August 7, 2010

"How are you?" "I'm... I'm dying."

Christopher Hitchens has, it seems, decided to perform the drama of dying of cancer on camera, being interviewed by whatever media people are willing to step up and ask him how does it feel...



... and when if ever will you start praying.

105 comments:

edutcher said...

Why do I get the feeling everybody is expecting him to realize there are no non-believers in foxholes?

Oligonicella said...

Because it scares/offends some people that an atheist might actually not believe.

rhhardin said...

Karen L. Kleinfelder says an aged Picasso suddenly lost interest in his models when he came to terms with his mortality.

Or it may be that a neuron stopped firing.

Lem said...

I was thinking if it was possible he was been so blunt because of his illness and then I remember what he had to say about mother Teresa, years ago.

I do.. I prey for his recovery.

I think we would be intellectually impoverished were he to leave us so prematurely.

Oligonicella said...

Lem - was that a typo or a slip?

Class factotum said...

When my dad was dying, he was blunt about it. My mom arranged for his friends all over the world to call him to say goodbye. By telling his friends he was dying, he freed them from the necessity of dancing around the issue and saying things like, "I'm sure you'll be better soon."

Instead, they reminisced about the times they had. My dad told them how much he would miss them and they did the same. It's a lot easier for everyone when you are honest about what's going on. (as long as you are not having a pity party, that is.)

Eric said...

Hitchens has taken some honest intellectual positions over the years, but he just can't help being a jerk sometimes. There's a certain amount of schadenfreude at play here, even if nobody wants to admit it.

Lem said...

David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is on his living table.

Remembering David's last act on earth I wonder if.. maybe Goldberg should have asked if he at least has thought about it.. pulling a Hemingway.

Or is that a question you don't ask a dying man?

Lem said...

Lem - was that a typo or a slip?

Im going to say what Althouse said about her poll the other day.

"That's the way it came out so I'm just going to leave it".

danielle said...

I thought anderson cooper did a more interesting interview with him.

I hope he makes it ! Whether you're an athiest or not, he makes you think. You've got to respect his rigor, passion, and courage ... and sense of humor =)

rhhardin said...

The immutable and necessary truths which are the glory of nations, and which doubt strives in vain to shake, began ages ago. These are things one should not touch. Those who would make literary anarchy under the pretext of novelty lapse into error. One does not dare attack God; one attacks the immortality of the soul. Yet the immortality of the soul, that too, is as old as the world's foundations. What other belief will replace it, if replaced it must be? It will not always be a negation.


Lautreamont

Lem said...

Some 'God/AA Commitment' passages from Infinite Jest. page 442 and 443

"On a White Flag Group Commitment to the Tough Shit But You Still Can't Drink Group down in Braintree this past July, Don G., up at the podium, revealed publicly about how he was ashamed that he still as yet had no real solid understanding of a Higher Power.
It's suggested in the 3rd of Boston AA's 12 Steps that you to turn your Deceased will over to the direction and love of 'God as you understand Him.'...
You get to make up your own understanding of God or a Higher Power or Whom-/Whatever. But Gately, at like ten months clean, at the TSBYSCD podium in Braintree, opines that at this juncture he's so totally clueless and lost he's thinking that he'd maybe rather have the White Flag Crocodiles just grab him by the lapels and just tell him what AA God to have an understanding of, and give him totally blunt and dogmatic orders about how to turn over Deceased will to whatever this Higher Power is... Publicly, in front of a very tough and hard-ass-looking AA crowd, he sort of simultaneously confesses and complains that he feels like a rat that's learned one route in the maze to the cheese and travels that route in a ratty-type fashion and whatnot. W/ the God thing being the cheese in the metaphor.

..when he kneels at other times and prays or meditates or tries to achieve a Big-Picture spiritual understanding of a God as he can understand Him, he feels Nothing - not nothing but Nothing, and edgeless blankness that somehow feels worst than the sort of unconsidered atheism he Came in with."

Darcy said...

I'll be very sad if he doesn't survive this. He's a favorite of mine.

Obviously, it's very important for him to make everyone understand that there will be no conversion to faith over his dying, if he does die. I find that terribly sad, but not surprising.

Mr. Hitchens, you have not dissuaded me from praying for you. And it's not terribly important to me that you know that. It's just part of who I am.

Lem said...

when Hitchens reads the passage..

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".

I'd imagine him thinking 'I know words.. OMG hes just words' ;)

Geoff Matthews said...

If Hitchens survival would suggest there is a God, I think he'd rather die.
His openness is his way of dealing with death. Some people choose religion, others choose narcissism, others choose (ad nauseaum). Its been apparent for some time that C Hitchens chose narcissism long ago. But that has given him the courage to slog on with death so apparent.

somefeller said...

There's no way for him to be on camera discussing this issue without it coming off as dramatic. The subject matter is inherently so. In fact, I'd say he's doing an excellent job of talking about this without being overly sentimental or maudlin.

traditionalguy said...

