Hitchens’ Presumption of Meaning

Posted: August 4, 2010 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real

Even though I don’t agree with his ideas, I must admit Christopher Hitchens is a talented writer.  Here he writes an interesting account of his battle with cancer.

What I find highly interesting, and inconsistent, is Hitchens’ presumption of meaning.  Hitchens is an atheist.  In his worldview, any objective transcendent meaning to life or its events is utterly illusory.  No purpose here.  Just a random collision of atoms in this cold dark universe we call home.  Hitchens implies as much:  “To the dumb question ‘Why me?’ the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply:  Why not?”  “Why me?’ is indeed a dumb question when there’s nothing or no one to answer.

However, Hitchens smuggles in morsels of meaning throughout.  He tells us that in the “sick country” there appears to be no racism, implying that racism is really objectively wrong.  The “egalitarian spirit” of the place accompanied by “hard work” are really good things to Hitchens.  But how can we determine such things are objectively good in an atheistic world devoid of objective Good?

Instead of rage, Hitchens is “badly oppressed by a gnawing sense of waste.”  But how do we make sense of waste in an ultimately meaningless universe?  Rather than battling cancer, Hitchens wishes for “suffering in a good cause” or risking his life “for the good of others.”  Noble ideas to be sure, but only meaningful in a universe with real Good, real Meaning  Given Hitchens’ worldview, I find his atheist forefather Bertrand Russell to be much more consistent:

That man is the product of causes that had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins…

Don’t misunderstand me, I wish no ill on Mr. Hitchens.  Count me in with the “astonishing number of prayer groups” on his side.  I want him to beat cancer.  But I also want him to be consistent.  I don’t want his life to suffer such an ignoble end, “buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins.”  But such would be consistent with atheism.  Rather, I want him to find the True, the Good, and the Beautiful — a life filled with meaning.  However, such a discovery can only come through conversion to Christian theism, the very worldview Hitchens has given an entire lifetime to destroying.

So is there hope for Hitchens?  Absolutely.  In the Christian worldview, hope reigns supreme.  Redemption is possible because there really is a Redeemer.  And He holds out hope, even to the cancer-stricken hostile atheist, until the very last breath of life is taken.

Here’s hoping–and praying–for a death-bed conversion.

  1. Elliot says:

    Thanks Mr.Kunkle! I’ll be praying for Mr.Hitchen as well– thank you for your care and devotion to the truth. Christ shines through you as you serve the God you love! 🙂

  2. Rich says:

    A humanist friend of mine described the tone of the piece as “with great humor”, but all he could offer up was “Good luck”.

    It appears Mr. Hitchens understands there’s more that can be offered from friends, family and fans. Let’s pray he receives it.

    “… selfless physicians plus an astonishing number of prayer groups. On both of these I hope to write next time if—as my father invariably said—I am spared.”