« Previous | Main | Next »

Christopher Hitchens talks about God and cancer

Post categories:

William Crawley | 09:22 UK time, Saturday, 7 August 2010


  • Comment number 1.

    I have just finished reading "Hitch 22", Christopher's latest book. I remember wondering why would he write a bio now? Why share the intimacies of his life now?
    I imagine that Hitch , though he covers it well, must at least on some rare occasion share similar fears that we all do about death and dying, but we all die, and we die whether we believe in God or not.
    Having read (I think) everything that Christopher Hitchens has ever written, it cannot be said that the man doesn't take a position, or change a position IF you can out-debate him - a rather small liklihood.
    I watched the CNN video with Anderson, and I was quite proud of Hitch - that sparkling, witty intellect was still there, "lucid" I think he'd say.
    Hitch makes us think; Hitch makes us take a position, and that, if you ponder it, is a great gift to humankind. How many intellectual persons have caused you to stop mid-stride and THINK, think about your beliefs and why you believe as you do...and now (as Christopher confronts cancer) think about death and why you believe as you do.
    Personally, I believe that there is no God up there in the sky, no physical entity that exists at all, except for the individual spark that exists in you and me, and every other bit of the universe.
    Hitch has burned the candle at both ends; he has given off a radiant & wondrous light. When Christopher dies, he will go to that place from which we all came - the light, the collective consciousness. The God that I believe in (and maybe Hitch too) cannot be named, but "I Am that I Am"‎, pronounced "Ehyeh asher ehyeh" comes closest. "I am that I am", or as I prefer: "I am what I will be". We make our own reality with our thoughts and the manifestation of our thoughts through words: "In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God."
    Consciousness grows and is eternal. I'm relieved and happy that Christopher has developed his consciousness. He was endowed with much to offer and he did not hide his light under a bushel basket.

  • Comment number 2.

    Thanks for posting the interview - very illuminating. I haven't read his work but may be tempted to read the autobiography. Sounds from the interview like he's had a hard time coming to terms or has not come to terms with his mother's suicide and from what he says he carries the belief that he could have prevented it - that's alot to carry round and is a tough one to swallow. Hope he gets relieved of that burden and realises he's not to blame/not responsible for his mother's suicide.

  • Comment number 3.

    Hello William

    On a separate issue are the BBC planning to repeat your series of interviews any time shortly. I'm particularly interested in the John Harris interview

    Best regards

    John McAndrew

  • Comment number 4.

    "My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends It gives a lovely light!" ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Christopher, Shine On You Crazy Diamond.

  • Comment number 5.

    Interesting to see that even the Atheist Church canonises saints occasionally - and most importantly while they are still alive.

  • Comment number 6.

    We went to the book launch of 'god is not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything' at the New York Public Library (May, 2007). Hitchens was pitted in an informal chat with Al Sharpton:


    (Can you guess which voice on the audio is mine?)

    After the very funny banter I asked Christopher why he didn't press Sharpton to prove his stated beliefs. Hitchens shrugged and said, 'why bother, he can't do it'.

    Later on in the fall of that year at the AAI-2007 Hitchens was part of the dynamite line up of speakers in Washington, DC. Dawkins, Hitchens, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Dennett, Harris and others gave illuminating lectures and it was yet another thrill to be around such amazing, bold thinkers. (The downside was Ayaan's bodyguards, plus the physical threats posted against us from believers in nonsense, that required bomb sniffing dogs and body searches.)

    Last week an elderly (75) friend who was initiated into RC'ism as a child in Holland called to discuss some art & life related topics. She then told me about finally coming to the realization that we are animals. The woman is a brilliant and important artist yet it took her this long to get the point. Then she followed up with 'just like the other animals when we die there is nothing. Yeah, yeah I said a bit relieved as I had been worried that she didn't get it up until now.

    On Tuesday night our very old Kitty went out the back door and headed to the ravine. That was the last I saw of him. We had to run the next a.m. to catch a flight and there was no sign of Kitty S. My Sis came to check for him on the next couple of days and there was no sign. He died a natural, dignified death. If only people could do that.