Like U S Grant, esophageal cancer will choke off his air supply. Breathing in and out is too much taken for granted. It is a great pleasure. The Choke Hold of esophageal cancer has Hitch now. Christianity says that all men are born into the earth clothed in a body of flesh that is a temporary tent, but that when it dies, then they will put on a spiritual body. That point of view also says the "Real Things" on this earth are temporary, but that the spiritual things are eternal. Watching the Turner classic Movies reminds me that all of the adult social order living in say 1933 is gone. That is only 77 years ago. Since the Resurrection of Jesus the Christ there has been a quick 27 cycles of 77 years. We never stay in charge around here for long.

jimspice said...

So absent a last minute conversion, I assume the resounding opinion around these parts is that Hitchens is headed for an eternity of teeth gnashing in a firey abyss? That's still the prevailing paradigm, right?

Scott said...

@Class factotum: That's the way to die.

It just galls me that funerals end up being family reunions where family and colleagues and friends you haven't seen in 15 years show up. That's all fine, but the person whose life you're celebrating is dead. Why don't we tell them how much we love and respect them before they die? It might help the decedent end their journey on a happier note.

Lem said...

So absent a last minute conversion, I assume the resounding opinion around these parts is that Hitchens is headed for an eternity of teeth gnashing in a firey abyss? That's still the prevailing paradigm, right?

Smarter and good looking folks from the Journolist spoke rhetorically..

Maybe they got the idea from the bible ;)

edutcher said...

jimspice said...

So absent a last minute conversion, I assume the resounding opinion around these parts is that Hitchens is headed for an eternity of teeth gnashing in a firey abyss? That's still the prevailing paradigm, right?

Only if he did bad things. Virtuous pagans, etc., went to Limbo, according to the Medieval (sp?) Catholics, and they were as absolutist as anyone.

Fred4Pres said...

I do not find Hitchens scary for exercising free will. I believe there is more and that life, and our existence, is not merely random chance.

But I question those of faith who lack any doubt. No doubt whatsoever? They are either being dishonest or delusional.

And I do hope and pray for his recovery. That he maintains his wit and humor and does not lose himself in the poisons he has to consume in the hope they destroy the cancer first.

As for Hitchens rejecting God:

"If a superior give any order to one who is under him which is against that man's conscience, although he do not obey it yet he shall not be dismissed."

Francis of Assisi

Francis even said he wished to create an order in the church for those who did not belive in God. Francis was an interesting man.

jr565 said...

In this case he should try some of the alternative treatments.WHat could it hurt? Worst case, he stays the same or gets worse, which is going to happen anyway.

They are doing some interesting tihings with cancer at some of the clinics outside the states, that might help prolong his life and potentially cure him.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Goodness knows, we're all dying.

Mark O said...

I will miss Hitchens for his clarity of thought. Although one may disagree with his conclusions, he gets to them clearly and not unreasonably.

Lem said...

Its a case of my faith having to be grater than his wits... in part because I wish I had his wits to favor the faith.

jr565 said...

Chris is one my favorite polemisicsts. When it comes to religion I think he can be overbearing, and something of a bully and extremely arrogant, traits I don't like. I nderstand where he's coming from but his atheism is as arrogant as he presupposes religions to be. And I think his religion bashing extends mostly to his own religion, or the religion he was weaned on, so there is a bit of a hyprocricy (though I'm sure he's mentioned a few other religions excesses).
Some of his bashing of people has been over the line, I thought (perhaps Mother Theresa didnt' deserve so much criticism) but on the other hand, when I agree with the bashing, I love reading Chris's slams as they are always erudite and welll spoken.
He was also so right on the war against radical islam and stuck to his guns on Iraq (which he was right to do and still is right) unlike some others (Andrew Sullivan) which earns my eternal respect.
As for the atheism vs. god issue. Who knows? If he dies he'll find out (or won't find out) one way or the other. THere's something to sticking to your guns to the bitter end, but on the other hand why not allow some faith into your life, as at the very least having faith is maintaining a positive attitude that things are going to work out. And in his condition that is the first thing he needs. If he is sure that he's going to die, then he's going to die. If he has faith then he may still die, but he may be able to fight a bit longer.

Fred4Pres said...

I guess my own beliefs are not challenged because others do not embrace them. None of us truly march in lock step, and thank goodness for that.

It would be damn boring.

Maybe that is hell.

Lem said...

Is chemo akin to when we used to bleed people in the hope of curing pneumonia or some such thing?

After all this time and effort you think we have this thing licked by now.

Lem said...

I'm with you Fred.

kathleen said...

of course they use Bob Dylan music as intro. By the time the last baby boomer dies, the primary association with Dylan's music will be the poignant struggles of boomer X with mortality by way cancer, alzheimers, etc.

kalmia said...
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kalmia said...
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Lem said...

kathleen's objection is sustained ;)

Next time use Air On the G String, BWV 1068 by Johann Sebastian Bach

oh wait.. Bach played for God.

chr1 said...

