America’s leading atheist is dying. Christopher Hitchens, a prominent public intellectual, has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. The deadly disease has spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.
In a recent column for Vanity Fair, Mr. Hitchens movingly describes his war with that awful affliction. As someone whose mother died of pancreatic cancer after a protracted, painful struggle, I deeply sympathize with Mr. Hitchens’ plight. I wish this dreaded illness on no one - even my worst enemy. I hope and I pray that his treatment will enable him to live many more years.
Yet it is astonishing how even when starkly confronted with his mortality, Mr. Hitchens is unable to restrain his anti-Catholic bigotry. The specter of death cannot wrench him of his hatred for religion - especially the Catholic Church.
As he describes the pain and gradual degradation that cancer inflicts upon its victim, Mr. Hitchens reminisces about possible regrets in his life. Besides not seeing his children getting married, he is stricken by the prospect that he will never read or write the obituary of “elderly villains,” such as the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Mr. Hitchens’ bile toward Pope Benedict XVI knows no bounds. Typical of many bigots, he clings to his burning hate unto the final hour - it is all that is left to warm his dark, desiccated soul.
Like all atheists, Mr. Hitchens is a hypocrite. He denounces the existence of God while simultaneously living off the ethical norms established by the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example, in his column, he lauds the “selfless” doctors who are treating him, describing their commitment to the dignity of the individual. The sacred nature of human life - and why the West distinctly cherishes it - is a direct result of our Christian heritage: It is the social application of the imperative to love one’s neighbor as oneself.
Mr. Hitchens also confesses to taking comfort from all the prayer groups at his treatment center. He is receiving emotional sustenance from people and practices he has spent a lifetime mocking.
In an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Mr. Hitchens assures his atheist followers that he will never embrace religion. In fact, he states that should he - at the end of his life - make some kind of deathbed conversion, it will either be a lie propagated by religious fanatics or the result of the cancer having driven him mad.
“The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain,” he said. “I can’t guarantee that such an entity wouldn’t make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark.”
That Mr. Hitchens remains a militant atheist should come as no surprise. He is an unadulterated Bolshevik. Throughout his public career, Mr. Hitchens has consistently championed revolutionary Marxism. During the Cold War, he openly called for the defeat of America in its struggle against the Soviet Union.
He opposed every attempt to contain and roll back Soviet power. Vietnam, President Reagan’s military buildup, the invasion of Grenada, installing cruise and Pershing missiles in Europe, arming the Contras - Mr. Hitchens vilified every one of these moves. He supported the Marxist Sandinista dictatorship in Nicaragua. He admitted that his primary desire was “socialist renewal in the Soviet Union.”
In the 1980s, he referred to Reagan as a “criminal” and “militarist fascist” who was bent on overthrowing democracy at home and suppressing “workers” revolutions abroad. Upon Reagan’s death, Mr. Hitchens referred to him as a “cruel and stupid lizard.”
His venom toward Reagan stems from his radical leftism. Mr. Hitchens thinks Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, was a “great man.” Yet, Mr. Hitchens’ hero is the philosopher most admired by many socialists in the West: Leon Trotsky. In 2004, Mr. Hitchens wrote a fawning essay in the Atlantic calling Trotsky a “prophetic moralist.”
Trotsky - along with Lenin - erected a genocidal totalitarian regime that systematically murdered tens of millions. In particular, Trotsky ordered the mass execution of thousands of Orthodox Christian priests and nuns. This was done to break the stranglehold that, the Bolshevik revolutionary said, “clericalism” held over the “superstitious peasants” - atrocities Mr. Hitchens praised in the drive toward establishing “secular socialist ideals.”
Hence, in Mr. Hitchens’ eyes, Reagan committed the greatest sin of all: He brought down the evil empire (or, for Hitch, the “Glorious Motherland”). Reagan destroyed the Trotskyite vision of “permanent revolution” on behalf of the Soviet Union. Mr. Hitchens has never forgiven Reagan for shattering those illusions.
Mr. Hitchens is a God hater. He argues that belief in a creator is not only wrong but the source of all evil. For him, religious fanaticism is the root cause of war, imperialism and racism. He thinks that if society “banished religion,” a mild utopia would be possible.
The one institution Mr. Hitchens despises above all, however, is the Catholic Church. In his view, it is a primitive, medieval institution founded upon lies, anti-Semitism and sexual oppression - the means by which a clerical theocracy controls human beings by dictating their sexual behavior. He has smeared - without any concrete evidence - Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict not only for purportedly coddling pedophile priests, but for encouraging mass “child rape” and “child slavery.” Moreover, he stresses that the church is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of AIDS victims because of its stance on contraception - despite the fact that, if followed, the church’s teachings make the sexual transmission of the disease impossible.
Mr. Hitchens loathes Catholicism for one simple reason: It was the Church that stood as the most powerful and consistent force against the communist occupation of Eastern Europe. When Trotsky’s Red Army swept into Poland in 1920, it was the Polish Catholic Church that rallied the proud nation to smash the invading Red hordes - delivering a blow to Trotsky’s ambitions for “exporting” the revolution. Later, led by Pope John Paul II, the Catholic Church behind the Iron Curtain eroded the very pillars of Soviet rule, decrying its brutal police state and suppression of human rights.
Mr. Hitchens also champions anti-Catholic bigotry because the church opposes the left’s radical sexual agenda. Mr. Hitchens is a virulent supporter of abortion, homosexuality and even - I am not making this up - masturbation. Like an oversexed adolescent, he deeply resents the church’s proscription against masturbation (and promiscuous sex). He does not want to be made to feel guilty. Nothing - or no one - should stand in the way of his “sexual liberation.” This used to be called perversion. Now it is simply progressive chic.
Because of Mr. Hitchens’ support for the war on terror, many conservatives have falsely embraced him as a fellow traveler. They prefer him, for example, to Pat Buchanan or the late Robert Novak. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Mr. Hitchens’ neo-Trotskyism is the very opposite of conservatism. His call for the eradication of religion and tradition, his support for the mass murder of nearly 50 million unborn children, his war on the traditional family, his appeasement - and even encouragement - of totalitarian communism and his hatred for Christianity - all lead to an overwhelming indictment of his moral and intellectual philosophy.
Mr. Hitchens is completely wrong. Self-professed atheistic regimes have resulted in infinitely more deaths than religious abuses. The regimes of Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot led to the slaughter of more than 100 million people. The gulags, the killing fields and the Holocaust were the direct result not of religion, but of murderous neo-paganism. They are the logical shrines to Mr. Hitchens’ radical secularism.
The Russian novelist Feodor Dostoyevsky, once said: “If there is no God, everything is permitted.” This is the lesson of the 20th century. The fact that Mr. Hitchens is unable - or unwilling - to acknowledge it shows how little he has learned. May God have mercy on his soul.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the host of “The Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM. (www.talk570.com) from 5 to 7 p.m.