As has often been the case, there’s a problem involving Christopher Hitchens that requires a response. However, this is an altogether new complication, and it’s time to dig deep…
He is best known, certainly, for his recent contributions as a critic of religion. His book “God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything” appeared a couple of years ago and proved to be a bestseller.
Since the publication of this text, Hitchens has traveled the country debating a series of religious thinkers—Christian, Muslim and Jewish—meeting them with an extremely swift mind and wickedly barbed tongue. Along with Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, he is one of the “four horsemen” of the New Atheism, the movement that advocates an aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach to the claims of faith.
I think it’s fair to say that Hitchens is playing today the role that another brilliant Englishman, Bertrand Russell, played nearly a century ago, namely that of religion’s public enemy No. 1.
Just a few weeks ago, I picked up Hitchens’s latest, an autobiography entitled “Hitch-22.” The book is a lot like the man: by turns funny, strange, deeply wise, infuriating, outrageous, critical, sometimes just plain baffling—and never dull….
I confess I began to wonder whether, despite his brassy atheism, Mr. Hitchens didn’t have a good deal of sensitivity to things religious.
This was on my mind when word came out last week that Hitchens was suffering from esophageal cancer, a particularly aggressive and unforgiving form of the disease.
Fr. Barron is a scholar and a minister whose work blends intellect with grace. That is evident here in the only sort of response one should have to this turn of events in life.
Jesus said, “Love your enemies; bless those who curse you; pray for those who maltreat you.” Christopher Hitchens is undoubtedly the enemy of Christianity—even of Christians—but he is also a child of God, loved into being and destined for eternal life. Therefore, followers of Jesus must pray for him and want what is best for him.
Hitchens seeks by means of specious argument, insinuation, and sometimes plain smear-tactics to undermine religion. He ought to be opposed, vigorously, with counter-argument and clarification of fact. But all the while, he ought to be respected.