What may a man hope for?

I hope he keeps living, and I hope I don't die either, but I know that I will (did I always know this?). I know he is likely to die sooner, and that he is likely going through pain. I know that he did a lot of it to himself.

I think he has a bit of the Hemingway about him, going to extremes of risk to somehow prove that he is not a pussy.

A lot of writers and artists are like that. But that's a different debate.

I hope he lives as long as he can, and doesn't suffer too much pain.

Lem said...

Any atheist composers?

Irene said...

Lem said, "Is chemo akin to when we used to bleed people in the hope of curing pneumonia or some such thing?"

Sometimes, I think so.

Skipper50 said...

Perhaps he's just trying to sell more books for the good of his family/heirs. No sin in that.

kathleen said...

Interesting question, Lem, made more interesting by the fact that the history and development of classical music can be traced directly to the catholic mass.

ALP said...

The Hitch is very popular in our 2 person household. My partner, a devout anti-theist, had never heard of him until I bought him a copy of "God is Not Great". After reading it, he went so far as to proclaim that he LOVED this man - and he's a tough audience.

I have a copy of his "Letters to a Young Contrarian" - which I highly recommend even if you are not young. I read it every couple of years or so.

Finally, I will always treasure a specific set of Vanity Fair articles, in which he wrote about his spa experience in excruciating detail. A guy that gets a "back, crack and sack" wax and then writes about it is a national treasure in my book.

We will both be very sad when we lose him. Shit, I'm tearing up now.

Lem said...

Perhaps he's just trying to sell more books for the good of his family/heirs. No sin in that.

Tony Snow... its always the good ones.

Lem said...

Maybe his countryman Mick Jagger?

safe to assume he is probably not a believer.

they do mention him in one of the Atlantic videos.

Fred4Pres said...

And don't forget, Hitchens is fighting to save the women condemned in the post above.

Yet we are all facing a death sentance.

Oligonicella said...

Lem --

"Is chemo akin to when we used to bleed people in the hope of curing pneumonia or some such thing?"

I'd say yes, and current medical technologies which target the cancer itself instead of trying to nearly kill the entire body support my opinion.

The difference between getting an injection or taking a pill and going through the five years of chemo and ralfing daily for ten days then not for four will be incredible. And welcome.

El Pollo Real said...

Anybody know precisely to whom Hitchens is referring at the 7:00 min mark: the "group of people whose main interest is in the uncertainty principle"?

Thanks in advance!

ironrailsironweights said...

A guy that gets a "back, crack and sack" wax and then writes about it is a national treasure in my book.

Jesus Christ Almighty. I just vomited in my mouth.

Peter

Paulo Calil said...

It is shameful the way supposedly Christians are treating Hitchen's cancer. It seems as though he had no other option than to lock himself in a dark room and ask forgiveness for his god-denying, religion-bashing life (along with alcohol and tobacco excesses...).

The fact that someone faces the consequences of its acts and faces death without appealing to the intervention of the Almighty is alien to these people.

That he shows that in camera is preposterous for this mindset. One of the clear points he is trying to make in his much televised disease is that he is not converting, which is driving "Christians" nuts.

Had he accepted Christ as his savior, the "drama of dying of cancer on camera" would be given a completely different spin.

Well, that is most likely not going to happen.

As a Christian, I respect Hitchens for sticking to his guns, demonstrating the courage he had all his life (against dictatorships, for example). Courage, we must say, not shown in many instances by many who claim to be religious.

He, as each and everyone one of us, will pay for his deeds. I am sure Hitchens will be in kingdon of heaven long before some who say "Lord, Lord"....

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Not all chemo is torture. I had it for six months after colon cancer surgery. I understood it to be insurance against the stray malignant cell that the surgery didn't get. A couple of hours once a week was all it took. I would be tired the rest of that day, and it made my fingernails brittle, but that is the worst I can say about it. Nine and a half years later everything is still clear, knock wood.

The Crack Emcee said...

rhhardin,

"Karen L. Kleinfelder says an aged Picasso suddenly lost interest in his models when he came to terms with his mortality."

I've pretty much lost interest in women since I came to terms with NewAge, so there might be something to that.

Delusional thinking ain't sexy.

The Crack Emcee said...

Eric,

"Hitchens has taken some honest intellectual positions over the years, but he just can't help being a jerk sometimes. There's a certain amount of schadenfreude at play here, even if nobody wants to admit it."

Yea, and the rest of them - with their adultery and murder and lying and cheating and criminality and cowardice - have just been stellar. What's that? Bill Clinton called and said Minica was just a crazy woman and he never touched her - again? Riiiight. And now he's walking the world stage and no one ever, ever, ever boos him because if it was their daughter that the President of the United States defined as a walking blowjob they'd be fine with that? Even the so-called "feminists" that won't shut up about even the most superficial shit?

Yea, they've all got so much to feel superior about when a truth-teller dies.

