Heaven can wait


Christopher Hitchens, Washington Monthly

At the end, the manner of my “passing,” as the pious so delicately refer to death, was as much a disappointment to the dewy-eyed acolytes of god-worship as it was to me, although for rather different reasons. For more than a year after I publicly announced in June 2010 that I would begin chemotherapy for esophageal cancer, the stupidest of the faithful either gloated on their subliterate Web sites that my illness was a sign of “God’s revenge” for having blasphemed their Lord and Master, or prayed that I would abandon my contempt for their nonsensical beliefs by undergoing a deathbed conversion.

The vulgarity of the idea that a vengeful deity would somehow stoop to inflicting a cancer on me still boggles the mind, especially in the face of the ready explanation supplied for my illness by my long, happy, and prodigious career as a smoker of cigarettes and drinker of spirits.

As for that longed-for conversion, it never came, despite the fervent wishes of such clerical mountebanks as the Reverend Rick Warren. Said reverend, who portrayed himself as my “friend” while consigning homosexuals and nonbelievers to one of Dante’s outer circles of Hell, proclaimed with the arrogant surety of the devout: “I loved & prayed for him constantly & grieve his loss. He knows the Truth now.”Indeed I do, and much better than he.

Albert Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for his part, did not fail to use my death as an opportunity to stoke the fear of damnation among the credulous. Having somehow managed to evolve the thumbs needed to “tweet” his followers on his BlackBerry, he declared that my end—as if death were not a natural process common to all mammals—was “an excruciating reminder of the consequences of unbelief,” while observing with the religionist’s usual condescension that my “brilliance & eloquence” will not matter “in the world to come.”

How would he know?

Indeed. Read the full after-death experience from Hitchens in the Washington Monthly as he passes from this world to the …