    While in the West where my husband cautions me to keep quiet on beliefs when meeting new biz associates, I couldn't contain myself. We had dinner with a his new partner and her husband. His family had left N.I. when he was a child after violence from the usual suspects over there. I tried to explain to him that the sooner N.I. ditched faith based education the better that place would be. The guy is so far gone with the religion B.S. that he didn't get it. I shrugged, what's a gal to do?
    He rolled back in horror and dismay when I proudly proclaimed my upcoming participation in London to protest the pope on September 18th. Why he said. I'll let you imagine what my thoughts were.

    Ah well then folks, if we lose Christopher Hitchens too early it will be a sad loss to his family, friends and especially for intellectuals everywhere. There will definitely be a video camera beside his bed as Richard has requested too. We won't have any of those fake folk tales of deathbed recanting by seriously important people.

  • Comment number 7.

    But Bluesberry, Hitchens was outdebated - left standing naked and bleeding in the Wilson/Hitchens Christianity Today online debate. Unfortunately there was no changed position.

  • Comment number 8.

    Christopher has burn't the candle at both ends.A temporary ilumination maybe in a passing world.God is the infinite illuminationn (Oxford University motto)The ultimate reality in our life is God ;how often has it been dismissed because we cannot see it.The taliban have more meaning to their lives than athiests albeit they are way off target.Communism non belief philosophy will not withstand muslim fundamentalist approach to God.Russia is now furiously backpeddling to strenghten their believe in a loving God because they have known for some time it is their only defence against muslim fundamentalism crossing their borders.Materialism will never satisfy mans search for meaning to his life(rich public schoolboys take drugs too!)

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    DCHammer (#7)

    Who 'wins' in a debate is highly subjective as often both sides employ tactics to mislead and confuse the issue at hand. My personal opinion is that debates achieve very little for whoever take parts and that the propaganda afterwards tells more about a sides real position on the matter.

    27Premier (#8)

    So what's the difference between the loving God the Russians are attempted to believe in and the god that the muslims are bringing with them? Who's to decide which one is more deserving of adherance? Both religions (Christianity and Islam) have pretty good track record when it comes to the anti-liberty/democracy/tolerance stakes.

    I find the assumption that atheists have no meaning to their lives a bit insulting. Just because you're threatened by the fact I have obtained a meaning in life for my own, instead of having it thrust down my throat by religous dogma is no need to get offensive.

    I also think you'll find that a non-belief (at least you're not calling atheism a belief) does very well in resisting fundamentalism. It's the lack of education that causes fundamentalists (of any religion) to gain ground, not a lack of religion. There is a well proven and documented link between the level of education and religious adherance. Keeping the masses uneducated and indoctrinated is a core strategy of any fundamentalist state.

  • Comment number 11.

    Where is the article? I have been trying to read it all day but it hasn't appeared. Is there some reason for this? ArosaG

  • Comment number 12.

    I really hope Mr Hitchens get's better even though I certainly don't agree with his views about Christianity.

  • Comment number 13.

    Christopher states he wants to be objective as possible about his medical condition. He is striving for absolute truth to be absolutely objectivite both for himself and his audience . We approach our problems from a subjective base of nature and nurture because we are finite beings. But all our arguments(Englands poor performance in the World Cup)strive to be objective. There is no such thing as 'absolute truth!Really!Our you absolutely sure of that.
    You have found a 'meaning to your life' and yet Christopher states in his interview that as he approaches death his life will become meaningless ie pointless.Christ has conquered death by his Resurrection .

  • Comment number 14.

    As Christians from cradle to the grave we believe God has a purpose for us ie 100% meaningful

  • Comment number 15.

    Hitchens knows next to nothing about Theology, Philosophy, Cosmology, Metaphysics etc but yet he is Dawkins' Cletus (Dukes of Hazard)- in saying that Dawkins knows next to nothing about these fields either

  • Comment number 16.

    27Premier (#13+14)

    Meaningless and pointless are two completely different things. As Hitchens approaches death then yes, he might feel his life has little meaning, there's not a lot you can accomplish when you're bed ridden with cancer. However, that doesn't mean that his life was pointless. He's spent a long time arguing his corner and I'm sure there are many people who owe him a lot and have gained a lot of entertainment and moments of clarity from listening to his words.

    You're right about the lack of absolute truth, it's a subjective term entirely and even the concept of 'god' is subject to that label. Funny how everyone who believes in a god or gods asserts that their divinity is the only real one.

