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Jul 2 2010

Should we pray for Christopher Hitchens?

A couple of weeks ago just before boarding an evening flight to Colorado, I picked up a copy of Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens' recently published memoir. Loved it!  One of the quotes on the book's jacket is from Christopher Buckley.  According to Buckley, "Christopher Hitchens is the greatest living essayist in the English language."  That's a helluva statement from a wit like Buckley. 

Now the word is out that the 61-year-old Hitchens has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and has suspended his book tour.  Anita Thompson, with her ever-gentle and loving touch, commented on her friend Hitch's situation in a recent blog post.

My first thought when I heard the news was "goddamnit!"  Funny, though, because Hitchens is an atheist.  His philosophy is that of the mind, and science, and evolutionary biology.  Hitchens' 2008 international bestseller God Is Not Great makes the ultimate case against traditional religion.  I'm guessing that Hitchens is neither blaming god for his condition nor expecting god to make his chemotherapy effective.  According to various reports, Hitchens is the same old Hitchens, and his focus is likely on finding the best possible doctor to treat his conditon.

Jeffrey Goldberg writing in The Atlantic today wonders "Should We Pray for Christopher Hitchens?"   It's a thoughtful article written by a friend.  In it he quotes Rabbi David Wolpe as saying "I will pray for [Hitchens], but I will not insult him by asking or implying that he should be grateful for my prayers."  Jeffrey Goldberg's advice to his readers is "so, friends and admirers of Hitchens, pray away, but expect [Hitchens] to consider you silly for doing so."

Joseph Heller of Catch-22 fame is also quoted on the jacket of Hitchens' memoir, Hitch-22 Heller says "Christopher Hitchens is a remarkable commentator.  He jousts with fraudulence of every stripe and always wins.  I regret he has only one life, one mind, and one reputation to put at the service of my country."

I am one of the multitudes of Hitchens' admirers that needs that "one life and one mind" of his to be around for a long time to come.

Jim Caruso