Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hitchens, Faith and God

Today at lunch I read a great Vanity Fair article, a friend was kind enough to recommend, written by Christopher Hitchens . The powerfully-written and evocative piece entitled "Unspoken Truths" detailed Hitchens' despondency at losing his voice as a result of his ongoing chemotheraphy treatments for esophageal cancer, as well as speaking to the 'essential link between speech and prose.' As some of you might be aware, in addition to being a journalist, essayist and acclaimed author of titles such as "God is Not Great" or "Hitch 22: A Memoir", Hitchens is probably best known as an avowed atheist, a fact which has not changed even in the face of his grim battle against stage 4 cancer. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Hitchens stated that while he's been very touched by the letters and emails offering prayers for his recovery, he is relying on science and medicine, and not faith or the existence of God for his survival.

Hitchens contends that religion is the source of all tyranny, and that many of the world's evils have been done in the name of religion. Hitchens has been quoted as saying about religion, "It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable, tyrannical authority, who can convict you of thought-crime while you are asleep. A celestial North Korea." I don't agree with Mr. Hitchens "tyrannical" comparison, but I respect his opinion, his talent, as well as his courage and conviction in avowing his beliefs even when they go against the popular line of thinking, and even in the face of criticism and repudiation.

A tyranny is defined as an oppressive power, and a tyrant as one who governs oppressively or brutally. I can honestly say that in my life, my faith is anything but oppressive. It is uplifting, freeing, a source of personal strength. My faith affords me the peace of knowing that I don't have to carry my burdens, my fears, my worries, my anxieties alone, I can turn to God and ask for his help and comfort, and he'll be there. And while many evils have been committed in the name of God, just as much good has been done in his name as well. In fact, much of the health care in Africa and other third world nations is made possible by faith-based organizations. How many soup kitchens, food pantries, coat and toy drives to help those less fortunate are organized by churches and synagogues throughout our own nation on a daily basis? In truth, given our innate flaws as human beings, to suffer greed, envy, hate and anger etc, whenever we rise above these sentiments to put someone elses well being above our own, it in and of itself serves as proof of a higher being inspiring us to do more, to be more.

On a closing note, let me say that while this controversial yet brilliant man might have lost his speaking voice, he has definitely not lost his writer's voice for writing isn't his profession, it's obviously his calling. I offer my sincere and heartfelt prayers for him and his family during these trying times.