120 thoughts on “Bummer

    1. Why? So you ghouls can make up another deathbed conversion story to prop up your myths in the absence of actual evidence?

    2. Not here, and not now.

      This is not my website, and like you, Daniel, I’m a guest here, so it is not my place to ask you to go away. But still. Please go away.

    3. I normally refrain from swearing at idiots. But obnoxious religious jerks gain an exception at times like this.

      F*** off, Daniel.

    4. Hear me, o Hitchens!

      I beseech thee, bring enlightenment and wisdom — or, at least, the intelligence of a feral radish — to the mortal mind known here as “Daniel.” Help him to learn the folly of his fantasies and disabuse him of the notion that if you really, really, really want something to happen then it magically will. Teach him manners so that he might know that it’s fucking rude to projectile vomit his Jesus over a collection of rationalists.

      Or, just have a chuckle at his expense. Your call.

      In Coyne’s name we prey,

      “Say when.”



    5. I think it may have been Hitch himself (can’t remember) who wondered what the reaction of theists would be if an atheist were to pester an ill person, trying to get them to convert when they were at their weakest? Why do you think it acceptable to spout your nonsense at this time. FOAD.

    6. Anybody visit Daniel’s blog? I just did a 2 min. scan and it is canard- and misconception- city. My favorite being that I saw him refer to our requiring “faith” to understand the universe. As if “faith” is only second-best, some sort of weakened state. What does that say about your OWN faith, Daniel???

      “Describing where the universe came from is like using what’s in a box to describe the box.”

      You mean the way theologians try to use the Bible to prove the truth of the Bible????

    7. Seriously passive-aggressive.

      It obviously has no effect on Hitchens one way or the other – the prayer and the announcement of it here. It’s meant to influence readers here in some way. In what way? Admiration? Conversion? Remorse? None are at all likely, as Daniel must realize.

      So it’s just what it looks like: a smug taunt.

      Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Matt 6:3.

        1. @yokohamamama
          I love myself and my nature. It has taken many years but has brought me to awareness of minds greater, like Christopher’s. I dread the loss of light.
          Robert Esrada

    8. You know, what I find surprisingly annoying about this comment is that I happen to know many Christians (“some of my best friends/closest family members”, etc.) who help people out in tangible ways, and the thing is, you might never even know about it, because unlike our friend Daniel here, they’re not in the habit of announcing it to the world.

      F@cking self-aggrandizing douche, go DIAF.

      1. @phil65
        I also base my opinions of people on their actions in life. It is the only meanfull measure.
        Robert Estrada

    9. “… come[s] to the Saviour?” In other words, you’re fine with Christopher Hitchens dying so long as he first betrays his life’s work by surrendering his own mind.

      Well Daniel, I sincerely hope YOU will come to the Truth: Your God is nothing more than a mental construct; a wretched ghost in your mind, wrought by cultural indoctrination and systematic self-projection. It has exactly as much (or rather, as little) power to help Hitchens – or anyone else – as you do.

      Prayer is a way to deceive yourself that you’re helping while you’re actually indulging in an idle act of narcissism. This conceit is nauseating enough at any time, but especially contemptible when the wish expressed is to exploit and debase a dying man.

      Speaking of which, the doctrine of afterlife is a sinister notion to hijack the one life we KNOW we have on the promise of a life NOBODY could know. Whether you realise it or not, your wish was a call for deceit and fraud.

      The only “saviour” that’s ever helped someone in Hitchens’ dreaded position is the application of medical science. If you truly want to help lift some of this dread from this world – i.e. the REAL world – then consider donating to a cancer research fund.

      1. What J.R. said. I wish my intent/wishes could alter reality,but they cannot I must live here and work for he best.
        Robert Estrada

    10. Just think, if only it was a few centuries ago then you wouldn’t have to hope and pray. You could just turn him over to the Inquisition and they’d torture him into accepting Jesus.

