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Christopher Hitchens’s stalwart atheism

Hitchens concedes that not believing in an afterlife makes the thought of death more difficult to accept.

Christopher Hitchens’s battle with cancer has not shaken his atheism, said Mick Brown in the London Telegraph. The contrarian writer, 62, is now dealing with “stage four” esophageal cancer. “And the thing to note about stage four,” he says, “is that there’s no stage five.” Hitchens does not believe in an afterlife, and that, he concedes, makes the thought of death even more difficult to accept.

“It’s more that you’re at the party and you’re tapped on the shoulder and told you have to leave,” says Hitchens. “The party is still going on, but it’s going on without you. And even people who swear to remember you are really not going to do so.” On the other hand, he says, heaven sounds like an even worse prospect. “You get tapped on the shoulder, but guess what? The party’s going on forever; you have to stay. And not only that, but you have to have a good time—the boss says so.” He shudders at the thought. “Anything eternal is probably intolerable.”

And although the atheist position may be bleak, at least, says Hitchens, it’s courageous. “We don’t want to be annihilated. We just think that the overall likelihood is that we rejoin the molecular cycle when we die. We don’t wish it to be true, but we face it.”

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