I was gifted this book on my Kindle by a good friend.
I see the aim of the author as two fold that he wraps in a narrative of a road trip and personal communications that he had with the late Christopher Hitchens. I will speak to his motives later.
One – to lay out the current ‘battle lines’ of the atheistic vs. theistic arguments in Western society.
Two – to try and give a personality/character sketch of how the author viewed Christopher and why he believes he became what he was, its validity supported by a friendship the two had.
For the first aim, if you go and listen to the debate in Montana that he details in the book between him and Christopher you will hear exactly what position he argues from.
“Not only does socialism require a wholly unjustified confidence in human government, but also it begins with a premise that is antithetical to Christianity: that there is no God. Fyodor Dostoevsky observed this connection between atheism and socialism long ago: “Socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth, but to set up heaven on earth.”22 In other words, socialism is much more than an economic or political question. It is a spiritual question if only because it denies the very existence of the spiritual.”
In the biblical worldview, the state is a temporal institution meant to serve man, an eternal being. In the socialist model, this is reversed: man, a temporal being, serves the eternal state. To put it more succinctly, socialism is atheism masquerading as political philosophy
The answer actually goes back to the Enlightenment, where he staked his ultimate flag. The French Enlightenment—of which his hero, Thomas Paine, was most deeply affected—was essentially an anti-Christian movement. Part of the strategy in de-Christianizing Western culture was to praise other religions over and above Christianity. As the Enlightenment morphed into Romanticism, Islam was lifted up for veneration above Christianity. When this is viewed through a Marxist lens, Islam is interpreted as a peaceful religion that has resorted to violent means in order to defend itself against the fundamentally violent, oppressive, and imperialistic Christian West.
That is pretty much the bulk of his position – Look at history and all government systems where atheism or non-theism played the major role and they are arguably the worst human institutions that killed and tortured the most people. Modern atheism is using the same tactics and expecting different results.
For the second aim the author gives a fairly detailed analysis of Christopher and how his childhood, particularly his parents and his schooling contributed ultimately to his worldview and philosophical position. He bases his credibility on their friendship what there does seem to be some evidence for. Maybe Christopher said this on camera disingenuously but that does not seem to be the type of person he was (or was he?).
The question is how much of what the author says and speculates about Christopher is true? How much did he talk to him about his childhood, his mother, his brother? Also, would he have written this book when Christopher was alive to allow himself to defend himself.
If he really was a friend of Christopher would he write?
Christopher saw himself as a champion of the poor and the oppressed, but he had no desire to be one of them or really even to keep their company. This attitude—“the more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular”14—is a common feature of socialism and liberalism
Many were the times that I saw Christopher speak abusively to waiters, receptionists, bartenders, makeup artists, and the like, unless, that is, they recognized his celebrity or were attractive. He simply ignored their existence or, if they displeased him in some way, he assailed them with a torrent of profanities.
Or that he had stiffed him on bar tabs and some speculate that is why he is writing this book to recoup some of his loses since he is a type of promoter for these types of debates.
I didn’t get the impression that the Author particularly liked Christopher but rather ‘loved’ him out of Christian duty.
From telling us all about his vices and sexual appetites and a sordid detail about him making out with some various tramp you get the impression that most of the time they hung out he was rolling his eyes or saying ‘Gross, I would never do that’ in his head.
The nicest thing he said about him was:
Christopher loathed intellectual frauds that didn’t really believe their creed, but instead preyed on the innocent for selfish gain.
Which, of course, is a very admirable quality, for Christians or Atheists .
It seems to me that the author uses this quality in Christopher as proof to the reader that he wasn’t an intellectual fraud himself and that Christopher did believe that he was the real deal. A ‘true’ Christian who tried his best to live out the Christian ideal. To me that seems antithetical since the whole point of the book was to outline that Christopher really was duplicit and kept ‘two books’.
How was the author certain that the book Christopher kept with him the real one?
Having said that…
Maybe Christopher and the author did have a heartfelt friendship and with terminal cancer maybe Christopher did open up. Look at the debate between them at 50.51 and you can see a look on Christopher’s face that I think reflects this sentiment.
Maybe Christopher put some chips down on Pascal’s wager or maybe he didn’t. If you are an atheist it really doesn’t matter, though, does it.
And that is something I can never understand about the atheist position – why do they care so much of what believers think? I understand Christopher’s take on it. He got extremely rich out of it and is exactly what I would expect anyone to do who truly believes that there is no God. But he was writing books not for Christians but for Atheists wasn’t he?
Why do atheists care so much that theists think that they are going to hell? Or that it is a crutch to believe in some fairy sky daddy to help them through life? Life is hard for almost everyone, if you need to believe in a fairy sky daddy who loves you and cares for you by all means do it. Why should it bother you? ‘Well, because you believe that if I don’t believe in the fairy sky daddy then he will be mad at me and send me to a bad place’. Well, so, who cares? If you are so convinced that the fairy sky daddy doesn’t exist then why even argue.
Yet, argue and argue and try and convince and mock and spend so much time and energy when you could be out making your own existential meaning. Why try so hard to convince everyone? Unless, of course, it makes you money.
For the Christians who truly believe I would expect them to argue and try and convince you because that is what they believe makes all the difference. If they truly believe it then they would be crazy to not want to share it.
That is what you have to decide about the author whether you like him or not.
Does he really believe and did he really want Christopher to go to heaven and would do whatever he could to that end? – I think he did.
Did he do it out of vanity – to say ‘he was the one that bagged the biggest, baddest atheist’? Or did he do it on the hope that someone on the fence might read the book because of its provocative title and might just open their heart to God (the mind can only get you so close). I think, he had to take that opportunity.
Judge him on the same criteria you would judge a hypothetical Christopher Hitchens if he happened to spend a concentrated amount of time expounding the benefits of atheism to a dying Billy Graham and wrote a book about it after Billy died.
Just maybe the rabbit hole Christopher went down as the minutes of his life ticked away was that if there is nothing after I die then I have nothing to lose so why not ? And if he did would you blame him? If atheism is right it makes no difference either way so relax for goodness sake.
Anyway, at least he used a pre-cancer picture of Christopher on the cover.