King of the Vultures Thinks Little of Hitchens and Christianity

Christopher Hitchens is facing death, and he is fighting it with pen-in-hand.  His lastest piece on the suffering he’s going through will pry tears from your eyes.

I do remember lying there and looking down at my naked torso, which was covered almost from throat to navel by a vivid red radiation rash. This was the product of a month-long bombardment with protons which had burned away all of the cancer in my clavicular and paratracheal nodes, as well as the original tumor in the esophagus. This put me in a rare class of patients who could claim to have received the highly advanced expertise uniquely available at the stellar Zip Code of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. To say that the rash hurt would be pointless. The struggle is to convey the way that it hurt on the inside.I lay for days on end, trying in vain to postpone the moment when I would have to swallow. Every time I did swallow, a hellish tide of pain would flow up my throat, culminating in what felt like a mule kick in the small of my back. I wondered if things looked as red and inflamed within as they did without. And then I had an unprompted rogue thought: If I had been told about all this in advance, would I have opted for the treatment? There were several moments as I bucked and writhed and gasped and cursed when I seriously doubted it.

It’s probably a merciful thing that pain is impossible to describe from memory. It’s also impossible to warn against. If my proton doctors had tried to tell me up front, they might perhaps have spoken of “grave discomfort” or perhaps of a burning sensation. I only know that nothing at all could have readied or steadied me for this thing that seemed to scorn painkillers and to attack me in my core. I now seem to have run out of radiation options in those spots (35 straight days being considered as much as anyone can take), and while this isn’t in any way good news, it spares me from having to wonder if I would willingly endure the same course of treatment again.

Truly, there are undoubtedly worse things in life than dying.  But for many of the followers of Christianity, a faith unable to stand against an adroit mind, there can never be enough pity to keep them from preying on the injured.  Though Christianity, we’re told, is supposed to make people better, when the presence of blood signals weakness many of them shed the nobility of humanity and eagerly adopt the role of scavengers.

Mark Judge has tried to tell us that Christopher Hitchens may now convert to Christianity, not because arguments for it were able to persuade him over decades of attempts when Hitchens was at full strength, but because Hitchens is now in pain.

In this, Judge reveals a couple of things.  He reveals that he thinks very little of Hitchens, such that he thinks Hitchens may abandon reason for the comfort of fantasy out of panic or desperation.  Judge also reveals that he thinks this is a sufficient and laudable way to reach conclusions about things.  It always baffles me how people can get mad at me for treating religion like it’s deplorable and insulting to humanity’s potential before turning around and helping me make that point.

Perhaps Hitchens’s admission that Nietzsche might have been wrong, even about something small, will lead him to a healthy curiosity about Christianity.

Hitchens rejected a quote attributed to Nietzsche: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”  He has done so because this treatment and the unrelenting pain of enduring it has undoubtedly not made him stronger and he is now noticing other instances where suffering does not result in strength.  Hitchens is still granting supreme authority to the evidence, which does not bode well for Mark Judge.  If you’re hoping that somebody changing their mind to embrace new evidence is an indication that they are on the verge credulity, let alone on the level of accepting someone rose from the dead 2,000 years ago, you are not the sharpest vulture in the wake.

And if you don’t think Hitchens has a curiosity about Christianity, you need to rethink some things.  Hitchens knew the faith and the arguments for it back and forth.  He did the same for other faiths.  And he consistently thrashed others who had dedicated their lives to the study of only Christianity.  Did they lack a healthy curiosity about Christianity?  Christianity is supposed to make people more moral, but it does a piss poor job of keeping them from insulting a man who is dying.

Hitchens’s attacks on religion were always propelled by the kind of fury that one usually finds in zealots and former believers; it’s always the ex-Catholics (Maureen Dowd, etc.) who are the hardest on the Church.

Yes, it can’t be that religion is deserving of fury.

Hitchens attacks on religion were propelled by its role as a haven for the irrational mind in which people were commanded into servitude by religious leaders claiming the ear of god.  To accuse Hitchens of being motivated by a sense of revenge rather than justified anger is empty, and it’s flat out wrong.  Plenty of atheists who never even considered swallowing the cracker are capable of hammering every glaring hole in the concept of faith with an unforgiving keen that would make your everyday ex-Catholic cringe.

