I was no fan of Christopher Hitchens’ politics, post-1998, especially as he became a cheerleader for George Bush’s illegal and immoral wars, but Hitchens was a clear-headed writer about religion, so count me among those skeptical of Hitchens suddenly converting to evangelical Christianity on his deathbed.
Matthew d’Ancona agrees:
In this respect the trail was blazed by the world’s great religions, which routinely claim recruits among the dying. Indeed, the faithful have form when it comes to falsifying deathbed conversions – notoriously so in the case of Darwin. In 1915 the evangelist Elizabeth Cotton, better known as Lady Hope of Carriden, declared that the great scientist, readying himself for the end in April 1882, had repudiated his life’s work (“How I wish I had not expressed my theory of evolution as I have done”) and asked her to gather an audience so he could “speak to them of Christ Jesus and His salvation”.
This was preposterous, and quickly dismissed as such. Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield, was with her father at his deathbed and insisted that Lady Hope had not even visited him during his last illness. None of his family believed a word of her testimony.
Almost as flimsy is the Catholic church’s claim that Antonio Gramsci returned to the faith and died taking the sacraments. Though a former Vatican official maintained that the Marxist philosopher embraced Catholicism afresh shortly before his death in Rome in 1937, none of the official or personal documents relating to his last days support this extraordinary account.
It is in this context that one should consider the meretricious new book by Larry Alex Taunton, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.
The religious knew that it was worth claiming the spiritual scalps of the founding father of evolution theory and of Italy’s pre-eminent Marxist. In our own era, a resourceful Alabamian evangelist is exploiting his friendship with Hitchens, who died in 2011, to allege that the author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything was, in fact, on a secret spiritual journey and halfway to embracing Jesus.
(click here to continue reading Christopher Hitchens and the Christian conversion that wasn’t | Matthew d’Ancona | Opinion | The Guardian.)