A Christian’s Response to
An Essay by Alex Dye
“Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I’ll ever know, live and die on this day, live and die on this day.”
-John Ottway from The Grey
“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,” -Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NIV)
Editor’s Note: Page references are to Mortality unless otherwise noted.
Christopher Hitchens never met a cow so sacred that he would not gleefully serve it medium-rare with a glass of red wine (or more-likely scotch), if the mood struck just right. As a journalist, he endeavored to explore, unravel, and critique the largely unchallenged parts of society. In doing so, has taken on Christianity and religion as a whole, the Pope, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, and even dear Mother Theresa in his short work Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and in Practice. For some, he has been on the radar for quite some time as an author, speaker, and avid spokesman for atheists. For others, his name has only recently cropped up with the much hailed release of his series of essays entitled Arguably and his posthumously released memoir on the process of dying from cancer, Mortality. It is the latter that I would like analyze and respond to in this article.
Many Christians have balked at his abrasive approach to faith and his heated debates with those pro-religion. As a Christian, I became interested in his thoughts on death and dying as related to his own experience and what this would look like for somebody who does not believe in any kind of higher power or afterlife. In fairness to his experience, I wanted to read the book from a point of listening and understanding rather than with defense or critique. In addition, I have read through parts of his great atheist manifesto, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, to better understand his perspective.
Mortality is Hitchens attempt to starkly and actively view and participate in his own death, unfettered by the trappings and hopes of religion. In fact, in God is Not Great, he attributes the popularity of religion to a fear of death. “Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other. (God is Not Great, 22) He often referred to this experience as “living dyingly.” (Mortality, 97) Even the cover, the title mortality in plain white contrasted against a black background with his name in gray, emits an air of uncompromising stark challenge to the reality of life and death.