I have, in the last year, become somewhat of a Christopher Hitchens admirer. I basically read every new article that is posted at Daily Hitchens (I get their email updates), often have his lectures or debates playing in the background while I’m doing dishes or some other mundane task, and try to collect and read through his books. In addition, via the references in a number of his works, I’ve broadened my reading interests to include others of his circle, including the poet James Fenton, his brother Peter Hitchens and novelist Martin Amis. It’s worth noting that I’m also slowly working my way through the writings of George Orwell, largely due to the Hitch. Also, I have a somewhat strange confession that I probably shouldn’t share, but will anyway: I pray fairly regularly that he would both be cured of his cancer and would turn to Christ in faith.
Martin Amis has been a lifelong friend of Hitchens; they met in school. I am hard-pressed to determine who is the better prose writer, both are genius with the English language. If you read Amis’ latest piece in the The Observer, it would appear that he believes Hitchens to be the better between the two. I enjoyed this essay for a number of reasons: first, it appears in the beginning to be hagiographical, which it certainly is not; second, Amis shares some hilarious (albeit crude) one-liners of Hitchens’; third, Amis tries to “convert” Hitchens to agnosticism. Here’s a quote regarding the latter:
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.
But I find the following, not perplexing, but depressing. Amis intends to demonstrate some eschatological optimism, but his words amount to a banal form of “ashes to ashes,” bound with a sort of euphemism that Hitchens (and Amis) purportedly despise. What comfort or solace is there in this?
Anyway, we do know what is going to happen to you, and to everyone else who will ever live on this planet. Your corporeal existence, O Hitch, derives from the elements released by supernovae, by exploding stars. Stellar fire was your womb, and stellar fire will be your grave: a just course for one who has always blazed so very brightly. The parent star, that steady-state H-bomb we call the sun, will eventually turn from yellow dwarf to red giant, and will swell out to consume what is left of us, about six billion years from now.
From “Amis on Hitchens: ‘He’s one of the most terrifying rhetoricians the world has seen,'” in The Observer (Sunday April 24, 2011).