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Saturday, June 04, 2011

Christopher Hitchens embraces faith?

Martin Amis and Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens, my favorite athiest, is dying of esophageal cancer. Numerous pleas for him to embrace faith have been met with just as many pledges never to do so. But from novelist Martin Amis, whom Hitchens calls his "dearest friend," comes perhaps the most interesting entreaty of all:  
My dear Hitch: there has been much wild talk, among the believers, about your impending embrace of the sacred and the supernatural. This is of course insane. But I still hope to convert you, by sheer force of zealotry, to my own persuasion: agnosticism. In your seminal book, God Is Not Great, you put very little distance between the agnostic and the atheist; and what divides you and me (to quote Nabokov yet again) is a rut that any frog could straddle. "The measure of an education," you write elsewhere, "is that you acquire some idea of the extent of your ignorance." And that's all that "agnosticism" really means: it is an acknowledgment of ignorance. Such a fractional shift (and I know you won't make it) would seem to me consonant with your character – with your acceptance of inconsistencies and contradictions, with your intellectual romanticism, and with your love of life, which I have come to regard as superior to my own.
 The atheistic position merits an adjective that no one would dream of applying to you: it is lenten. And agnosticism, I respectfully suggest, is a slightly more logical and decorous response to our situation – to the indecipherable grandeur of what is now being (hesitantly) called the multiverse. The science of cosmology is an awesome construct, while remaining embarrassingly incomplete and approximate; and over the last 30 years it has garnered little but a series of humiliations. So when I hear a man declare himself to be an atheist, I sometimes think of the enterprising termite who, while continuing to go about his tasks, declares himself to be an individualist. It cannot be altogether frivolous or wishful to talk of a "higher intelligence" – because the cosmos is itself a higher intelligence, in the simple sense that we do not and cannot understand it.
After reading that, I felt compelled to say that Amis is right: The only logical and reasonable stance concerning God (that is, solely based on logic and reason) is that of agnostic. I readily admit my faith and belief in God is exactly that: faith and belief. Yet Hitchens probably does not admit that his denial of the existence of God is equally a stand of faith and belief, and not logic and reason.
So, I guess you could say Christopher Hitchens has embraced faith. Of a sort.
—Wayne S. (Martin Amis quote From "Amis on Hitchens" in The Guardian.)
UPDATE: The above quotation also appears in Amis's foreword to The Quotable Hitchens.