It's 'Everybody Pray For Hitchens' Day : The Two-Way Pray for Hitchens Day
NPR logo It's 'Everybody Pray For Hitchens' Day

It's 'Everybody Pray For Hitchens' Day

In this image taken from video Sept. 7, 2010, author and outspoken atheist Christopher Hitchens speaks during an appearance in Birmingham, Ala. Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments, and he says his health won't be affected by people praying either for his healing or his death. Associated Press hide caption

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But atheist Christopher Hitchens, who has esophogeal cancer, won't join you. The author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything warns fans and detractors not to expect a change in his beliefs, much less a deathbed conversion. He's described his diagnosis for Vanity Fair and in his latest essay, Hitchens reprints a detractor's view the cancer is divine retribution for irreligious beliefs. Hitch tartly responds:

... why cancer at all? Almost all men get cancer of the prostate if they live long enough: it’s an undignified thing but quite evenly distributed among saints and sinners, believers and unbelievers. If you maintain that god awards the appropriate cancers, you must also account for the numbers of infants who contract leukemia.

The larger question continues over whether to pray for an atheist's recovery. There are Facebook and youtube pages, and Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg suggests believers go ahead, if they don't mind feeling a little silly. Deacon Greg Kandra says absolutely, asking 'What part of love your enemies, pray for your persecutors isn't clear?' This led Hitch to wonder:

A different secular problem also occurs to me: what if I pulled through and the pious faction contentedly claimed that their prayers had been answered? That would somehow be irritating.

Have a great day, Hitch.