I may have been the only atheist who didn’t know that September 20th was supposedly “Everyone Pray for (Christopher) Hitchens Day.” Ever since he was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus, his illness and his attitude about it have been widely publicized and examined. I’m sure many congregations, groups, and individuals murmured prayers for the healing and salvation of one of the most outspoken and unequivocal atheists of our time.
In response to people praying for him, Hitchens has made it clear that he:
- Doesn’t mind if they pray for his healing if it makes them feel better.
- Doesn’t want anyone praying for his salvation or demise.
Looking for Results
So, the 20th has passed, and I’m wondering if these millions of prayers for the healing of Mr. Hitchens have made any impact at all. Christians of all stripes are firm believers in the power prayer can have on the life of another, even to the point of miraculous healings, conversions, and so forth. So, is he healed? Does he suddenly believe in a god? Which god? I’m sure people of many religions prayed to their gods for him. How would anyone be able to tell which one decided to act? What if all the gods teamed up together?
If Hitchens is not healed, converted, or shown any form of “improvement” in his situation, what sorts of excuses and rationalizations might be made to explain it? I can think of a few that I as a Christian might have used:
- It wasn’t God’s will. He has a bigger plan that involves a terrible cancer and a painful death.
- Hitchens has to have faith that he will be healed before it will work (aka “blame the victim”).
- God doesn’t want to heal him.
- And one I wouldn’t have used: Cancer is a punishment for his sin against God.
As an aside on this last point, Hitchens quotes a man who believes exactly that:
Who else feels Christopher Hitchens getting terminal throat cancer [sic] was God’s revenge for him using his voice to blaspheme him? Atheists like to ignore FACTS. They like to act like everything is a “coincidence”. Really? It’s just a “coincidence” [that] out of any part of his body, Christopher Hitchens got cancer in the one part of his body he used for blasphemy? Yea, keep believing that Atheists. He’s going to writhe in agony and pain and wither away to nothing and then die a horrible agonizing death, and THEN comes the real fun, when he’s sent to HELLFIRE forever to be tortured and set afire.
I can’t say this surprises me. But most of the Christians I’ve talked to or read on the subject have expressed their hopes for Christopher Hitchens’ conversion and healing so that it would be a great sign to the world of how loving and powerful Yahweh truly is, and how much impact prayer can make.
So far as I know, even these millions of genuine prayers have done nothing to impact the life of Hitchens. Perhaps there is nothing to be done since there is no one to hear their prayers except themselves. That’s my belief, anyway.