Author and critic, Christopher Hitchens is fighting for his life. He has esophageal cancer that has metastasized to his lymph nodes and lung. But, don't expect to hear him pray as a result of it all.
Hitchens, has been a journalist of some note for decades and is a regular contributor to "The Atlantic", "Vanity Fair", Slate and "The Nation"
He is an author of some note whose titles alone cause controversy. "The Trial of Henry Kissinger", "The Missionary Position: Mother Theresa in Theory and Practice" and "God Is Not Great."
From that last title you can surmise that he is an unapologetic atheist. Thursday night he spoke on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 program about his mortality. He is resigned to the law of averages which says that more people than not don't come back from what he is stuck with.
Asked if his prognosis has driven him to a deity to whom he prays, Hitchens told Cooper, that he is aware of prayer groups that have sprouted in his honor but, "I shall not be taking part in that."
Hitchens' demise (which CH himself grants is likely...) reiterates the proverbial "are there atheists in foxholes" chestnut (deathbeds, cancer wards, vets hospitals, etc). We here at Contingencies don't detest Hitchens though generally disagree with his tactics (not to say his pro-Bush stance circa '03-04). He writes fairly effectively, certainly in comparison with the usual 'Merican pundit. He also understood the secular vision of the chief American founders, at least (unlike so many apparatchiks). His slightly Humean prose seemed refreshing when it appeared in the 90s, compared to the gonzo hacks, the Safire savants, the Sally Fields PC-hysteria crew.
His reluctance to pray or to ask for a cleric deserves some respect. Many a skeptic has waved away the preacher or priest at the end. David Hume died in rather ugly circumstances--cancer of the bowels, more or less--and yet told Boswell a few days before death, that he was convinced the soul dies with the body. Voltaire told the priests to keep their distance (saying "this was no time to be making enemies," etc). Bertrand Russell also refused to allow clergymen attend his death--reportedly (tho' some reports suggest an Anglican bureaucrat was in attendance). Apart from the usual and somewhat trite prayer issue (wouldn't a loving G*d answer prayers of a young christian who lost his legs in an accident where a drunk driver struck him and his family, etc) why bother with mere ritual at the last? Besides, given the miniscule probability that a rational Deity exists, does He demand a mere wafer and confession? He--or is it They-- will weigh human souls according to their deeds, hopefully, as even Pascal suggested--not count the notches of the masses ingested (or so one wagers). No amount of repentance will likely save a truly corrupt or perverted individual (like this republican wiccan-on-steroids, Tusconius). And will a box of sacred wafers suffice to...expiate the sins of corrupt or criminal papists--an Al Caponay, or...Dimaggio...Der Fuhrer? Unlikely. Couragio....