I mean, I wrote back to some of the people – some of them in holy orders or running religious organizations. I said, when you say you’ll pray for me, do you mind if I ask, what for? And a number of them said, quite honestly, not really for your recovery, but that you see the error of your ways.
BLOCK: That you find God.
Mr. HITCHENS: Yeah. Now, I find that not as easy to be graceful about, because though it’s put in a nice way, it’s part of a phenomenon that I’ve always thought of as very disgusting, which is the belief of the religious – which they keep expressing and have done for centuries – that surely now you’re dying, your fears will overcome your reason.
I hope I don’t have to underline what’s horrible about that. There’s an element of blackmail to it. And an element also of tremendous insecurity, I think, on their part. I mean, they don’t seem to feel they’d win the argument so easily with someone who is mentally and physically strong. By the way, I think they’re right.
Chrisopher Hitchens is probably dying from cancer. And if he is, the day will come soon when the people with whom he frames this conflict will never matter again and the only ones left will be Hitchens and God.
When that moment comes why should Christopher Hitchens not try to make it to Heaven? At that moment what does he have to lose? Maybe there is still a little bit of life left to live and doing whatever it takes, praying, reconciling, fretting, may not be the way he wanted to spend it. Or he might feel like a death-bed entreaty only makes a mockery of his life as an outspoken atheist. But now this starts to sound like reason overcome by fear.
Doesn’t reason dictate that unless Hitchens is absolutely convinced there is no God he should, at the very least, say to whoever might be listening “Hey, please let me into Heaven.” ? And doesn’t reason dictate that you cannot be absolutely certain of anything?
But what if God can tell whether you really mean it? He sees through some bogus last-minute self-serving plea. He wants Hitchens to say “Dear God, I believe in you.” And Hitchens, who rationally accepts that God might exist, nevertheless considers it unlikely and therefore cannot honestly say that. At best he could say “Dear God, I p-believe in you, but I admit that p is on the low side.” But shouldn’t he at least say that? After all Hitchens, being a man of reason, cannot be sure exactly what p God demands.
A reasonable Hitchens should understand that God, if he exists, understands Hitchens. “Dear God, conditional on you existing, you deserve all the faith and honesty that you demand of me. However, I am not sure that you exist. In all honesty I think it is unlikely. Here’s the problem. I have used reason to find evidence of your existence but so far I have not found enough to be convinced. If you do exist then evidently I have failed. It could be that I relied too much on reason, but reason told me that there was nothing else to use. I am imperfect, as you of course would know if you exist. In that case I am sorry and I ask your forgiveness.”
As to which God Hitchens is supposed to address this to, that is not a problem. He can make a separate speech to each of the Gods that might be threatening him with damnation in the afterlife. Even if there is an uncountable number of such hypothetical Gods, he can single out the finite number who have Books about them and then say a final catch-all speech addressed at all the others.
There is only one way I can see a reasonable Hitchens deciding against this strategy. He says “Jeff, you are right that since I accept that God might exist and if there is any chance at all that God will allow me into Heaven I should do whatever it takes, within reason, to try and get there. However, among all of the hypothetical Gods that might exist, there is one in particular I am especially nervous about. He’s the God who allows everyone into Heaven except those that ask to go there. And, call me cynical, but reason tells me that in the highly unlikely event that there is a God, out of all the highly unlikely Gods that mankind has imagined, He’s no less likely than the others.”