I found “God is Not Great,” Hitchens’s anti-religion rant, unreadable not because it argues against religion, but because it does so in such an angry, scattershot and childish way.

Of course, Mark can’t be bothered to explain this.  He’s too busy making passive-aggressive slants and prematurely drooling over Hitchens’ corpse.  What use is this review from somebody who doesn’t think the bible is “angry, scattershot, and childish”?

I guess it’s much easier to pick on Mother Teresa, which Hitchens has done with particular gusto.

Yes, because Hitchens didn’t make mincemeat of pretty much every modern esteemed theologian as well – and he did it while those people were at the height of their acumen.  And “picking on” Mother Teresa?  He wrote a book documenting how much of what was said about her was untrue.  Here Mark tries to paint Hitchens as a bully in the very same breath as he’s hoping somebody’s weakness will bring them over to Mark’s side.  If Mark wants to know what a bully looks like, he needs only look into a mirror.

I knew that he was a brave soul as far back as 1989…

If you think Hitchens is a brave soul, stop counting on him to cave to his weakened state.

I knew at that moment that he was a brave and honest thinker.

If you think that, perhaps you should read the most recent article by Mike Ju…oh, that’s you.

I wouldn’t tell Christopher Hitchens that now is the time to get right with the Lord, or to pray or read the Bible. I wouldn’t try and convince him of the resurrection. I would only ask him to entertain the notion that love — the love he has for his life, his wife and his children, the love his readers have for him and the love that the doctors and nurses are showing him — is a real thing whose origins are worth exploring without glibness (sorry, saying “love for your fellow mammals” doesn’t require religion, as Hitchens did once, doesn’t cut it)

Oh you condescending, two-faced ass.  “I respect Hitchens, I just wish he’d entertain that the love he feels for his wife in kids is real and think about it.”

Hey, here’s a thought: perhaps one of the most revered intellectuals of our time has thought about the love he feels and its origins?  Even if he hadn’t, and he was just coasting along in love absent the curiosity evident elsewhere in his life, and he had no personal philosophy on love at all, so what?  Even if he had no clue what love means or what produces it (which he did), that doesn’t mean that Mark Judge does.

And why doesn’t “love for your fellow mammals doesn’t require religion” cut it?  Atheists love each other!  Apes exhibit tremendous amounts of care for one another!  You know what makes a mockery of love?  Anybody demanding you love them on pain of eternal torment.  Anybody who worships the latter has a lot of damn gall to tell a man who loves his wife and kids that he needs to explore the subject in more depth.

It also can be done without Christophobia.

You think we’re scared of you?  You’re the ones targeting children and the dying for fear of having your asses handed to you by people with the full command of their faculties.  You’re the ones hemorrhaging followers in all fifty states.  No, we may have been cowed by believers in the past, but we are on the warpath now.

What Mark refers to as “Christophobia” is us being livid with the results of faith.  We’re pissed off about inequality as nurtured only by those contaminated with religion.  We’re furious about religious wars.  We see red when an organization that has become untouchable due to a misplaced respect for piety protects and empowers the predators of children.  To say that the list of reasons we’re incensed is long would make me a master of understatement.  It’s not a phobia, it is justified anger.

Ironically, there is a kind of symmetry between Hitchens and his declared enemy, Mother Teresa, whom Hitchens wrote a nasty book about and called a fanatic and a fraud (yawn).

She was.  He was right.  And you’re a condescending ass.

Perhaps Hitchens is going through something similar. And as Mother Teresa’s pain made her doubt her God, in second-guessing Nietzsche, Hitchens may be doubting his.

Yes, because noting Nietsche was wrong about something and explaining why, in perfectly reasonable terms, means that Hitchens may be considering that a Canaanite Jew rose from the dead 2,000 years ago in a way that no theologian managed to bring to his attention over the last several decades.  Brilliant.

