Christian blogger Russell D. Moore has penned a rather convoluted semi-apology for some of the mean-spirited Christian responses to the death of atheist juggernaut Christopher Hitchens. (LINK) Actually, apology is probably the wrong word. But, it’s… something.
The Christian Scriptures are clear: there is a narrow window in which we must be saved, the time of this present life, and after this there is only judgment (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Heb. 9:27).
But I’m not sure Christopher Hitchens is in hell right now.
So yeah. It’s not really an apology. Hell is real, and Hitch might be there. And if he’s there, he deserves it, because God loves him. Or something. (LINK) But Mr. Moore holds out hope that the lifelong atheist and critic of all things religious might have made it to the pearly gates.
Now, deathbed conversions are very rare. Typically, a conscience is so seared by then, so given over to the darkening of the mind, that the gospel rarely is heard. We shouldn’t count on last-second repentance.
But, however rarely, it does happen, and who knows? Perhaps you have relatives who, in the last seconds of breath, breathed out a silent prayer of repentance and faith. You might be as surprised as the thief’s believing cohort.
And, who knows? Christopher Hitchens heard the gospel enough, often while debating believers. Maybe the seed of the Word might have embedded in his heart somewhere and maybe, just maybe, it broke through sometime in the night, as he gasped for last breath.
The message here seems pretty clear: Despite everything that Hitchens has done to oppose the will of God, despite the thousands of souls he’s helped to tear away from heaven’s door, despite the blasphemy, despite the clear and unequivocal life’s goal of subverting the divine plan in every possible way, God might have let him into heaven, if only he muttered a silent prayer, unheard by any earthly ears.
Pardon me if I feel like I’ve just taken fifty lashes from an olive branch, and pardon me for speaking in Hitch’s stead, but I think he would at least sympathize with my reaction: How utterly repugnant! What an awful idea that Hitchens could be in heaven while so many people will burn in hell as a result of his earthly work!
The fact is, if Christianity is true, Christopher Hitchens deserves hell. His last public words contained no remorse, no apology, and no hint that he was even remotely considering the Christian God as an empirical truth. He went out of his way to assure his fans that he was still as atheist as ever, and that he hoped his work would continue even after his death, and that the power of religion would be diminished as a result.
Who knows how many souls Hitch has snatched out of heaven? Thousands? Tens of thousands? A hundred thousand? A million? With his prodigious output and worldwide distribution, who can say how many people have either directly or indirectly attributed their loss of faith to Hitchens’ ideas? In terms of human suffering, if there is a hell, Hitchens has caused unprecedented agony. In this new internet age, it is not unreasonable to suggest that among dead atheists, he is responsible for the most souls in hell. The idea that a simple silent prayer in the last seconds of life could somehow earn him a spot next to the greatest Christians in heaven — you know, like… Mother Teresa — it’s repulsive.
We intuitively have a good idea of how justice works when someone has committed an atrocious crime. Many killers have expressed remorse. Many have found Jesus in prison. And do you know what has happened to them? They’ve served their time. Here in the real world, simple remorse isn’t enough to make up for horrifying evil. Even in the best of situations, an offender is given some sort of early probation. The fact is, actions have consequences.
In the hyperbolic tradition of good internet arguments, it’s worth mentioning Hitler. If we ignore the Christian doctrine that Jews will not be going to heaven, we can convince ourselves that many of the six million casualties of Hitler’s campaign are happy today, dancing about on golden streets and singing the praises of Jesus, who their ancestors slaughtered without mercy. Even if we assume that most of them really are in hell, we can hope that some of them cried out to Jesus as they were drifting off into a carbon monoxide slumber. Hitler may have been a monster, but at least he was a Christian, and didn’t encourage anyone to leave the faith.
Not so with Hitchens. His life’s goal centered on snatching people from the faith. In this, he is as bad as the figure of Satan, roaming to and fro across the earth, deceiving people and putting insidious thoughts in their heads, thoughts that might put their immortal souls in the worst kinds of peril. He is the personification of evil.
I am not comforted by Mr. Moore’s disingenuous attempt at… whatever he’s trying to accomplish. The idea is as abhorrent to me as a non-believer as it should be to believers. Partly as a result of reading Hitchens’ material, I am convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that the Christian god is an absurd and grotesque fairy tale figure. If I were to die today and wake up in hell, the knowledge that Hitch was in heaven would be the worst of insults. Why would I worship a god who allowed him to spread such lies, influencing me to abandon the faith, who then punished me, but not him? There would be no justice in such a verdict.
No… this little bit of convoluted musing doesn’t do anything for me. It is the Christian who must reconcile himself to the gross injustice inherent in the system. It is he who must explain why Hitler is in heaven, Anne Frank is in hell, and somehow, it’s ok for Hitch to go to heaven after condeming so many souls to trillions of years of the worst kind of burning agony. Thank you, Mr. Moore, for your self-indulgent attempt at human empathy, but I am not impressed.