The scum. Jackals. Laughing hyenas. Or, as the Christians say, the Devil's playthings.

The Crack Emcee said...

Geoff Matthews,

"If Hitchens survival would suggest there is a God, I think he'd rather die.

His openness is his way of dealing with death. Some people choose religion, others choose narcissism, others choose (ad nauseaum). Its been apparent for some time that C Hitchens chose narcissism long ago. But that has given him the courage to slog on with death so apparent."


That's a shameful thing to say. The man hasn't "found" God - which is as much God's fault as anyones.


So much for your omnipotent being.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tyrone Slothrop,

"Goodness knows, we're all dying."

No, the true narcassists are gonna live forever with the big guy.

Don't fuck up the narrative. Jerk.

The Crack Emcee said...

jr565,

"In this case he should try some of the alternative treatments.WHat could it hurt? Worst case, he stays the same or gets worse, which is going to happen anyway."

You need to check out the website called "What's the harm?" and shut up.

John said...

"Because it scares/offends some people that an atheist might actually not believe."

No. It just makes us sad for him. He is going off into the abyss when he could be going off to be with the God he has rejected.

John said...

"The man hasn't "found" God - which is as much God's fault as anyones."

It is not God's responsibility. He is everywhere. You just have to listen. At some point people are responsible for their fates no matter how sad and avoidable they are.

Fred4Pres said...

I just want Hitch to get thorugh this and stay around a while. As far as those alternative treatments go...it didn't save Steve McQueen and it did not save Andy Kaufman.

Western Science is obviously not fool proof, but barring miracles (be they be because of God, a quirk in your genetic immune system, postively etc.) objectively it is the only real game in town.

Betting on miracles in cancer treatment is like betting on the lottery for your retirement. Yeah, you can win. You might end up disappointed.

James said...
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James said...

On all conservative sites, I see people making the "There are no atheists in foxholes/cancer wards," or something along the lines of Pascal's Wager. Utterly classless people. At one of the lowest moments of his life, people can't just wish him well and pray that he gets better. No, that would be too nice of them. They have to make sure that he and everyone else knows they think his atheism is wrong and wish that he changes his entire worldview simply because he is dying.

It's like an atheist walking up to a believer who just lost a loved one or was diagnosed with a terrible disease, and going "Wow, where is your God now? He sure is merciful and just, isn't he?" Sometimes, it's not the place for religious/political rhetoric. Just wish the man well (or don't), and leave the evangelizing for another time

Darcy said...

Christians are praying for him and wishing him well. Nothing more.

Terrible treatment!

AC245 said...

Utterly classless people. At one of the lowest moments of his life, people can't just wish him well and pray that he gets better. No, that would be too nice of them.

In the entirety of your utterly classless sermon on how people should behave, James, at no point did you manage to wish for Hitchens to get well. Weird.


Much like the last thread on this topic, this thread has an awful lot of sanctimonious atheist douchenozzles bitching about how badly they imagine believers will act, but a pronounced dearth of believers who have acted anything like their stereotypes.

James said...

Yes, I have to wish him well constantly, and on the Althouse Blog, in order for me to really hope he gets better. The thing about prayers - they're supposed to be private. But with a lot of people, they need to pray publicly, and pray for more than just the recovery of the man to show how much holier than thou they really are.

And my post wasn't even really directed at the commentors of this post. I don't see too much of the crap in this thread, with the exception of edutcher's first comment. Mainly, it's places like HotAir. No one bats an eye when they evangelize to these people dealing with terrible circumstances, but if an atheist were to do the opposite to a believer, i.e. "Why would your God give you cancer/take away your loved one? I hope you realize there is no God now" we would have a shitstorm of epic proportions against the atheist.

Alex said...

Hitch will be begging for Jesus soon enough.

James said...

OK, I can't remember because I'm not here enough, but Alex is a troll, right?

WV: alkie - very appropriate

MPH said...

"God Bless You" - isn't that a presumptuous notion?

Michael McNeil said...
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Michael McNeil said...

After all this time and effort you think we have this thing licked by now.

Cancer is an extremely capable opponent — and hardly monolithic; there's great variation in how cancers get started and propogate themselves.

One might equally well ask: why is there still infectious disease, many decades after the discovery of antibiotics? The answer of course is that bacterial diseases evolve in response to their environment, and when that environment presents them with challenges like antibiotics, such diseases evolve resistance and immunity to those antibiotics. (My own father died from just such an antibiotic-resistant infection a decade ago.)

In the case of cancer, the situation is pretty much the same. One must understand that (as a recent article on the decipherment of the cancer genome in the journal Nature put it): “Cancer is an evolutionary process.” As that article says:

“All cancers are thought to share a common pathogenesis. Each is the outcome of a process of Darwinian evolution occurring among cell populations within the microenvironments provided by the tissues of a multicellular organism. Analogous to Darwinian evolution occurring in the origins of species, cancer development is based on two constituent processes, the continuous acquisition of heritable genetic variation in individual cells by more-or-less random mutation and natural selection acting on the resultant phenotypic diversity.

