankful that he had ample platform to reach out and cause people to actually think about their predicaments.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm |
  12. joe

    religion is a crutch for the mentally and emotionally infirmed.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Magic

      It's not only a crutch - it's an incapacitating full-body cast.

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

      And atheists on this site are all pigs

      December 17, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Mitch

      You're so right. Thankfully I don't have religion. I have a relationship with Jesus Christ.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • JagerBaBomb

      That doesn't sound very Christ-like, Stan.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
    • JT

      Oh yeah.... and atheism is for those that are too weak to believe in the unseen and too cynical to believe in Gods grace.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
  13. Krystal

    "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."

    This is for my fellow christians and not the atheists who are posting here. I want each of you to read the above statement. Read it slowly and think about what this person is saying. Then I want you to dig down deep and think about why he made such a statement. If you think about it objectively, you will understand where this person is coming from. Allow me to explain where I am going with this.
    As christians, we often try to defend our beliefs with words. We spout off about how what we believe is the truth and put down anyone who happens to disagree with us. There is freedom of religion in this country and atheists do have the right to it. When we make statements like what the person above is saying, it makes us look petty and hateful. It makes us look like small individuals who only care about being right. How much better would it be if we just went around showing the love of the Savior we claim to serve rather than engaging in arguments with hateful rhetoric that only turns people off to our message. Take for example the "Keep Christ in Christmas" debate that goes on every year. I personally don't feel that God cares if you say "Merry Christmas" of "Happy Holidays". I don't think he cares if you call your tree "A Christmas Tree" or "Holiday Tree". I do think that he cares more about our actions. He is pleased when we help someone pay their light bill at Christmas or when we provide food for someone who is hungry. That is what our faith is about. That is what Jesus approves of. It is through those actions that we reach people.
    For those of you here who think my beliefs are silly, that is okay. I love you as a fellow human being anyway. It won't stop me from praying for you. Be blessed, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    December 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Smart

      2 paragraphs into your post, I felt compelled to write a mocking, sarcastic rebuttal, but you surprise me sir. I appreciate your genuine comments and thank you for them.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |
    • reywal

      Thank you, from an athiest, for this. I wish you all the best – a love-filled, Happy Christmas.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • Bill

      well said. totally agree. thanks for your input.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • yoshiknows

      Writes a book denigrating God and religion – gets cancer soon afterward – I'm just saying...he did have a point about how people use religion to control others...but he mocked Mother Theresa and many people who were doing good and trying to live decent lives...and he did it just to be obnoxious, so everyone paid attention to him just to see what outrageous thing he would say next...sort of like Judge Judy...meanwhile, Tebow is winning...I'm just saying

      December 17, 2011 at 3:28 pm |
  14. AngryBob

    Hitchens was one of the most "moral" men I can think of. Why? Because when he chose to do the right thing it was simply because it was the right thing to do. There was no supernatural force, real or imagined, coercing him. For that, he has my respect and admiration.

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

      Thanks AngryBob,

      You nailed it by saying:

      "Hitchens was one of the most "moral" men I can think of. Why? Because when he chose to do the right thing it was simply because it was the right thing to do. There was no supernatural force, real or imagined, coercing him. For that, he has my respect and admiration."

      That is how we all should run our lives and is the tenant of those of us who are atheist. Hitchens will always be an icon to those of us who let what is right be our moral compass.

      What a shame, CNN that you linked only to an article by a Christian and not the following one by Richard Dawkins which would have been more appropriate as the lead:


      As for those Christians who think Hitchen's sentiments indicate he had mixed feelings. You are wrong. Most of us atheists also love and take comfort in pageantry and the fellowship of other humans. That is what he was expressing. We simply believe in one less god than those who worship what they believe to be a spiritual being. And we take utter and complete responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

      Farewell Christopher. You are missed already.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm |
  15. Mark from Middle River

    This still is amazing. The man has not been dead a week.. not even a couple of days and many folks are not posting to remember him or even to respectful mention him.

    Each article always seems to boil down or corrode into an post that are just copies of what has been said again and again for ions as if each side believes that other side has not heard it and/or has not a answer to counter it.

    Dear goodness folks.... Hitchens....dude died.... there will be many more articles that the Belief Blog editors will be posting in the near future where yall' can just waste each others time on Earth bantering about as if no Atheist has heard of God and no person of Faith has ever heard God does not exist.

    After a year or so here the arguments are just now carbon copies of themselves. I am not a Atheist, I am a person of Faith but was raised that a mans death and the time after it is of bad taste to bring up grudges and anger. Take time to remember Hitchens, the Atheist and those of Faith will still be around but give these days and memorial to Hitchens.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  16. Neutron Grinch

    If he was such a smart atheist,why didn't he take better care of himself?
    Was he too self indulgent? Perhaps some good ole Christian self discipline could
    have helped.