    I'm sure all those people born to extreme poverty and who suffer a (often brief) lifetime of suffering and abuse feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing at least a 'loving, caring' god has a purpose for it. As an atheist, Hitchens, like me, can probably fit pointless suffering into his worldview that life can be cruel and random as well as joyful and ordered.

    Doyler79 (#15)

    He's probably a lot more qualified to talk about those things than you are to suggest he knows 'next to nothing'.

  • Comment number 17.

    It is no wonder commentators in the West are so confused when their background is Christianity - and the constricted form of Christianity that has developed since the Dark Ages. It is no wonder people like Hitchens and Dawkins react against the authoritarian Christianity of the recent past when it was co constricting, both socially, morally and philosophically. Islam is still stuck in the past - instead of evolving from the basis set by Muhammad, and instead of Christianity evolving forth from the basis set by Jesus, these faiths have allowed themselves to be constricted by them. Jiddu Krishnamurti had the right idea - let the teacher show you the way towards the light, but you have to seek the light yourself, do not follow any teacher's words or steps blindly or be content to mark time where they left off. The East's preservation of the way, in the Vedic scriptures, offers the best hope that individuals can realise the panthenistic reality, and become self-realised. At least people like Hitchins have considered the matter, which means there is an attraction to seek the truth and the light - perhaps in another incarnation he will move forward. This is better than so many in the world today, especially in the west, who seek only self-gratification, either through food, drugs, carnality or egotism.

  • Comment number 18.

    Natman &Neal_Mac
    If there was no Absolute Truth civilisation would not have progressed as it has over the centuries.Remember Newton stating he stood on the shoulders of Giants.Jesus Christ is 'the Way,the Truth and the Light.
    No man/teacher of finite limitations can claim to be the Light
    Chistopher states he wants to be objective about his condition.Why then say his life will be meaningless as he approaches the end.(Subjective remark)His life will always have a meaning and a purpose:to love God
    Un -Belief does not believe in itself either-hence Dawkins ad infinitum justifing his atheism and collecting his immense royalties too. What a very good life he has !But what has he to offer the poor and downtrodden of this world aka Stalin/Lenin/Trotsky/Marx and Engels.East Germany finished up as an industrial cess pitt :this happens when God is removed from the progress equation.

  • Comment number 19.

    Tell me, 27Premier, what has your god done that warrants me loving him as the sole purpose of my life? What makes mindless devotion of him so much more important than anything else?

    I won't accept arguments of authority ("God tells us to"), incredulity ("I can't think of a reason not to") or the bible (as it has no evidence to make it reliable).

    Other than that, give it your best shot.

  • Comment number 20.

    Natman: I know you asked 27premier but I can't resist a little interjection!
    Comments: God does not need you to love him as the sole purpose of your life.
    What's in it for you to know God? Could you cope with any more love or joy or harmony in your life - all for free, no expense?? If you could then knowing God can assist with that.
    Socrates said 'know thyself' - by truly knowing thyself one comes to know God. So you could look on it as a journey of self exploration - to know why you do the things you do, why you react to what you react to and to ultimately know your true nature. To relieve you of suffering/hardship/heartache that may have been or may come to pass in your life, to have greater levels of love and joy in your life, to be vital and not so caught up by the stresses and strains of life and much more.
    It's about relationship - with yourself first of all for how you treat yourself, love yourself is how you treat others, love others. If you are critical of self you will be critical of others and so on. So why should you love God - coming back to your question - because God is love and that is your true nature - God/love lives within you, there is no separation, so it is about loving oneself (something many people find very hard to do when this is truly understood). It is not about the egotistical self love that many confuse self love with. By being self-loving one comes to experience more love/joy/harmony in life instead of living by false ideals and beliefs that are in fact harming. As we love ourselves - we love others - so the more we build those self-loving ways that then plays out in all interactions and relationships - and leads to service with love in what we do. So it becomes not what can God do for me - but what can I do for God - not as an order, a task ,a demand or to be seen to be good or avoid some (non-existent) punishment by God but just because it answers the impulse of love. We can become active co-creators of our lives and not just the passive recipients of what happens 'out there' for what we put out comes back to us in some way - as I understand it. That's just a little snippet.

  • Comment number 21.

    Good luck Hitch. As a fellow Brit in America it makes me happy to see you've got these BBC religious-raver board posters frothing at the mouth much the same as it all rolls out in the US. Keep fighting the good fight and we'll see you, wherever we see ya. Cheers.

