I learned this morning that writer and atheist Christopher Hitchens died today of complications from esophageal cancer. I was driving home after a very early morning of work when I heard the news, and I was saddened by it. You may think it odd for such a loss of life to affect me in this manner. Afterall, Hitchens thought my Christian faith was silly and had no basis in rationality. One might think I would perhaps pause for a minute, or think that is sad and just move on with my day, or even rejoice over such. I was not a Hitchens fan, and I thought he was wrong about his conclusions about Christianity and God. However, I was sad about the loss. I listened as the conservative talk show host spoke about Hitchens as a friend with immense talent as a writer and his sharp mind and intellect. I never read much of Hitchens writings, but I think most who knew him personally or professionally would agree that this was a person of enormous talent and intellect. I watched him debate William Lane Craig a few years ago, and although I thought he lost the debate, this was not a stupid man. However what saddened me so much was the fact that even with all of his keen intellect, all the time and the information concerning the existence of God and truth of Christianity to which he was exposed, there is a strong likelihood if not an almost certainty that he simply refused, even in those last days knowing that he was dying, to consider the truth of Christianity. When he was first diagnosed and interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, he simply stated that he would not change his mind about his atheistic beliefs, and if such a change were to come it would “only come when I am very ill…when I am half demented either by drugs or by pain where I won’t have control over what I say…not while I am lucid.”
So today, he has his answer. He made his choice and that choice has righteous eternal consequences. Yet what I felt today as I heard the news was it did not have to be like this for him. How tragic what a waste! This man, created in the image of God, loved by God, had all the information he needed. He had all the chances anyone could have. He knew he was dying and still he refused. It is frustrating and sad to me that even with all the evidence, information and chances, he simply willfully and repeatedly turned away from Christ and all that He offers. Maybe I am getting soft. Maybe some of my brothers and sisters in Christ will criticize me for my feelings, but such recalcitrance in human beings and the results that come sadden me. Christopher chose to say “no, I want none of what God has to offer” and in the process threw away eternal life. God respects that choice, and we must too. However, as a disciple of Christ, I mourn when human beings choose to do such. Today, I mourn Christopher’s choice too.