Praying for Hitchens as an act of love

By Patrick Archbold As the father of five children at the beginning of another school year, I will soon find … Continued

By Patrick Archbold

As the father of five children at the beginning of another school year, I will soon find myself on the receiving end of yet another macaroni necklace. I have been the recipient of many macaroni necklaces, some with sparkles and some with popcorn, although I am not sure how macaroni and popcorn go together. Truth be told, macaroni jewelry serves absolutely no earthly use and yet as a father, I hold it dear because its creation was an act of love.

Today, September 20th, has been dubbed by some, “Everybody Pray For Christopher Hitchens Day.” I, among many others, offer prayer today for Mr. Hitchens in his battle against cancer.

In his Vanity Fair article, Mr. Hitchens asked believers not to bother praying unless it makes them feel better. Although it does not make me feel any better, I still pray for him. I do lots of things that don’t make me feel better, some of them potentially useless, but I do them anyway. Love is like that.

So even if, in his mind, it serves absolutely no earthly purpose, I hope that at least Mr. Hitchens views our prayers as I view a macaroni necklace–a useless act of love.

Prayer for Mr. Hitchens is an act of love. Certainly I pray for Mr. Hitchens’ recovery, but I also pray he receives the grace of repentance. However, Mr. Hitchens supposes that any last-minute about-face on his part would be a cynical wager about the existence of God, and thus a cowardly act. I suppose it certainly could be, and agree that such an act would be utterly useless.

Pascal’s gambit, as Hitchens puts it, is “Put your faith in the almighty, he proposed, and you stand to gain everything. Decline the heavenly offer and you lose everything if the coin falls the other way.” Leaving aside that Pascal’s wager intends the gambit as the first step on a journey to real faith; Hitchens rejects any god that would reward such a cynical and cowardly act. I do too and I don’t pray for it.

I pray that before the end, whenever that may be, that Hitchens’ ‘irreconcilable doubt’ extends not only to God, but also to the path he has chosen. I pray that Mr. Hitchens, out of humility, asks a simple yet sincere question of the God he doubts. “If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me.”

None of us have done anything to merit such last-minute forgiveness, yet it is offered freely. Jesus went quite out of His way to make sure that we understood this one point. He told parable after parable to make this point. He suffered to make this point and in one of His last acts before He died, He forgave the criminal crucified next to him when he asked for it to make this point. In short, Jesus really wanted us to get this point.

“If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me.” Such a prayer may seem a completely useless act in the eyes of men. But I believe in a God who specializes in acts of love that seem useless in the eyes of men. I believe in a God who used a useless act of love in the eyes of men, the torture and crucifixion of his Son, in order to offer redemption to all mankind. I don’t know why, but love is like that.

So I pray, though it may be a macaroni necklace in the eyes of men, that Mr. Hitchens will do the same. I pray that he will pray. I pray that among all the moments of doubt, he will have a moment of humility, a moment of love. I pray that before the end, he will commit a useless act of love in the eyes of men. For in the eyes of the Father, there is no useless act of love.


Patrick Archbold writes for the National Catholic Register and is co-founder of Creative Minority Report, a Catholic website that puts a refreshing spin on the intersection of religion, culture, and politics. When not writing, Patrick is director of information technology at a large international logistics company. Patrick, his wife Terri, and their five children reside in Long Island, N.Y.

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  • WmarkW

    Today, September 20th, has been dubbed by some, “Everybody Pray For Christopher Hitchens Day.”

  • seanleid

    I agree with the sentiment.

  • greyhound1

    Mr. Archbold suggests: “I pray that Mr. Hitchens, out of humility, asks a simple yet sincere question of the God he doubts. “If You are there and I have been wrong, please forgive me.” “Gah! The hubris! Why should he ask forgiveness of YOUR god? Shall he also ask forgiveness of Allah and Buddha, with a coda to the Hellenic pantheon just in case?What most Christians don’t seem to understand about agnostics and atheists is that we don’t doubt YOUR god. We doubt them all. Or to put it another way, we believe in them all equally (not much). So don’t expect us to apologize to your favorite phantom; I’d be just as likely to apologize to Odin.

  • MCMama

    Thanks, Pat, for speaking of love with humility. All of us are praying for the best for Mr. Hitchens.

  • Secular

    AAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH! You dumb theist you are a disgusting bunch. You sanctimonious B#$%@^&s give it a rest. The man has explicitly asked you thought less morons to not do that, still you do that. You have the gall to protest the Draw a Mo day and Burn a Koran day out of amity towards muslims, etc, etc. But you cannot bring yourself to keep from offending the rationalists and secularists feelings. We do not need your prayers any more than your curses of eternal damnation. This is just as grotesque as the Catholic Church of India holding Funeral services for Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, a life long atheist, when he passed away some 46 years ago. Enough already, JUST LEAVE US ALONE.

  • dragondancer1814

    Why do I get the feeling that the evangelical Christians are hoping for Mr. Hitchens to “convert” at the last second just so they can count a major “victory” against us non-Christians because they were able to add his name to the lists of the “saved?”We don’t harass you Christians to convert away from your religion; please reciprocate and leave us non-Christians alone to practice our religion or be non-religious as we please. Freedom of religion not only means ANY religion, it also means freedom FROM religion! Quit harassing us in the name of your God already!

  • asoldiersmom

    Mr. Hitchens defended my son and his mission to people I don’t believe in. So I am asking Jesus to heal him, because I actually love him for that.

  • considered_opinion

    I do not understand the need for aggression here. I am not a Christian or a theist, but I think offering prayers is a kindness, an expression of love for a fellow human being. How is that so offensive to anyone? Surely fellow people having kind thoughts/prayers about someone makes the world a better place, whether there is a God or not? Tolerance is the order of the day for other peoples religions or non-religions. It is important in a world filled with so much aggression and ignorance that we practice love and kindness in whatever form, whether inspired by religion or just compassion for the rest of humanity to whom we all belong.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Really, I mean, I’m an atheist. Also, my daughter is ten, so I no longer receive macaroni necklaces, which, I confess, is a great relief.Love is love. Good wishes for someone are good wishes. I hope for Hitch. I can’t imagine some believer telling me not to.Fellow atheists, like chill out.

  • yasseryousufi

    Christopher Hitchens supported and cheer leaded America’s attack on innocent Iraqis upon a pack of lies. He is a dishonest hatemonger above everything else. A firebrand, divisive figure, who proved to the world radical atheists can just be as hateful as radical religious people.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Yasseryousufi Thank you once again for promoting the stereotype of the ugly Muslim.Why not just say, “Be afraid, be very afraid, of Islam.”

  • lepidopteryx

    Praying for a person to come round to your religion isn’t an act of love.

  • sketto

    Patrick,Respectfully, I would like to disagree with you regarding prayer. Your prayer for Hitchens, though harmless and done from positive motives, is an enormous piece of evidence that you do not see just how invasive your religion is in the lives of non-believers. I’m not a believer and find it difficult to avoid the aggressive, unwanted presence of religious preaching and preachers in my life. So, when well-meaning people like you insist on announcing their prayers for me, though I believe it to be harmless and pointless, I’m nevertheless offended that they have seemingly ignored the crucial message I have given: please, keep it away from me. I don’t even want to know what you plan to do about me and my non-belief – that has nothing to do with me, only your own desires.Your religion is aggressive and I desire separation from it, so I will resist it everywhere, even in the area of silly prayers, if only to force believers to acknowledge how they continue to push it forward even after directly being told, “no”. I hope you see that your prayers originate in both love AND ignorance. Sincerely,Ed Carroll