Christianity Today has an article on Christopher Hitchens, the famed atheist writer and speaker, about his esophageal cancer and how he has sadly now lost his voice to the disease. The article author couldn’t help noting the following, though, and from a Christian publication it was to be expected: “…ironically, one of the scientists that helped designed the experimental cancer treatment that Hitchens is using is none other than evangelical scientist Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.”
The irony Christianity Today is trying to infer is that Hitchens is being helped by a Christian. In fact, Hitchens and Francis Collins get along splendidly, but simply differ on questions of faith. There is no irony here except on the surface (and I guess I can’t begrudge CT for wanting to suggest it, they are a Christian news organization after all). Hitchens’ main complaint is not so much about individual Christians, a majority of whom are good and often talented people, it is religion itself and how corrupt it is on the mind and on culture. This is why he wrote God is Not Great. It also is a truth issue for Hitchens as well as most atheists. There are plenty of religious fantasies that are extremely appealing, but if they are not true then it is just that–a fantasy.
In some ways, the irony being suggested goes deeper. The suggestion is that maybe God gave Hitchens cancer or allowed him to contract it through his own vices in order that Francis Collins could save him with a “medical miracle” thus proving the love of Christ. Now that’s twisted, but is not far from how Christians think and what the Bible suggests in certain stories. God is revealed in “healings” even as he allows disease to continue unchecked.
Why would Hitchens need a medical miracle in the first place if it weren’t for an imperfectly designed body unable to heal itself and for God’s creation of something we enjoy but is eventually addictive and harmful–tobacco. In a secular sense, we can certainly place the blame on Hitchens for his vice since in another article for the Huffington Post he says he would drink and smoke all over again, but that’s not the point. Why is God’s design so fragile unless this again is Sin Theory–my term for the loosely placed blame on all things harmful due the fall of Adam.
Truly, if you want to prove God to Hitchens then the irony is that Francis Collins should do nothing but pray. No medical science as medical science is a human effort to fix the inadequacies of our natural bodies. If Francis Collins can pray and faith-heal Hitchens, eradicating the cancer and restoring his throat then it’s a good bet that Hitchens would ditch atheism and start singing “hallelujah.”
We know, however, that Christians trust medical science over faith healing in most circumstances. The response that God is revealing himself through doctors is a cop out because the obvious interpretation is that God is not there which is why we need medically trained doctors whether they’re Christians, Muslims or atheists. A true test of faith would be to do what some cults have done–avoid hospitals in favor of trusting God alone. Why is God so inept that he needs human hands, or is it that he can’t be bothered?
It certainly would be nice to see Hitchens recover and we wish him the best. I don’t even fully agree with all of his opinions and conclusions but he has always been out to debate and discuss his thoughts on God in a civilized (sometimes heated) manner and we’re all better for that kind of discourse. If you’re a Christian and want to find out what Hitchens thinks then I would recommend reading God is Not Great. It’s full of commonsense observations and if you’re an avid reader then you’ll devour it quite easily (even if you find yourself debating his opinions).
As some of the more famous and vocal atheists age and near towards death we should expect to see the pushing of deathbed confessions. Hopefully, we can stick to the truth as atheists and unbelievers in the past have had deathbed confessions of faith unfairly placed on them by believers who think somehow it is better to lie about the matter then simply say these unbelievers died without changing their minds.