Christopher Hitchens passed away on Thursday, December 16, 2011. (For any who may not be familiar with Hitchens, he was a celebrated journalist, a bestselling author, and an outspoken atheist.) When I heard the news I turned with interest to the Zondervan-published memoir by Mr. Hitchens' brother, Peter, titled The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith, where I discovered a slice of the brothers' story that is especially poignant today.
Below you'll find Peter Hitchens' reflections on a public debate on religion with his brother Christopher, a debate which Peter later described as a "ghastly circus."
Unfortunately, "ghastly circus" aptly describes some of the purportedly "Christian" discussion surrounding Christopher's death. So I publish this post for three reasons. First, I want to respectfully say to Christopher's family that I am praying for them.
Second, I am reminded by Peter's thoughtful reflection that Christopher Hitchens was someone's brother, someone's son, and like every person loved or unloved by their fellows, Christopher Hitchens, too, was lovingly made in the image of his Creator.
And third, I challenge myself and anyone reading this far: follow the guidance of the Apostle Peter as we comment on the legacy of Christopher Hitchens: "Dear friends, I urge you … Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:11-12).
- Adam Forrest, Zondervan Internet Team.
Special thanks to Matt Saganski and Rich Tatum.
From Rage Against God
I end this book in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with some thoughts on the unsatisfactory debate that I had there in April 2008, with my brother Christopher, about the existence of God and the goodness of religion. I had decided before it took place that I would not take part in such a debate again, on this or any other subject.
Christopher and I have had over the past fifty years what might be called a difficult relationship. Some brothers get along; some do not. We were the sort who just didn’t. (Parents of such siblings will know about this.)
Who knows why? At one stage — I was about nine, he nearly twelve — my poor gentle father actually persuaded us to sign a peace treaty in the hope of halting our feud. I can still picture this doomed pact in its red frame, briefly hanging on the wall. To my shame, I was the one who repudiated it, ripped it from its frame, and angrily erased my signature before recommencing hostilities. In a way, the treaty has remained broken ever since, and heaven knows what happened to the sad little document.
I had already concluded, as my train nosed westward in the spring twilight through the lovely, wistful mountain and river country that lies between Harper’s Ferry and Pittsburgh, that I did not want to do anything of the kind. Normally I love to argue in front of audiences. This time I seemed to have no taste for it.