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

      Atheism is not a school of medicine. Seems you are confused.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Apparently christians haven't gotten the word that they are supposed to be virtuous.


      December 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Deist 1#

    Why hasn't Any American leader ever come down hard on the Catholic Church for there Treatment of Under age children and call for a investigation with arrest. IS IT JUST BECAUSE THEY'RE A MAIN STREAM RELIGION.?

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

      Because we have spineless Congressmen and Senators! They are phony and are sold on possible every issue!!!

      December 17, 2011 at 2:59 pm |
  18. Matt

    Lol CNN commenters prove the Hitch right! Hitchens would be laughing at all the 'christians' commenting on here

    December 17, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
  19. Jimmy

    I am a believer and have faith that the Bible is actually God's word.I believe Jesus is the answer and the only way to heaven.If I am right I am OK.If I am wrong I am still as well off as you,a non-believer.What is your status if I am right?Got an asbestos suit?

    December 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
    • Steve the Goat

      You poor, deluded fool.

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


      This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century (where have you been?)

      - What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.

      - What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?

      - What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?

      December 17, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Matt

      If you're wrong, you devoted your life to being wrong and oppressing people based on those beliefs. You told people terribly mean things (like they're going to hell) for no good reason. You also rationalize your belief as hedging your bets, which implies to me that it isn't a belief worth having, because it's motivated by fear and not sincere goodness or truth. You've spent your life thinking you are somehow different and better than those who don't believe rather than truly loving your neighbor. You helped to hinder the advancement of your species through science by promoting literal beliefs in magical mythologies over reproducible experiments. I'd say not only do you lose, but we all lose.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Mathis

      Why do you do this? If you have all knowledge yet have not love, you have nothing. Sound familiar? Don't threaten the fires of hell in an effort to proselytize. It does your faith an injustice and turns those who do not believe away more quickly than anything else possibly could. Those who run to faith out of fear walk on shallow ground. Perhaps you should remember that.

      December 17, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Smart

      And what of all the other world's religions? I suppose if one of them is correct, we're all hellbound. Perhaps if multiple of them are right, they'll need to pass us serially through each of the respective hells and share our eternal damnation.

      Of course, I'm just poking fun at the obvious absurdity of your argument because none of them are correct, and each one is easily falsifiable and has been thoroughly falsified. You can devise all sorts of horrible fantastic possibilities and try to plan contingencies for them, but fortunately most horrible possibilities are unlikely, and in the case of Armageddon/hell, an absolutely impossiblity.

      And if you are wrong, you are "ok"? You've wasted your entire life, sir. You are far from ok.

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

      Jimmy, you are dead wrong. You are better off living an ignorant boxed in life? I have to say that, that is a pre-requisite to living the life of blissful ignorance and a life not worth living. Why not seek to understand the cosmos on a deeper level like atheists do instead of waving your wand of simplification over everything that makes life so great?

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

      You speak as if you think we get to "decide" reality based on our preferred outcome. I don't "choose" for religion to be BS, it just is.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
    • Smart

      Following up on what Jake said, Jimmy your argument is what is called "an appeal to consequences", and of course, it is a logical fallacy. Just because we like one outcome more than another doesn't make the former any more true.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • Scott

      Jimmy... sometimes the truth of His good news brings the harshest of criticism. Stay strong in your faith. God's Word is true.

      NOTE: It's ironic that Hitchens and Taunton could disagree with such mutual respect for each other. Many of Jimmy's detractors here are compelled to add in personal insults.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:10 pm |
    • GodofLunaticsCreation

      Is it insulting to point out to a man who thinks that he can fly and demands the same of you under threat of punishment and death, that his feet have never left the ground?

      December 17, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Observer


      Speaking of personal insults, it's too bad you haven't read any of Neutron Grinch's comments.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:21 pm |
    • mike

      Jimmy, Magic makes a good point about Pascal's Wager: Avoiding hell is not the best reason for believing in God... I personally think there are lots of good reasons for believing in God, but Pascal's Wager is ultimately fearmongering without much substance...

      December 17, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  20. washingtonpharmgirl

    What a beautiful friendship. This made me cry. We love who we love. The vitriol and rhetoric has no place in this society. The use of it is shameful. These were two men who bothered to know eachother. Lovely article.

    December 17, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
    • Carl

      Well said...

      December 17, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • CJ

      My thoughts exactly. If these two can share a strong bond...supposed "enemies" in the political and ethical arenas...the rest of us who fight and claw are the true losers.

      December 17, 2011 at 3:11 pm |
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About this blog

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.