Brilliant article in the Christian Post about Hitchens’ cancer

Actually the article was anything but brilliant; it was the usual spin from God-botherers catering to the lowest common denominator of belief — defensive ignorance. Had it been brilliant or even reasonable, this would have been ironic, and irony is the touchstone of this post.

Christopher Hitchens has long been a public intellectual and a controversial one. He has debated a good many people and frequently appeared in hostile territory, such as Fox “News,” and routinely made people look like fools, or more to the rhetorical point, made people make themselves look foolish. In recent years he has focused his laser on belief in the supernatural and how destructive it can be.

Hitchens, known for his smoking and drinking excesses, was diagnosed a year ago with esophageal cancer, and he is now dying from it. He wrote a letter the other day to the Richard Dawkins Foundation in which he describes his feelings thoughts about coming to the end of his life. An excerpt:

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

The Christian Post stopped short of saying that Hitchens is getting what he asked for — its writers know that the commenters will do this for them — but it did include several misuses of the word “ironic” and its derivatives:

Ironically, one of the scientists that helped designed the experimental cancer treatment that Hitchens is using is none other than evangelical scientist Francis Collins … despite Hitchens’ fondness of Collins, he didn’t have nice things to say about religion.

There is nothing ironic about the fact that Hitchens is making use of something that a believer in God played a role in developing. Everyone does this, just as every fundamentalist zealot, in railing about atheism, makes use of technology put in place by scientists who, by and large, more strongly reject belief in God more than any other element. C.S. Lewis was a horrible Christian apologist, but I very much enjoyed the Chronicles of Narnia books. I also admire the scientific work of Collins and people like Ken Miller. My favorite dentist of all time was an evangelical Christian. These things simply do not trouble me at the level of professional relationships and a good many personal ones, too.

No, what Hitchens is showing is consistency, and hardcore believers don’t like this because it is foreign to them, often at a subconscious level despite the perniciousness of their hypocrisy. Had the writers observed that the one thing that Hitchens has lost is his speaking voice, that would have been an example if irony. But fortunately, although the world will miss Hitchens’ unique verbal gifts and nonpareil dexterity (viz. George Carlin), his work and credo will only grow stronger in his absence as more and more of the world begins to open its eyes to the reality of what unsupported faith in bad ideas can engender.