Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion

New Book About Hitchens Claims Too Much

Here in Birmingham, there’s a writer and Christian apologist named Larry Taunton who has a new book called The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. I know. Just the title itself is enough to get your blood boiling.

Taunton actually knew Hitchens personally, as the two engaged in a series of debates. And according to Taunton, this interaction produced an unlikely friendship. In a recent interview (which is definitely worth reading or listening to), Taunton said:

I discovered the public manifestation of Christopher was everything… was everything people thought that he was. He was, at least until 9/11, he was the leftist, sympathetic Marxist, fire-breathing atheist. But something went off in Christopher after 9/11… He broke with the left at a political level and said, look, I can no longer go along the knee-jerk, leftist position that America deserved 9/11 and is responsible for all the evil things in the world.

There’s definitely some truth to the claim that Hitchens’s political views concerning foreign policy underwent some major changes after 9/11. He consistently sided with the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, though he never considered himself “any kind of conservative” (Anthony, The Guardian, “The Big Showdown”). Of course, his hatred of Islamic terrorism was also one of the major inspirations for his book God is not Great.

But the real problem with Taunton’s book is this:

The whole of my claim in this book is that Christopher was a man of two books, that off stage he was very different and that after his diagnosis with esophageal cancer, a diagnosis that he knew to be a death sentence, Christopher was reevaluating his religious options. Greek Orthodox, no. He was never going to consider that. Roman Catholicism, no. Judaism, perhaps. He was deeply affected late in his life by the discovery that he was Jewish on his mother’s side, something his mother kept secret the entirety of her life.

But Protestantism and Evangelicalism had a kind of appeal to Christopher and he was exploring it. But I think the problem for him was that Christopher had created a kind of prison for himself. If your reputation is built on, just as mine is in the other direction, if your reputation is built on atheism and you have spent so much of your life in discussions like this one and on television and so forth railing against faith, it’s pretty hard to backtrack from that to admit that perhaps you’re wrong.

I actually find this claim downright offensive. And it’s not because I hold Hitchens as being some paradigm of skepticism that would make him impervious to bad ideas. It’s more that this kind of claim is such a tired cliché, and it discredits the memory of someone that Taunton claims was a friend. Hitchens was unequivocal in his derision of religion. To think that he’d express doubts to a sometime debate partner rather than those closest to him seems unlikely. Furthermore, it goes against the character he had exhibited his entire life — that of someone who insists on speaking honestly about his opinions, even when they are at odds with the views of those with whom he’d normally agree.

And if those aren’t good enough reasons to doubt Taunton’s claims, we also have the testimony of Carol Blue, Hitchens’s wife. Not only did Hitchens think he would recover from the pneumonia that ultimately killed him (a symptom of his cancer), but as she said, “God never came up.” And in an interview with Anderson Cooper, Hitchens actually addressed this very scenario:

Taunton claims that his position is based on private conversations he had with Hitchens, so there will probably never be a way to prove or disprove what he says. But his claims run so counter to what those closest to Hitchens have said, and they’re so completely out of character with the man himself, that they’re simply unbelievable. Since Hitchens isn’t here to defend himself, it makes Taunton come across as incredibly opportunistic. To make such unsubstantiated claims is an insult to the memory and legacy of Christopher Hitchens.

52 thoughts on “New Book About Hitchens Claims Too Much”

  1. Apparently Hitchens close friends have already come out and discredited this book making it clear that Hitchens remained firm in his convictions to the very end.

    Indeed Hitchens, aware of the mischievous actions of some Christian apologists, had before he died made clear that any post death reports of conversion should be ignored.

    Dare I say, more lies for Jesus.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. I’ll avoid making a judgment of Taunton’s character. It’s possible that he is sincere and sincerely mistaken.

    I do agree that his claim would be completely out of character for Hitchens.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Nate, I’m no fan of reports of deathbed conversions that cannot be verified, but Wikipedia says this about the book:

    “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.”

    Like

  4. Hey unkleE,

    You’re right about that. But to me, Taunton strongly implies that the only reason Hitchens didn’t convert was because he didn’t have the courage to go back on his previous stance. I don’t know either of them, but that seems very unlikely to me, and it just flat-out rubs me the wrong way. :/

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Hi Nate, yeah fair enough. I don’t have anything to say on that, I just thought it might be good to clarify something he did and didn’t say.

    Like

  6. I suspect Taunton was trying to “spin” things and use Hitchens’ supposed “conversion” to discredit the atheist position. In my opinion, it is shameless and dishonest.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Someone on another blog discussed this book, and I commented there that it sounds to me like another person ‘making bank off Je$u$’, in the most ironic way possible.
    Like, please. Christians and their wild imaginations…

    Liked by 3 people

  8. If they’re even real secrets. From what I’m understanding, the book is comprised of the conjecture of one man. It looks like he even admits it’s conjecture and then supports that conjecture by more conjecture as to why Hitchens would not have admitted to it, even if the first conjecture turned out to be true – which there doesn’t appear to be any support for.

    The conjecture, by the way, appears to fly in the face of all other data.

    Whether the author’s trying to make a buck, or just trying to diminish any stock that anyone my put in Hitchens’ views by trying yo suggest any ole reason to doubt them, seems dumb, and I shouldn’t have to point out that it seems tacky as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It almost appears they’re implying atheists disbelief in deity hinges on Hitchens opinions and thoughts.

    Had Hitchens made a deathbed conversion, that has nothing to do with me and what i find convincing or unconvincing now.

    I just doubt Hitchens had one and it still appears this dude is only implying that he may have, and then also why Hitchens wouldnt have admitted to it if he had. It actually seems pretty funny.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. In August 2010, Christopher Hitchens made a video with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Monthly which included the comment about deathbed conversions:

    “In the event of anyone ever hearing or reading a rumor of such a thing, it would not have been made by me. … No one recognizable as myself would ever make such a ridiculous remark.”

    Yet the discussions with Taunton were earlier in 2010 before this interview!

    The more I think about this the more shabby it seems.

    The relevant comments start at the 2:45 mark.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. In December 2011, following Hitchens death, Larry Taunton, was interviewed on CNN. He made no suggestion in that interview that Hitchens was ‘considering conversion’.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. For those interested in more, I found an excellent review of the book on Amazon, that puts it in its true light Here.

    I keep coming back to the fact that Taunton is a professional Christian Apologist. If it is possible my already low opinion of such folk has now been lowered.

    Liked by 4 people

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