“The selection may weed out cells that have acquired deleterious mutations or it may foster cells carrying alterations that confer the capability to proliferate and survive more effectively than their neighbours. Within an adult human there are probably thousands of minor winners of this ongoing competition, most of which have limited abnormal growth potential and are invisible or manifest as common benign growths such as skin moles. Occasionally, however, a single cell acquires a sufficiently advantageous set of mutations that allows it to proliferate autonomously, invade tissues and metastasize.”

Thus, being the consequence of an evolutionary process, cancers simply evolve away from attempted treatments, and unless such a treatment manages to extinguish every last cell of a given cancerous lineage, the surviving cells will likely evolve resistance to it in exactly the same way as bacterial diseases have evolved immunity to antibiotics. (Yes, those cancerous cells will eventually die when their host expires as a result of the tumor(s), but that is a much later development than the free-for-all evolutionary struggle that occurs prior to that ultimate end stage.)

However, it can even occur on rare occasion that a cancerous lineage does not get wiped out along with its host! As it happens there is a variety of cancer in dogs known as canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT), also called Sticker's sarcoma, which, rather than being viral in nature as most infectious cancers are, actually consists of the mutated cells of the dog that originally developed that variety of cancer, in the course of which somehow evolving the capability to escape from and survive its host, infecting other dogs thereafter in an endless chain, and thus as a result long outliving its progenitor.

Even more ordinary cancers that never manage to escape and live free of their host are remarkable instances of the body's constituent cells (or rebel lineages of them) learning via evolution how to disobey the body's regulatory apparatus — in effect raising the “jolly roger,” taking up a life of independent piracy within the host body, perhaps in the end by their free-wheeling activities killing off their formerly allied-to host.

Michael McNeil said...
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Michael McNeil said...
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AC245 said...

James, you continue to be boring, a liar, and unconvincing in your attempts to hand-wave away inconvenient facts.

Michael McNeil said...

Sorry for the multiple postings. Google kept telling me that posting had failed, so I kept trying again and again. Here, by the way, are the references for that earlier posting.


References:

Michael R. Stratton, Peter J. Campbell, P. Andrew Futreal, “The Cancer Genome,” Nature, Vol. 458, Issue No. 7239 (9 April 2009), pp. 719-724.

Carl Zimmer, “A Dead Dog Lives On (Inside New Dogs),“ The Loom, August 9, 2006.

James said...

AC - and your only response to people you disagree with continues to be calling them "boring liars," which in itself is extremely boring.

What facts am I waving away? The fact that I didn't wish Hitchens well in my post? Guess I'm a horrible person if I don't include my hope that he recovers in every single post on every single blog I write in.

Man, just responding to you is getting boring.

James said...

And of course, your typical strategy of ignoring the point of my post, in order to point out some perceived flaw that has nothing to do with the point, then call me a "liar" when I have not lied in any way.

Good deflecting tactic, but as you would say, extremely boring.

Peano said...

Ann said: Christopher Hitchens has, it seems, decided to perform the drama of dying of cancer on camera, ...

What a remarkably ungenerous remark.

... being interviewed by whatever media people are willing to step up and ask him how does it feel.

Hitchens has given, what, two or three interviews. And from that, you conclude he will grant interviews to "whatever media people" are willing to ask?

If you think your inductive reasoning is sound, let's try this application of it: You've had sex with (at least) two or three men in your life. May we conclude that you will have sex with anyone willing to step up and ask for a toss?

James said...

Not to mention that the whole "No atheists in foxholes/cancer wards" is such a BS argument. Yes, a dying/desperate person may wish that there was a magical deity to save him, or that they could continue living on after death and meet all their loved ones. This doesn't make it any more legitimate, and it certainly doesn't mean that the desperate person actually believes in anything. As an atheist, do I wish there was a great God, and an afterlife where I could meet up with all the people I have loved? Certainly. That would be fantastic. My wishes or hopes don't make it any more believable to me. If you do believe in it, good for you.

As Hitch put it in his interview with Anderson Cooper, sure, at some point, when he is delirious from the pain/medication and clinging to the last bit of life left in him, you may get some sort of deathbed conversion/prayer out of him. (And I'm sure that many people would hold that up as some kind of trophy, "See, even Hitchens prayed to God before he died!!" much as they still do the bogus story of Darwin's deathbed conversion) But as long as he is capable of lucid thought, there is no way.

jr565 said...

Crack Emcee:
"In this case he should try some of the alternative treatments.WHat could it hurt? Worst case, he stays the same or gets worse, which is going to happen anyway."

You need to check out the website called "What's the harm?" and shut up.


