A vulture spreads the false rumor that Hitchens accepted God at the end

May 16, 2016

UPDATE: Because people have suggested that I wrote this entire piece without having read any of Taunton’s book, let me add that I read the six pages about Hitchens given on the Times site, and, after writing it, have read substantial sections of the book that someone sent me. I am now well versed in what Taunton said, and I stand 100% by what I wrote below. The man was clearly intending to suggest that Hitchens, toward the end of his life, was softening on Christianity, and was keeping “two sets of books”. (There is in fact a chapter called “Two Books”). An excerpt from that chapter:

These divisions—or some might say “contradictions”—necessitated a keeping of “two books”—a phrase Hitchens would use quite often to describe various aspects of himself, his beliefs, and his relationships with other people. The original meaning of the phrase “keeping two sets of books” refers to a fraudulent bookkeeping method in accounting, where one set of books is public and one is private; the public book is made to appear in accordance with the law, while the private book records all the shady financial dealings behind the scenes.

The implication, in using this phrase in regard to himself [“keeping two books], is that the discovery of his private set of books would reveal that his public set of books were somehow fraudulent. The public and private Christophers did not match. To know what was really going on, one must see the private books—or so the phrase would imply (and Christopher was notably meticulous in regard to precision in words).

The reader already knows where I am going. As I’ve already noted, my private dealings with Christopher revealed a much different man than the public Christopher, the confident, bombastic, circuit-riding atheist-pugilist. While I do not quite want to say that the public Christopher was a sham—perhaps an occasional actor might be a better description—he said and did things in my company that would lead one to conclude that this public manifestation of Christopher Hitchens was not the real one.

And that chapter opens with this quote:

“God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.”
—SHAKESPEARE’S HAMLET, ACT III, SCENE 1”

There’s no doubt, then, that Taunton claims that the Hitchens we saw and knew was not the real one—that only he knew the real Hitchens.

That’s malarkey, as of course it leaves out Hitchens’s editors, friends, colleagues, and wife, all of whom saw his private side, and none of whom agree with Taunton’s fairy tale.

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Stories of deathbed conversions are always dubious, especially when they are recounted by the faithful, lack corroborating evidence, and involve a famous nonbeliever. Such was the case of Charles Darwin, an agnostic subject to widespread (and false) conversion stories. Creationists still propagate the lie that Darwin embraced God on his deathbed.

And such is now the case with the late Christopher Hitchens.

A “friend” of Hitchens, one Larry Alex Taunton, is profiting from rumors—rumors he revived—that Hitchens might have been turning to God after learning he had terminal cancer. Taunton is the founder of the Fixed Point Foundation, whose website states this:

The mission of Fixed Point Foundation is to defend and proclaim the Gospel in the secular marketplace and equip others to do the same. To that end, Larry Alex Taunton and the Fixed Point team have sponsored debates and symposia on topics ranging from atheism and Islam to gay marriage and the relationship between science and religion – bridging the sacred and the secular.

On April 12, Taunton released a book called The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Famous Atheist Taunton clearly intended this book to imply that, at the end, Hitchens was getting soft on religion, and may have been embracing it. Here’s the Amazon summary:

Hitchens was a man of many contradictions:   a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful—though largely hidden from public view—friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton.

In The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, Taunton offers a very personal perspective of one of our most interesting and most misunderstood public figures.  Writing with genuine compassion and without compromise, Taunton traces Hitchens’s spiritual and intellectual development from his decision as a teenager to reject belief in God to his rise to prominence as one of the so-called “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheism.  While Hitchens was, in the minds of many Christians, Public Enemy Number One, away from the lights and the cameras a warm friendship flourished between Hitchens and the author; a friendship that culminated in not one, but two lengthy road trips where, after Hitchens’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer, they studied the Bible together.  The Faith of Christopher Hitchens gives us a candid glimpse into the inner life of this intriguing, sometimes maddening, and unexpectedly vulnerable man.