To all you Christians who read this blog, and I know you do (many of you send me emails), think for a moment how much you’d like to be like this guy.  Do you think your belief is better than something that must target the intellectually undeveloped (children) or the weary and the sick?  You might say “yes”, but how many of you act that way?  Do you think religion makes people better?  Then explain Mark Judge to me.

And when you’re done with that, explain the abundance of believers who will cheer him for this.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Russell P.

    Nicely done.

  • karla

    Hear hear! Well said.

  • https://plus.google.com/113934400219974764448 Hein

    You know what makes a mockery of love? Anybody demanding you love them on pain of eternal torment. Anybody who worships the latter has a lot of damn gall to tell a man who loves his wife and kids that he needs to explore the subject in more depth.

    Well said!

  • Larry

    JT + Hitch= WIN!

  • http://theviewfromthepond.blogspot.com Puddock

    Thanks for this. The full article (Hitch’s, that is!) is intelligent and brave, as we would expect.

  • otrame

    The only consolation is that if that treatment works, Hitch will eventually lose most of his immediate memory of what the pain was like. Our brains try very hard to not remember severe pain (and anecdotally I have been in severe pain several times and have more memory for how I felt about the pain than the pain itself) .

    As for Judge, I think you nailed him and those who think like him. Well done.

  • Natasha

    Why is it that most religious people always argue that feelings or beautiful things like a sunset automatically means there must be a god? It’s incredibly frustrating and completely irrational… but I suppose they have a lot of experience with irrationality.

  • Richard

    Religious people should stop talking, especially about atheists. We have mirrors, and when you hold one up to the type of language they’re using where it is clear they do not think of atheists or other people who aren’t their religion as human. All I can see in this particular mirror is a monster.

    If it sucks blood and comes from a book that makes no sense at all, it must be religion. Only if it also sparkles does that make it a vampire. My wife has informed me this joke is not funny, and I apologize for posting it in advance.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1583067300 alisonmeyer

    Freakin’ vultures. And when it becomes clear Hitchens will be “going to hell,” Mark Judge will likely be filled with glee at the prospect of watching him suffer from his front-row seat next to Jesus. Makes me ill.

  • papango

    Does anybody know if death bed conversion is actually something that happens often enough for it to even be a possibility here?

    At university I worked for a hospice doing home help for people who were dying in their own homes. It was just cleaning, laundry, doing dishes, baking the odd batch of scones, just making sure families could gather without running out of forks or clean towels. I did end up talking to a lot of people, I was too young and silly to have anything really to offer, but I was a good listener and people would come out and talk to me while I was defrosting the freezer or hanging up the washing. And I never, in the three years I did it, came across anyone (patient or family) who wasn’t already religious asking to see a priest or converting. Mike Judge seems to be talking as if the sort of pain and suffering that Hitchens is going through would led in that direction naturally. Does anyone know if that’s even reasonable to assume? I’m guessing not, but it would be interesting to know more.

    • TBruce

      I’m from a family of atheists. Several of us have died over the years, with plenty of time to anticipate the end. Not one had a deathbed conversion.

    • Richard

      My opinion is that those who are dying have deathbed conversions to atheism far more than the popular opinion, however I doubt any statistics exist on the topic. My mother was once a catholic, but she turned away last rights and was a conclusion atheist in her last half of a nine year battle with cancer.

    • Jeremy Shaffer

      My family claims that my father converted before he died of cancer but I doubt it. He did get religious towards the end; wanting to talk to a preist and asking people to pray for him, but it wasn’t like he was an atheist or non- believer. He just never went to church or claimed any religious beliefs nor did he ever deny the same.

    • Vicki

      Centuries ago, some people waited until they were dying to be baptized, because they thought that they would be forgiven for everything they had done wrong until then, and that they wouldn’t be likely to “sin” on their deathbeds. But that’s not a conversion in the sense of a change in belief. (And I don’t know if anyone still does this.)

  • carolw

    I’ve been thinking about this since I first heard about this article. I think if Hitch has anything to say at the last, it is more likely to be “fuck cancer!” than “fetch me a clergyman.”

  • Active Margin

    Well said, JT. Thank you.


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