Not every aliternative treatiment is crackpot. Yes, a lot of them are and usually you can tell pretty quickly which ones are bogus (usually if they involve magnets and/or crystals they are bogus). But there are many treatments that show promise with things like cancer or diabetes or heart disease. For example, they just came out with a study about statins which suggested they did nothing to stop heart disease and caused additional harm to the body. My doctor, who is a real doctor, suggests that rather than taking statins one should take fish oil, and niacin and various other VITAMINS that are normally the perview of the alternative crowd. Also, don't forget that things like aspirin which everyone says is real part of mainstream medicine is derived from plants:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_aspirin

Things like nutrition are generally ignored by many doctors,and hat is more of an alternative school. Yet who would say that nutrition plays no role in health.
So, my attitude is to find doctors who are both board certified as doctors, but who also are ialso trained in some of the alternative approaches as well.
Again, take everytying with a grain of salt, but also remember, that a lot of what is considered traditional medicine was at one time laughed off as quackery.

tamsf said...

Christopher's younger brother Peter is also a well known essayist. He is, to the best of my knowledge, a devout christian. So add sibling rivalry as another obstacle to conversion.

And, of course, by maintaining his public face, he makes it even more difficult to listen to whatever voice(s) God may be using to try to speak to him.

Remember that pride was the original sin. And a public conversion, no matter what the reasoning behind it, would require him to publicly swallow a whole lot of his pride.

Oligonicella said...

John --

"No. It just makes us sad for him. He is going off into the abyss when he could be going off to be with the God he has rejected."

Your response doesn't make sense in that mine was a response to "Why do I get the feeling everybody is expecting him to realize there are no non-believers in foxholes?". Emph mine.

In other words, come to the realization that he was wrong.

Those people, he scares or offends.

Alex said...

According to Christians, every person will get to see Jesus at their moment of death and get one final chance to join his heavenly kingdom or be sent to the abyss.

Roman said...

One of my many faults is: I do not value the thoughts of someone who has no doubt of the existence of a Supreme Being. At least be an agnostic, to be so sure of something with so many consequences, to me, off-putting.

mtrobertsattorney said...

All this talk about going to hell reminds me of a remark I once heard from some Jesuit:

"The door to hell is locked from the inside."

Pastafarian said...

Althouse said: "Christopher Hitchens has, it seems, decided to perform the drama of dying of cancer on camera, being interviewed by whatever media people are willing to step up and ask him how does it feel..."

I don't understand the critical tone here.

The man's dying, and he's facing it with dignity. Maybe I'm misinterpreting your tone, but the way I read it, you'd prefer that he crawl off into a cave somewhere to die, so that you don't have to look at his hairless and withered form.

Or is it his continued atheism that you don't want to see? That doesn't seem very Althousian.

Seriously, clue me in here. What am I missing?

His answers to the questions put to him seemed perfectly unobjectionable -- he appreciates prayers, as long as they're for his recovery and not his demise, or conversion; and he answers with some grace and humility the question of whether he might have some deathbed conversion.

As much as I hate to see the man die, I don't mind at all that he's choosing to remain in the public eye. He's setting a good example. He's showing people how a skeptic can face death.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I try to live and let live regarding other peoples' religious beliefs, or lack of them. It's always personal, and it's never rational. That goes for the atheists as well as the religious. Atheists demand proof of the existence of a deity. The religious never seem to demand proof from atheists.

That said, I guess I have to join one camp or the other, right? Instead I will sit on the fence. A Zen koan compares us to tadpoles swimming in a pond. Becoming a frog is inevitable, but no matter how hard we try we can't imagine what it is like to be a frog. I think it is OK to be a tadpole.

Fred4Pres said...

jr565,

Obviously eating well, good nutrition, and supplements are a good way to avoid cancer. Not all alternative treatments are completely bogus, but almost all of them are limited.

Once you have advanced cancer like Hitchens has, you really do not have a lot of options in avoiding chemo.

Again, I pray, wish, hope for his speedy recovery.

Sixty Grit said...

Lem - AA? You cannot be serious!

William said...

Give a child a choice between a lollipop right now or two lollipops in an hour. The child with divorced parents will opt for immediate gratification; the child from a stable family will hold out for the two lollipops. God is the ultimate lollipop. People who have endured a great deal of betrayal, abandonment, neglect, and abuse early in their life find it hard to conceptualize a benign deity......Atheism wasn't Hitchens' deepest belief. He believed in stylish dissolution and partaked of the sacraments of liquor and cigarettes with fervent devotion. I wonder if he's rethinking those values now. At any rate, his urbane defense of atheism allows him to strike one more heroic pose before his cells mutate into chaos. I don't knock him for his atheism. It didn't kill him. But if he wishes to find meaning in his last struggle, he might want to post a warning about the excesses of booze and nicotine.

Lem said...

@4:58 Thank you Michael McNeil..

The quotes you have given me while making sense.. also makes the "battle" at hand almost seem insurmountable.. I say almost because to deny that would be akin to giving up.. and I don't think we should ever give up.