  • Comment number 22.

    Andy Hall (@ 21) -

    "As a fellow Brit in America it makes me happy to see you've got these BBC religious-raver board posters frothing at the mouth much the same as it all rolls out in the US."

    So are you saying that atheists don't do 'froth'?

    Ya could'a fooled me, mate! (There's a plentiful supply of sceptical spittle on this blog to keep you going for many a year!)

    With all due respect to the seriously ill Christopher Hitchens, I don't think there are many people more "froth and raving" than him!! And on the subject of atheist froth: just mentioning that unforgivable, incendiary and very very naughty word 'God' in some quarters of our 'brave new society' provokes the kind of histrionics that makes most Christians hardly more animated than the residents of Madame Tussauds (at least this side of the pond anyway)!

    But I've long learnt that, in the darkened corridors of the secular humanist mind, different rules apply either side of the 'religion' divide. If one of those nasty 'religious' people protests against an attack on his world view it's oh soooo amusing to see how nutty and whiney he is (and: "what a pathetic loser"), but if the sublime and heroic atheist should protest against what he terms 'religion' - with much the same emotional force coloured by similarly 'descriptive' (and often far more childish) language - it's because he is motivated by a "commendable sense of conviction" - and oh what a witty, admirable and intrepid warrior for the cause!!

    This is what the so-called 'rationalists' understand by the word 'consistency'. *Yawn* (frankly I could do better logic in my sleep).

  • Comment number 23.

    LucyQ (@ 6) -

    I'm glad you've turned up again, as I do so enjoy responding to your 'enlightening' posts (but I must make sure I don't 'froth at the mouth' too much - I don't want to give the writer of #21 too much of a good thing).

    "There will definitely be a video camera beside his bed as Richard has requested too. We won't have any of those fake folk tales of deathbed recanting by seriously important people."

    An excellent idea! I'm sure these films will prove to be wonderful material for the library of atheistic apologetics. Will they be screened publicly? I hope so. Then that will prove absolutely conclusively that God doesn't exist, won't it now, Lucy?

    I jest of course. No, I have not suddenly had a reverse Damascene conversion to the way of nihilism and oblivion. I am just indulging a weakness for sarcasm and satire (please forgive me....)

    But seriously, Lucy, can you please enlighten me concerning the necessity of these cameras. I'm a bit puzzled, ya see. I don't quite grasp what they will be trying to prove.

    You see, I am a Christian (as you may possibly have detected). And, frankly, in one particular sense (as I will explain), I couldn't really care less whether these great heroes of the atheistic faith (these "seriously important people") have deathbed conversions or not. I know that sounds a bit nasty, and, OK, I suppose for their sake I hope they do come to their senses eventually (whatever 'eventually' really means, eschatologically speaking). But, for the sake of the Christian faith it makes not one scrap, iota or scintilla of difference whether the aforementioned "luminaries of the Enlightenment" grovel in sackcloth and ashes, whether they make the bare-footed and hair-shirted 'Walk to Canossa', or whether they go down with the Titanic dressed defiantly in their Sunday best standing proudly - chins firmly jutted out - on "a firm foundation of unshakable despair" (to quote Bertrand Russell). These alternatives may make for great drama (or, should I say, melodrama) and, by all means, make a film of it ("going down in a blaze of glory" comes to mind. Mr J Wayne would be proud).

    The truth of the Christian faith does not rely on the conversion of any person, and, since the Bible makes abundantly clear that some will reject the faith, the non-conversion of an unbeliever supports Christian biblical teaching just as much as a conversion would do. So if the foxholes fail to get the better of the atheists, all well and good. Biblical teaching affirms as much. But if the foxholes win the contest, the Bible applauds. Win-win for us, you see!

    So I find this concern about whether Christopher Hitchens will recant bizarre in the extreme. The only person it would affect is Mr Hitchens himself. It has no bearing whatsoever on anyone or anything else. If Hitchens and Dawkins want to delude themselves into thinking this is a big deal, then I seriously feel sorry for them.

  • Comment number 24.

    LSV, it has been tried before; you are aware of "Lady" Hope and her lies about Darwin?

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm curious as to why the christian faith is the 'true' one, and not one of the others.

    As Harry Hill might say... FIGHT!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.