    11. In what deluded mind / insane world is it appropriate to say something like this at a time like this?! Sentiments like yours serve only to remind us just how much the world’s religions sanction cruelty, insensitivity, and a complete and utter lack of compassion for fellow beings in a way that no other set of beliefs does. Religion truly does poison everthing. You can’t even wish someone well who is seriously ill.

      I sincerely hope (though I don’t pray) that you fuck off.

    1. I’ve prayed for many people throughout the years. I don’t pray for this man because he’ a target. I pray because I care. I only want good to come to him, and I pray to that end.

      1. I’m sure I can write this on behalf of most, if not all of the regulars here:

        If you’re so hellbent on praying for us, you should be prepared for us to think for you.



      2. Nice sentiment. I kindly suggest that you examine your thoughts to find more effective (tangible) ways to positively affect those you care about.

      3. If that makes you happy or satisfied to pray for people then so be it.
        Tell us, though, why the need to come onto a site like this to inform us atheists that you are praying?
        Isn’t there some Christian admonishment against proclaiming your prayers in public?

      4. …and I’ve not-prayed for perhaps billions of people everywhere and throughout the world for decades.

        Same outcome.

        Seriously. Exact same outcome.

        1. I’m preying on a chicken as I type this. I think it safe to assume that the net effect for the chicken isn’t exactly what it would have wanted.

          “Be careful what you ask for.”



      5. Perhaps you pray because you care, but why not pray that he gets better, rather than that he converts to something non-atheist?

        Hitchens is perfectly fine with people praying for him to get better, but I doubt he’d be enthused about you praying for him to come to the ‘Savior’. Your intentions may be perfectly admirable, but it still smacks of ghoulishness, and hoping that this man, in spite of crushing all comers in religious debates, will fall and submit to some divinity, thus proving you right in the end.

        1. If there were a savior, he’d be going, “Oh, no, no. Not him! Keep this guy away from me! Sorry, I’m busy! Uh, consider the lily…”

        2. Seconded. Implicit in this particular prayer are (at least!) two instances of Xian ghoulishness:
          1. that he converts rather than that he gets better, thus completely ignoring real human suffering;
          2. that if he doesn’t do (1), he faces eternal suffering (because God is… good?).
          Whether or not coming to the saviour is, to Daniel, the ultimate form of getting better, this ain’t care as I see it. It’s the complete opposite.

      6. Daniel,

        Some may feel that the sentiment to pray for someone sufficiently expresses the genuine desire some individuals have to offer help, comfort, and sympathy in times of duress.

        Here are some reasons why both praying for someone, and expressing the intent to pray for someone, are problematic:

        1) Prayer isn’t efficacious. This reason is the kind of thing that makes for a potentially long discussion between atheists and those who believe, but there’s no evidence to suggest that prayer actually has any affect on circumstances in the universe, beyond the possibility (not probability) of some ([i]some![/i]) psychological comfort some ([i]some![/i]) people may feel. So praying isn’t doing anything to assist the person in crisis. Announcing the intent to pray is, essentially, announcing the intent to do nothing for the person in crisis.

        2) Genuine intention aside, it can be very challenging to discern whether the annunciation of prayer is more about drawing attention to the person praying (since it has no efficacy) than it is about comforting the afflicted.

        3) With regard to psychological or emotional experience, consider how you as a Christian (the “Savior” you reference strongly implies to me one of the numerous branches of Christianity; if I am wrong, I apologize for my error) would feel in relation to the following scenarios. Scenario 1: you are suffering some ill circumstance, and a devout Muslim approaches you and says, “I see you suffering and wish to help. I will pray for you.” How do you feel?

