A group within the American evangelical community has created a website to encourage Christians to pray for Christopher Hitchens. Mr. Hitchens is undergoing chemotherapy and the evangelists hope that their prayers will encourage God to intervene to cure the writer, public intellectual, general provocateur and militant atheist. The comments and discussions on the website pull together the four elements of nonfiction that I find most fascinating: history, politics, philosophy and religion.
Mr. Hitchens’ position on this matter is clear and well documented and supported by the leading luminaries of the new atheist school: Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. The counter argument is well represented by John F. Haught; but piercing through the rhetoric are two writers who have moved me lately: Chris Hedges and Karen Armstrong.
The most comprehensive book that puts the God debate into a deeper perspective is Charles Taylor’s “A Secular Age”, recipient of the 2007 John Templeton Prize. This is not an easy read by any means, but patient and attentive reading will reap many rewards.
Clearly, it is not up to us to dictate and demand how or what other people should believe; but we should challenge our beliefs and understand our own bias and prejudices. A public library provides a wide range of books, DVDs, databases and other resources to help you understand any number of controversies. I encourage you to visit the library to begin your journey. As Hitchens has stated, if the prayer initiatives do heal his cancer: “That would be somehow irritating!”