It also looks as if the promise of the Genome project (while a necessary first step) was oversold.

wv - smater .. yes we are not smart enough to beat cancer.. at least not yet.

Lem said...

Lem - AA? You cannot be serious!

I'm not a subscriber no..

Lem said...

Pastafarian by making what you call a "critical tone" Althouse is, if only secondarily, acquiescing to Hitchens wishes.

I think we should admire that.

Paul said...

Mark O said...
I will miss Hitchens for his clarity of thought.


I still don't understand why he was against the Bush I's war, but supported Bush II's war. Has he ever explained that? I have to admit I got tired of reading him a couple of years ago so I might have missed it.

The Crack Emcee said...

John,

"He is going off into the abyss when he could be going off to be with the God he has rejected."

Who said he rejected anything? Don't you understand what "God doesn't exist" means? That's not rejection but a statement of fact.

The Crack Emcee said...

John,

"It is not God's responsibility. He is everywhere. You just have to listen."

Funny, Mr. Everywhere just got me to listen to the True Sound of Liberty's "Code Blue" - a great punk song about necrophelia.

He sure does work in mysterious ways.

The Crack Emcee said...

AC245,

"In the entirety of your utterly classless sermon on how people should behave, James, at no point did you manage to wish for Hitchens to get well. Weird."

Not really: atheists don't do wishes.

Do you even know what atheism is?

The Crack Emcee said...

Pasta,

"His answers to the questions put to him seemed perfectly unobjectionable -- he appreciates prayers, as long as they're for his recovery and not his demise, or conversion; and he answers with some grace and humility the question of whether he might have some deathbed conversion.

As much as I hate to see the man die, I don't mind at all that he's choosing to remain in the public eye. He's setting a good example. He's showing people how a skeptic can face death."


Not in this loony bin - you gotta join the delusional army or else you're scum. People who have never witnessed a shred of God in their lives - the "fools for Christ" and all the rest - demand you join religiously sexy Prince, with his dick out, saying "Let's go crazy!" before they'll ever accept maturity about anything.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tyrone Slothrop,

"I try to live and let live regarding other peoples' religious beliefs, or lack of them. It's always personal, and it's never rational. That goes for the atheists as well as the religious. Atheists demand proof of the existence of a deity. The religious never seem to demand proof from atheists."

Winner for illogical statement of the thread. There's nothing for an atheist to prove. All the weight is on the believer who refuses to concede that belief ain't worth dick - especially all the hot air they spew on the subject.

The Crack Emcee said...

Fred4Prez,

'Obviously eating well, good nutrition, and supplements are a good way to avoid cancer. Not all alternative treatments are completely bogus, but almost all of them are limited.

Once you have advanced cancer like Hitchens has, you really do not have a lot of options in avoiding chemo."


Are you kidding? These fools aren't happy unless you go out blowing your family's money on quackery, con men, and crooks - and then letting those crooks use that money to fund even more misery - or does anyone still buy the NewAge vision of unicorns coupled with Andrew "Uri Gellar is real" Weil's integrity?

The Crack Emcee said...

William,

"Atheism wasn't Hitchens' deepest belief. He believed in stylish dissolution and partaked of the sacraments of liquor and cigarettes with fervent devotion. I wonder if he's rethinking those values now."

I can't speak for Hitch (I only met him once) but I don't buy any of that shit. People seem to think that just because we can now name what kills us (cancer) that makes it worse or how we lived our lives "bad". It doesn't. We are born to die, don't you guys get that?

Elizabeth Edwards has breast cancer - what do you say to her clean living ass? Nothing. What do you say to the person in a car accident? Slipping in the bath tub? Nothing. You shouldn't be saying shit to Hitch either:

Death comes for everyone.

Michael McNeil said...

Lem said:
@4:58 Thank you Michael McNeil..

The quotes you have given me while making sense.. also makes the “battle” at hand almost seem insurmountable.. I say almost because to deny that would be akin to giving up.. and I don't think we should ever give up.

It also looks as if the promise of the Genome project (while a necessary first step) was oversold.


Thanks, Lem. Concerning the human genome project, I agree that perhaps expectations of enormous immediate benefits were too high, but the longer-term beneficial consequences will be tremendous. The article I pointed to discussing decipherment of the varieties of cancer genomes is just one aspect of this. Once we know in detail precisely how cancer functions in all its multitudinous, multifaceted forms, then there are undoubtedly any number of ways that it can be attacked — and with far greater efficacy than the old basically trial and error approach to finding new drugs and treatments that we've hitherto depended on. In the future we'll be able to plan out treatments and drugs based on an intimate understanding of just what it is we're seeking to do.

I'm reminded of a Scientific American article I encountered as a teenager (which was actually a pretty mundane piece about the cycles of air and water) — but I was struck by a diagram therein showing those cycles not in the usual manner of circles and arrows looping from the air into the sea and back out again — instead presenting the system as a chemical factory: a complexity of boilers, condensers, connecting pipes, and control points — together with the annotation (which has remained with me ever since): “Notice the large number of valves and switches.”

