It’s an insecure, easily-threatened worldview which feels the need to frame every tragedy its opponents face within its own narrative. But that’s the outpouring we’ve seen from some on the Christian right over the passing of the prominent, relentlessly thoughtful atheist advocate Christopher Hitchens. Most of the acknowledgments take this simple form — “now he knows” — as if, somewhere, Mr. Hitchens is finally receiving his cosmological come-uppance. The sentiment is as arrogant as it is mean-spirited, even if delivered lovingly (as by Mr. Warren). And it’s also wrong.
Personally, I don’t stake a position on the theism v. atheism debate. It feels like a hard thing to be certain about, and (personally) I would hope there is some cosmic force that watches over mankind, for we sorely need it. Against such doubt, the only thing one can say about Mr. Hitchens is that either he does know, or he doesn’t. And either way, Mr. Hitchens faced the event which would finally resolve the question of divinity for him, personally, with bravery and a confidence that he used his time here well. As all should.
He has passed beyond a barrier where the scoring of the petty points so prized by his opponents no longer matters. I will remember him as someone who made us think, and for that, deserves our gratitude.
Note that if you want an excellent, touchingly human view of Mr. Hitchens, consider his correspondence and relationship with his (very religious) friend Andrew Sullivan.