Atheist Christopher Hitchens has lost his battle with cancer and has died at age 62, according to the news reports. Hitchens was one of the very vocal atheists (who is often identified as one of the more popular “militant atheists”), and was a well-known author and debater. He seemed to have a strong dislike (perhaps even a hatred) for a God he didn’t believe existed. His popular book, “God is Not Great,” was popular among the non-believers.
He had been battling esophageal cancer, and had been sick for some time. He was rumored to be an avid smoker and drinker as well, which are both well-known risk factors for this type of cancer.
In all honesty, it always saddens me when people die–yes, even atheists (or perhaps especially atheists). I feel sad for him, his family, and his friends. Death is always such a tragic and sad event. I feel it is even more tragic and difficult if the person wasn’t a believer, and it is often very hard for the family to accept this (especially if some are believers).
I fear Hitchens may have died never knowing the love and mercy of God, although I certainly hope I am wrong. God, in fact, IS GREAT–and it truly saddens me that Hitchens may have never known how great God truly is.
Christopher Hitchens Deathbed Conversion? Did He Convert to Christianity?
Did Christopher Hitchens really convert on his deathbed? While I would love to hear that he came to know Christ before he died, the answer is: No, he almost certainly did not have a “deathbed conversion.” Of course, no one can know what he may have thought in his private moments, but he has been very consistent about his views on God–even until his last days.
The reason I even mention deathbed conversion is because when this news broke, many of the atheists on a forum were saying, “Now all the Christians will spread lies saying he had a deathbed conversion.”
It always perplexes me that atheists think Christians delight in lying or in spreading news of a false deathbed conversion. Of course we would have been thrilled if it happened, but the reality is that it most certainly did not happen. And I cannot name one true Christian that would purposely try to lie and claim he did so. If any Christian ever argues someone had a deathbed conversion historically, then it would only be because they heard it from a source they thought was credible, and truly believed it in their hearts.
Not only did Hitchens likely avoid a conversion experience, but he had recently re-affirmed his atheism and even tried to “rally” other atheists in the world to continue on their journey.
Christopher Hitchens Debate With William Lane Craig
One of Hitchens’ debates was against the excellent Christian debater William Lane Craig. If you haven’t watched this debate, I’d highly recommend you do so. You can find it on Youtube, and here is a link. Even though Hitchens lost this debate (atheists even admitted it), it allows you to see his views and contrast that with a great intellectual Christian such as William Craig.
It would have been great if William Lane Craig could have converted Hitchens, but it doesn’t seem to have happened. In any event, William Lane Craig puts forth some great arguments in a coherent, logical way. I’ve heard some may have even been converted to Christianity aftere watching this, or at least, they were much more open to it.
Are You An Atheist? Want to Know Christ?
I remember when I briefly switched from agnosticism to atheism for a brief period in my life during college. Books and arguments such as those put forth by Hitchens and other atheists had grabbed hold of me for a short time. I also had my share of atheist professors (one being Dr. Niall Shanks who, coincidentally, later wrote a book bashing creationism). Perhaps it is no coincidence that it was also the most miserable time I’ve had in my life during that period.
But thanks be to God that I turned from my atheism by asking this one question out of my desparation and misery: Does God really exist? I mean, I didn’t want to hear some cynical atheist argument about how God could be better. I wanted to know if God could REALLY exist. Did he REALLY exist?
At a dark moment in my life, I truly questioned if my position as an atheist was correct. I questioned whether or not it was reasonable, logical, or intellectually possible to believe in God. I questioned whether or not the evidence was truly in God’s favor. I also looked at some of the popular atheists, and also some of the popular Christians and asked myself, “Which person would I want to be if I had one choice?” Which path leads to a better life? Which person was more righteous? If I had to live with one, who would I rather live with, or share a meal with?
That line of questioning led me on my own journey and pursuit of the truth. I devoured as many books as I could. Not just atheist books, but also theist books, and books on other religions. I spent hours sifting through arguments, looking at alleged evidence (or lackthereof), and more. I scanned web pages, dropped by countless forums, watched many debates, and so forth.
This is the journey that changed my life. As I poured over the information and evidence with an open mind, I found myself less and less confident with my position of atheism. I slowly began to believe that God could indeed exist. That slowly turned into a, “God must surely exist.” Then it was a “There is no way God doesn’t exist.”
I was then slowly led into Christianity on my own studies, and then I had a defining moment: I not only believed in my mind that God existed, but I finally had the opportunity to experience God working in my life. This not only solidified my position, but it changed my life. Words can never express the joy, the peace, and the love I have experienced by truly knowing God’s grace through Christ. My journey was slow, but I am in such a happier place now.
If you’re an atheist (or on the fence about God), I would like to encourage you to take that journey as well. I encourage you to look at both sides honestly. To avoid all outside influences and think for yourself. For starters you can watch the debate between Craig and Hitchens. Which belief system looks the best to you in that debate? Which person would you strive to be in your life? Is it reasonable to assume a God exists?
Finally, remember that God desires that no man perish. For this reason, God sent his only begotten son, so that by His name we may have forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. All of heaven rejoices if even one sinner repents and places their faith in Christ. The Bible compares this joy to a man who is reconciled to his long lost son–and he is so happy to see him return–that he rushes out with open arms and embraces him–and then calls for a huge feast to celebrate his return.
God does not delight in seeing any man perish, and He wants nothing more to be reconciled to any who come back to him–and He does so with open arms and joy.
Conclusion: I Hope Hitchens Death May Lead Others to Christ, and Raise Awareness of Cancer Risks
While Hitchens may not have had a deathbed conversion, perhaps his death will encourage others to re-evaluate their position on smoking and God.
Sadly, many people these days still don’t believe that smoking or drinking can cause cancer. I hear people argue this all the time. In fact, I even had a marketing teacher (a smoker) who tried to argue that smoking doesn’t cause cancer at all, and that it was all a big conspiracy.
I imagine that perhaps at some point in his youth, Hitchens may have once scoffed at the idea of developing cancer from smoking and drinking (as many do at a young age). But nevertheless, the fact remains: Smoking and drinking dramatically increases your risk for many cancers.
Simply disbelieving that smoking can cause cancer does not change the reality that many times it does just that, just like believing there is no God will not change the fact that we must all give an account to Him. Don’t get me wrong, very few people have incredible genetics and will be resistant to smoking effects. I think these people cause the confusion and misinformation that smoking is safe. But that is wrong.
It is the equivalent to pouring bleach in a petri dish of bacteria, and after it kills 99.9% of them, you point to the 0.01% and say, “See, bleach doesn’t kill bacteria, those guys are swimming in it.” You simply cannot ignore the 99.99% of the dead bacteria surrounding those few lucky ones who survived.
You can believe that smoking will never cause cancer, but one day you may be dead wrong. Likewise, you can believe there is no God, but one day you may stand in front of Him and give an account of your life. I hope Christopher Hitchens fans will stop and re-evaluate their lives when reflecting on his passing. I hope his family is comforted in this hard time.
Choose Christ, friends. And put down that cigarette and strong drink.