Well, biological organisms, including single-celled ones such as cancer cells, are just such factories — and when we (almost) fully understand in detail just how they operate (which the ongoing biological revolution including the genome decipherment project are presently revealing to us), then we'll be able to just turn a dial here, twiddle a valve there — and what had heretofore been an appalling menace will jump to attention, salute, and ask: “What are your orders, master?”

There was a story in the science fiction magazine Analog that I read at an even younger age (can't recall the author or title, sorry), in which the characters were enthusing to each other about the present (to them) highly developed technology of organ and (lost) limb regeneration. One fellow, however, then frowns and says (paraphrased from memory): “But wasn't there something about it that used to be frightening… and dangerous?”

The other person then pauses thoughtfully, and replies: “Yes, there was. Before we got it fully under control and made it serve us, it used to run wild, killing people — and we called it… cancer.”

(If anybody here recalls the name of that story, and its author, I'd appreciate you letting me know.)

Tyrone Slothrop said...

The Crack Emcee said...

Winner for illogical statement of the thread.


OK.

(1)Provide a citation of a religious person demanding proof of the non-existence of a deity from an atheist.

(2)Failing that, prove to me there is no deity.

You won't be able to do either one. What you don't like is the implication that you might be the irrational one. Atheists are always short on humility.

The Crack Emcee said...

Tyrone Slothrop,

"(1) Provide a citation of a religious person demanding proof of the non-existence of a deity from an atheist."

Damn, you can be thick: there will be no citation because even believers know it's not up to the atheist to provide such evidence - it's up to the believers. They are the ones saying there's something here, or out there, that no one in the history of mankind has ever seen.

"(2) Failing that, prove to me there is no deity."

What part of "no one in the history of mankind has ever seen" don't you understand? It's just talk.

"You won't be able to do either one. What you don't like is the implication that you might be the irrational one. Atheists are always short on humility."

Dude, if accepting reality - as it is - is irrational, then I'm guilty as charged.

And yea, as far as humility goes, not only am I not shooting for it - I ain't no Buddha-loving NewAge puss: I'm an American in the land of the free and thew home of the brave - you can't even start to imagine how big my head is.

I'll leave the humility and being humble to the mediocre types and those with talent who come by it naturally. I've been around long enough to know that any demand, by someone like you, to control my behavior is nothing more than you exhibiting your own sense of control over others - a control you'll NEVER have over me.

Now take your guru bullshit to somebody weak-minded enough to think you're wise.

Kirby Olson said...

I liked his book on Orwell. Orwell has some passages where he almost accepts God, or at least accepts Christians, and Hitchens presented them somewhat fairly. It's weird to see him go to pieces so quickly, but he said on Tv the other night that he chain-smoked and drank heavy liquor for years, and now he has to pay the piper.

Sartre admitted that he believed in God in his last book, Hope Now. Maybe Hitchens will have a conversion of some sort, too, as he faces infinity.

The Crack Emcee said...

Kirby Olsen,

"Maybe Hitchens will have a conversion of some sort, too, as he faces infinity."

What was life like, for you, before you were born? What is it like when you're asleep and don't dream? That's fucking death, my friend.

To keep imagining some other existence after this is where believers do their worst reasoning. We're animals, and we die just like fucking animals. Kill a fly. Has he/she gone to Heaven or Hell? No, it's just dead.

Exit question: can anybody give me a scenario that justifies a fly going to Hell?

Tyrone Slothrop said...

@Crack Emcee

Talk about dumb. If I had a pig as stupid as you, I'd be afraid to eat him. It might be catching.

I don't even begin to see why the burden of proof is on me, and the fact that you can't even mount an argument means you are one dumb motherfucker.

Miles White said...

I seriously hope Hitchens gets better. Though I will not pray to him because that's a waste of time. Religious people are the ones that ought to be in the "fox holes", because they can't tell which religion is the right one to convert to. To me, the logical position has always been:

"well, I wasted my life being religious. I have a 1/9, possibly less, chance of getting my religion right and I have come no closer toward proving it. This is a stupid waste of time. To hell with it."

The responsibility of validation is on the religionists shoulders, not the atheist.

Get well soon Christopher. It would be a fatal blow to contemporary intelligentsia without you.

sonicfrog said...

"Is chemo akin to when we used to bleed people in the hope of curing pneumonia or some such thing?"

No, because unlike bloodletting, chemo sometimes, you know, works.

Michael McNeil said...

Drinking hard liquor and smoking heavily are a particularly bad double whammy because the smoking exposes body cells to mutagens which mutate cells in random directions (providing one half of the two required elements of evolution) while the ethanol kills esophageal tissues, necessitating that its cells divide rapidly in order to heal the damage. Rapid reproduction of mutated cells provides an ideal environment for the multiple cell-generation evolutionary struggle (natural selection, the other element of evolution) referred to before that can result in the emergence of a cancerous cell line.