        Keep in mind that you believe (assuming my presumption of your Christian affiliation is correct) that there is one god (who apparently had a son, who’s also god, but there’s still only one god, and the son isn’t independent of the father except in the circumstances where he is independent except that he isn’t). Setting aside the anthropological, historical, and geo-cultural evidence we now have that Allah and Yaweh and Jesus – as concepts devised by human imagination – are essentially coterminous in geo-cultural origin (if not in time), you believe there there is only one god, and that god is Yaweh/Jehovah/Jesus. So the Muslim who wants to do something nice for you is going to go pray to a god that [i]does not exist[/i]. What is particularly interesting about this is that the Muslim believes exactly the same thing you do: [i]there is only one god[/i] (and apparently his prophet was Mohammed)! So from your understanding, the Muslim is going to pray to a god that doesn’t exist. From the Muslim’s perspective, the Muslim is going to pray to the only god that does exist on behalf of the poor suffering individual who believes in a god [i]that does not exist[/i]. The Muslim genuinely wants to help you in your crisis, but you know that the prayer the Muslim will offer goes to a god that does not exist. How do you feel?

        Scenario 2: This scenario is a variant on scenario 1. You are suffering some ill circumstance, and a devout believer approaches you and says, “I see you suffering and wish to help. I will try to appease the universe so that you may find comfort and help. I will take a living human captive to the stone altar, and using a stone knife I will cut the living human open and remove that person’s heart, laying it aside in honor of he who is the boundary between earth and sky and who is the life-giver, that your suffering may not continue.” How do you feel? Setting aside the horrific blood ritual component of this scenario, how is the stated intent of this other devout character any different from your own expression to pray for someone? Both conditions anthropomorphize the universe and suggest that the universe can thus be appeased in time of suffering. Now that the Aztec has made a generous ovation to perform a profoundly sacred ritual on your behalf, how do you feel?

        If you want to do something, may I suggest something that actually has efficacy in reality? Donate time or money to a cancer research organization in Hitchen’s name (or in someone else’s name, or not in anyone’s name at all). Volunteer among sufferers of cancer to read to them, talk with them, run errands for them, cook a meal for them, write them a letter with words of encouragement. Do something that is observable in the universe. Next time you see someone suffering, instead of telling them you will pray for them, you might try saying the following: “Is there anything I can do to help you during this difficult time?” See what the person who is suffering wants or needs, and incidentally, a response of “I don’t know” does not mean “Pray for me.”

        Anyway . . . I remember this place . . . it’s the Internets (or was it Webs?). I’d like to come back and visit again sometime, including back at Pharyngula. Been a long time. Nice to see again.

        Still learning,


        1. Yay! Html tag fail!

          “Ah, yes, the parallel bars . . . it all comes back to me now.”
          -Inspector Clouseau, The Pink Panther Strikes Again

          Still learning,


          1. I’d be very interested… but only if something somebody said in this pileup changed his mind somehow.

        2. Nice to see you again, Robert. I kind of assumed that “Still Learning” was you. Stick around, we could use you here.

          1. daveau,

            Thanks for the kind words; it’s nice to see you again, as well. I hope to gradually linger a bit more.

            Still learning,


            1. I knew there was some thing special about Roberts! So well expressed. I do hope well for Christopher and do contribute as you said.
              Robret Estrada

      7. Actually, you’re trying to manipulate him with prayer, which is a form of black magic, a devilish practice.

        It’s lucky for everyone involved that black magic is just as imaginary as Christianity.

        1. Best I can tell, the only difference between prayers and spells are the gods whose chains are being yanked.

          Heel, god! Sit! Good god! Who’s a good googie? You are! Now go heal Aunt Tillie’s cancer, that’s a good boy.



      8. What you don’t mention is why you trouble to announce it to all and sundry on the World Wide Web. Is that a prayer enhancer, or something? Perhaps a Daniel’s Self-Rightiousness enhancer?

      9. I pray because I care.

        Oh dear, I can almost hear your martyr’s sighs from here. You poor thing, carrying the weight of someone’s eternal salvation on your shoulders. However do you bear up?

        Oh wait, I’ve heard the answer to that one before. Please don’t answer.