I haven’t read it (except for the six pages given by the Times [see update above: I’ve now read a lot more]), but I’ve corresponded with several people who have, and have read the reviews (both on Amazon and in the press), and my impression was verified. Taunton is apparently cagey about his intent, but reviewers and others have clearly read his book as showing that Hitchens was, at the end of his life, coming around to religion. The book’s title, too, clearly implies that the man had a “faith.” Well maybe he did, but it was in rationality, not religious malarkey.


Continue reading the full article by clicking the name of the source below.

16 comments on “A vulture spreads the false rumor that Hitchens accepted God at the end

  • Hitchens was a man of many contradictions: a Marxist in youth who longed for acceptance among the social elites; a peacenik who revered the military; a champion of the Left who was nonetheless pro-life, pro-war-on-terror, and after 9/11 something of a neocon; and while he railed against God on stage, he maintained meaningful—though largely hidden from public view—friendships with evangelical Christians like Francis Collins, Douglas Wilson, and the author Larry Alex Taunton.

    No. Utterly, no. He was a man who eliminated contradictions to achieve a greater personal integrity. He sloughed off his old ideological baggage to better embrace evidence and reason. He simply grew up a bit more than most becoming a full and valuable individual. It didn’t make him always right. I question his harms/boons weighing up of the Iraqi war, but he brought a mountain of evidence into his considerations. He never judged superficially. He was the least conflicted of men.

    He loved conversation and people who could converse with a modicum of freedom. No groupist he. “Hidden friendships”. Bollocks, trying to trick evidence into existence from nothing. Dishonourable bollocks.



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  • @OP – Stories of deathbed conversions are always dubious, especially when they are recounted by the faithful, lack corroborating evidence, and involve a famous nonbeliever.

    It’s in the nature of the perceptions of the habitual faith-thinker!

    The delusional view of clarity, and the irrational view of logic, are always going to come out as some perverted version, which the believer has projected on to others from their own “default to indoctrinated preconceptions”, thinking habits!



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  • @OP – Taunton clearly intended this book to imply that, at the end, Hitchens was getting soft on religion, and may have been embracing it.

    A god-delusion cannot allow its mind slave to believe that there are people who have overcome and permanently eliminated the god-delusions which may have tried to dominate them!

    For a god delusion, this is potential suicide, so the mind slave must be kept “strong and obedient in the faith” and in denial of even the possibilities of the total elimination of those “omnipotent” god-delusions in others, as well as the elimination of their own god-delusion, being utterly unthinkable!!



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  • 5
    Pinball1970 says:

    Hitchens said if he did convert towards the end then just assume he has lost control of his faculties due to the illness.

    All of his presentations, articles, books, debates and appearances on talk shows have put forward one position only, atheism.

    He has also stated he was an anti theist.

    Unless Hitchens led a double life like mother Teresa in reverse I think we can be confidence dismissing these claims.

    Nice to see his image on RD again though.



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  • If Hitchens were alive, I’d bet he’d sue Taunton for libel.

    If, in fact, Hitchens had any sort of friendship with Taunton, he has been repaid with treachery. Let it be a lesson to us.
    Taunton is a snake.



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  • Though I can clearly get the gist of this piece and agree with all regarding the implications made, a quote from the linked Larry Taunton wiki seems to contradict the crux of the OP:

    But the author is nonetheless clear that he does not believe Christopher Hitchens made a deathbed conversion: “I make no Lady Hope-like claims regarding Christopher Hitchens. As we have seen, there were no reports of a deathbed conversion.”

    So if the author himself says that he doesn’t believe there was a deathbed conversion, despite the provocative bread crumbs (chapter quotes, etc) why does Coyne seem to think so? He seems to be reaching and creating publicity where there wasn’t any. I can see making mention of this is something was stirring, but the first I heard of this was this piece here at RD.net.



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  • “after Hitchens’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer, they studied the Bible together.”

    As if Hitchens had anything new to learn from the book. People always say this as if the Bible is a deep and profoundly hard-to-master. But it’s actually a pretty shallow book. The only difficulties in understanding it are the myriad of contradictions and illogical premises filling it up.

    In any case, I have no doubt whatsoever that Hitchens had a far better understanding of the book than this vulture could ever even hope of gaining. I have always found that atheists understand the book better than theists. For many, it’s the book that served as a disillusionment tool.



