I felt sad when atheist Christopher Hitchens died. I felt sad this week when I read Larry Taunton's The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World's Most Notorious Atheist.
I laughed when I read it, too (and I don't laugh at many things).
This book is beautiful and brilliant. I couldn't put it down.
Taunton was a very good friend of Hitchens. They traveled together and hung out together, a lot. Taunton has insights into Hitchens that increase my interest in him and my compassion and even respect for him.
Taunton is a Christian theist. Was Hitchens an atheist? Maybe. Maybe not. You have to read this book to understand this. Even well-known atheist Michael Shermer says, "Read this book."
Part of my respect for Hitchens was that he was no ideologue. He despised and dismissed most atheists, and especially his adoring Facebook fan atheists. And even, it seems, atheist Bill Maher.
Hitchens upset Maher on the latter's show. Taunton writes:
"In a 2006 appearance on Maher’s Real Time, Maher wrongly assumed that because he and Hitchens were both atheists and vociferous critics of religion that the two would be ideological soul mates. Indeed, one gets the distinct impression that Hitchens is, for Maher, something of a hero. Christopher promptly dispels any such notions of solidarity when Maher infers that George W. Bush’s religious beliefs were no less nutty than those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. When Maher’s anti-Bush audience applauds this remark, Hitchens comes off the turnbuckle like a professional wrestler: “Your audience, which will apparently clap at anything, is frivolous . . .” The audience boos loudly and Christopher raises his middle finger to them and says enthusiastically, “. . . F— you!” Maher looks genuinely hurt. But Hitchens isn’t done.
[Hitchens] "I’ve been on the Jon Stewart show, I’ve been on your show, I’ve seen you make about five George Bush I.Q. jokes per night. There’s no one I know who can’t do it. You know what I think? This is now the joke that stupid people laugh at. It’s a joke that any dumb person can laugh at because they think they are smarter than the President . . . like the people who make booing and mooing noises in your audience . . . none of whom are smarter than the President."
He finishes with another middle finger."
I am not a fan of the middle finger. I haven't used it in forty-seven years, except to play guitar, finger-style. Actually, I spend my life attempting to invert the message of the middle finger. But I do admire Hitchens correctly identifying the mindless ideological stupidity of Maher and Maher's fans.
Get this book and read it.
After that, get my book and read it. Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.