On Thursday, December 15, esophageal cancer claimed the life of world-renowned author and atheist Christopher Hitchens, as he lived out his final hours at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. At the young age of 62, Mr. Hitchens is survived by his wife and three children, and prayers of comfort are with them all.
Why is the death of Christopher Hitchens a tragedy? First, as was already mentioned, he leaves behind three fatherless children and a young widow. I’m sure that they (along with his many friends) will miss him dearly. However, for Hitchens, the greatest tragedy is that he entered eternity as an atheist. That is, he died with an abiding rejection of the God of all life, the God to Whom everyone must give an account (see Revelation 20:12). Unfortunately, Mr. Hitchens has now discovered that he was on the wrong side of faith, for his present condition is irreversible.
Several years ago, Christopher Hitchens wrote a book entitled God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. In it, he described his utter disgust over the realities of evil and suffering that have been committed in the name of religion. Whether it’s the Catholic priests involved in the pedophile scandals due to their necessary celibacy, Jews who continue the seemingly harmful practice of circumcision, or Muslim hijackers who killed thousands of innocent people on September 11, 2001, religious people have been allegedly known for perpetuating unnecessary evils in the world. For Hitchens, religion is more a force for evil than good in the world, and at its basis is a fundamental belief in a supreme Being Who commands such seemingly egregious acts against humanity.
Despite his assessment of the role of religion throughout history, Mr. Hitchens is sadly mistaken by equating belief in God with acts done in the name of God. For instance, there have been many killings (i.e. Inquisitions and Crusades) done in the name of Christianity, but acts of violence are totally antithetical to the teachings of the New Testament (see Matthew 5:38-43; Romans 12:17-21). Hitchens was correct in his assertion that evil has been done in the name of religion, but that does not mean that God does not exist. His atheism was maintained by a resistance to the blatant evidence of God’s existence through the observable, created order of the universe, rendering his unbelief “without excuse.” (see Romans 1:20) While it is true that atheists reject God in their hearts (see Psalms 14:1), which is suggestive of moral rebellion, they cannot reject Him in their minds, for their conscience is held captive to His undeniable reality (see Romans 2:14-16).
While Christopher Hitchens was still alive, many Christians prayed for him, hoping that his eyes would be opened to the truth. In spite of Mr. Hitchens’ numerous, formal debates with Christian apologists, he apparently did not retract his atheism. I don’t believe that God chose not to answer the prayers of His people concerning the salvation of Mr. Hitchens. Rather, his decision was ultimately based on a refusal to submit to the knowledge of God revealed to him in nature, and most notably, in the Person of Jesus Christ (see Romans 1:21-25). Sadly, many others are treading down the same path as Mr. Hitchens. Consequently, they are headed for the same fate (i.e. separation from the grace of God) unless they turn from their unbelief to repentance towards God and faith in Christ. God works in the human heart through grace, love, and conviction of sin, not coercion. In other words, He does not force unbelievers to acknowledge Him; in the end, they lose, not Him. As such, we should all heed the admonition of Christ Jesus the Lord, Who told His disciples long ago: “…believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
May God have mercy on the soul of Christopher Hitchens.
…‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways… (Ezekiel 33:11)