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  • Hamish Joy #8
    May 19, 2016 at 6:34 am

    after Hitchens’s diagnosis of esophageal cancer, they studied the Bible together.”

    As if Hitchens had anything new to learn from the book. People always say this as if the Bible is a deep and profoundly hard-to-master. But it’s actually a pretty shallow book. The only difficulties in understanding it are the myriad of contradictions and illogical premises filling it up.

    Actually careful studies combined with historical research do throw up interesting facts which appear to escape most Christian fundamentalists!

    http://bilerico.lgbtqnation.com/2011/03/inconvenient_history_-_gods_wife_was_edited_out_of.php

    Brace yourself from the shrieks of denial from the “inerrant Bible” beaters who already ignore the fact that polygamy, not ” one man and one woman” marriage – was the Old Testament norm. Here are highlights from the International Business Times:

    The Judeo-Christian God may have been married, according to a British theologian, who says the Almighty, also known as ‘Yahweh’, had a wife – a goddess named Asherah. Francesca Stavrakopoulou of the University of Exeter is throwing new light on the theory, suggesting that God had a wife who was edited out of the Bible.

    In 1967, historian Raphael Patai mentioned that the ancient Israelites worshiped both Yahweh and Asherah, according to Discovery News. . . . Archaeological evidence as well as details in the Bible, indicate not just that he was one of several worshipped in ancient Israel, but that he was also coupled with a goddess, who was worshipped in his temple in Jerusalem, Stavrakopoulou says.

    Stavrakopoulou says the Almighty’s wife was presented as a deity in Israel, who sat alongside him. “After years of research specialising in the history and religion of Israel, however, I have come to a colourful and what could seem – to some – uncomfortable conclusion: that God had a wife,” Stavrakopoulou says.

    The goddess Asherah was worshipped in Yahweh’s temple in Jerusalem.

    Despite numerous references to Asherah worship in the Bible, there wasn’t enough evidence to link her explicitly with the high god of ancient Israel, Yahweh. Until, that is, the discovery of a remarkable ceramic inscription in the Sinai desert. The inscription is a petition for a blessing, Stavrakopoulou says. “Crucially, the inscription asks for a blessing from ‘Yahweh and his Asherah. Here was evidence that presented Yahweh and Asherah as a divine pair. And now a handful of similar inscriptions have since been found, all of which help to strengthen the case that the God of the Bible once had a wife.”

    J. Edward Wright, president of The Arizona Center for Judaic Studies and The Albright Institute for Archaeological Research, supported Stavrakopoulou’s findings, saying several Hebrew inscriptions mention “Yahweh and his Asherah.

    Mentions of the goddess Asherahin the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) are rare and have been heavily edited by the ancient authors who gathered the texts together.” “The ancient Israelites were polytheists,” Brody [Aaron Brody, director of the Bade Museum] told Discovery News.

    Can’t you hear Tony Perkins, Albert Mohler, James Dobson, and others like them going into apoplexy at this news? I suspect as time goes by, more and more proof that the Bible is anything but inerrant will surface. The ensuing batshittery will be most entertaining to watch.



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  • These people are liars predicted by Hitchens and others. This will happen when Richard leaves us and every other rational speaker.
    This is why I don’t trust any “christians”. They are incapable of telling the truth.



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  • Alf1200

    You are correct this is zero proof for that. I am not claiming that at all– the videos were just in response to achromat666 request to see evidence of their relationship.

    To be fair the author never claims that Hitch accepted God and indeed I have heard him say that he has NO reason to believe that Hitch did accept God and that he suspects that Hitch maintained his Atheism to the end. It is the news media that has made those misleading headlines which I think are disingenuous (more clicks?). The author has publicly disputed those headlines on several occasions.



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  • This is utter rubbish that we should really ignore, I believe Mr Hitchens suspected some fools would come up with this sort of stupidity and went to great lengths to ensure he explained his beliefs in so much detail, he would have hated heaven if he found himself in such a place and all hell would have broken loose.



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