By, Adam K. Fetterman
Christopher Hitchens, author of numerous books regarding the topic of atheism and religion and one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism”, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer just before starting his latest book tour. There are some noticeable consequences of his diagnosis. One particular consequence of his illness is a national “Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day”. According to Jay Reeves and Hitchens, the origins of this prayer day are not exactly known. However, some may consider it spit in the face. Hitchens does not seem to see it this way, and thanks those who are praying for his good health, but also asserts it will do nothing more than make those praying feel better and if so, that is fine with him. However, according to Hitchens and Reeves, there are three types of prayers going on in his name. First, there are those praying for his health. Second are those praying for him to find god. Which god? It appears mostly the Christian one. Finally, there are the prayers for Hitchens to suffer a painful death, and that the torture continues in hell.
This third type, not only lends credence to ideas put forth about religion by Hitchens and other atheists, but it may also reflect a belief in a just world. Most people believe that things happen for a reason. That is, good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people (Pepitone & L’Armand, 1998). According to Pepitone and L’Armand, the strongest belief comes with the former, but there is still evidence that people believe in that latter. These beliefs are particularly strong amongst the religious (Pepitone & L’Armand, 1998). Perhaps because they believe that a god has a plan or has control the world. Therefore, it is not entirely surprising that web commentors and letter-writers are sending Hitchens messages that he is getting his “just desserts” and other horrendous diatribes. As a side note, a lot of these comments appear to be coming from those with a Christian background, of which many Christians would prefer to disassociate with. With that in mind, one may notice that this is not the way Christians ought to act. One possible explanation is that, when compared to Jewish individuals, Protestants view belief as more important than practice (Cohen, Siegel, & Rozin, 2002), though this explanation is merely speculation.
At any rate, Christopher Hitchens, as always, may the science of medicine keep you comfortable and with us for a long time to come.
-In two weeks: Part 2. Symbolic immortality.
Atheist Hitchens skipping prayer day in his honor. By Jay Reeves, Associated Press.