Atheist Christopher Hitchens has cancer. He wrote about his battle in a recent Vanity Fair article. It’s a moving account. And an inconsistent one.
Hitchens’ writing presumes life is meaningful. I certainly agree it is. But remember, Hitchens is an atheist. In his worldview, any objective, transcendent meaning to life or its events is an illusion. 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 his piece. He tells us that in the “sick country” of cancer patients 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?
Rather than 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 if Hitchens merely passes out of existence upon death, ultimately it makes no difference.
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. I want Him to know his Savior. 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.” However, such is the logical outworking of atheism. A meaningful life only makes sense in the context of theism, the very worldview Hitchens has given an entire lifetime to destroying.
My bigger concern is the thousands of young people Christopher Hitchens has influenced. He’s a wildly popular speaker on college campuses. His books are bestsellers and available in many college bookstores. His influence is undeniable. And disastrous. If young people buy Hitchens’ atheism, they’ll not only lose God, but themselves.
In the Christian worldview, hope reigns supreme. Meaning exists because there is a Meaning-Giver. Redemption is possible because there really is a Redeemer. He holds out hope, even to the hostile cancer-stricken atheist, until the very last breath of life is taken. He’s the only hope a new generation of young people can count on.