      10. Hey, I think we should all ease up a bit.

        If Westboro Baptists spent more time praying and less time vilely harassing mourning families, we’d all be better for it.

        Pray away other Daniel.

        How you choose throw away your time is no concern of mine.

        But word to the wise? Don’t get preachy with atheists. We don’t like it.

        Unless you’re going out of your way to troll of course. In which case: Very well done and have a chocolate cookie.

  1. Few of us agree with all of what he says, but very few of us are not cheering him on.

    We are behind you, Hitch!

    1. I’d say almost the entire planet is behind him. The dude’s a serious intellectual powerhouse that almost nobody can catch up with — let alone surpass. Be quite some time before anybody’s ahead of him, that’s for sure.



  2. Ah, God.

    Keeps the admitted war criminal and torturer – George W. Bush – free and in good health; but threatens us with the loss of the treasure Christopher Hitchens.

    There is “omnipotence” for you.

  3. I suspect the title of this missed column is a journalistic joke from Hitchens based on the old ‘Jeffrey Bernard is unwell’ titles in The Spectator. Bernard was frequently ‘unwell’ in a manner reminiscent of Hitchens habits of old, although Hitchens himself never seemed to allow his drinking to affect his writing too much.

      1. I think Bernards regular Spectator column was called ‘Lowlife’. It was only when he was ‘indisposed’ (read too sozzled to write) that the “Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell” title was posted to warn regulars that that weeks instalment was missing.

          1. I feel really old now.
            I was living in London at the time and managed to get a ticket for the second night that the play was on in the west end in 1989.

        1. One week the Spectator’s notice said “Jeffrey Bernard has had his leg off.” It turned out to be literally true. The Editor came in for a lot of stick for that, but it somehow seemed to be in the spirit of the man. And inevitably, when the time came, the Editor’s notice laconically said, “Jeffrey Bernard is dead.”

  4. I’m about to raise “a decent slug of Mr. Walker’s amber restorative” (without the Perrier) to my favourite “drink-soaked Trotskyite popinjay”

    Good cheer to you Hitch

    1. He may indeed be a drink-soaked Trotskyite popinjay…but he’s OUR drink-soaked Trotskyite popinjay.

      Here’s hoping better days are ahead. And the reason for undergoing chemo is because it’s working.

  5. Well, this is not encouraging news. Hang in there, Hitch!

    btw- I am so stealing “come to the Hitchens.”

  6. Chilling to read this.

    Although the note does somehow read as if it’s been penned by him.

    I do not have the right words to say how much I hope this is only a temporary setback. I concur with Michael Fisher above.

    1. I agree that there’s a certain kind of anxiety and depression that comes with such news, but it is essential to remember that he is one of the lucky ones, because he is going to die.

      I am sure Hitchens’s response to the first time he heard (or read) Dawkins expressing that sentiment was a most hearty, “Amen, brother!”



      1. Yes agreed, we are going to die is one of my favorite passages.
        It just shouldn’t have to be so painful and debilitating. Not being able to write is the one fear (other than being boring) that he has expressed. It is these last things that make me sad for for him and his family.

  7. Thank you, Hitch, for your stalwart insistence on the baleful aspects of religion. No flinching, no quarter. It’s totalitarian in principle. It’s degrading, insulting and anti-human. And as you so fiercely and so often point out, Abraham himself, the father of three faiths, was a vile, criminally insane child murderer.

    And thank especially for underscoring that it was gentle Jesus, meek and mild, who first introduced us to the monstrous threat of everlasting torture.

    If I may presume to speak in sympathy with Hitch I will say Daniel, you and your Jesus can go fuck yourselves.

    Jack M.

  8. Elizabeth Taylor died this morning. Not that it is in any way similar, just more of the Universe and its indifference in when/how we go.

    1. Well, she was 79 and she’s been unwell for a long time. Why will the media someday (not soon, I hope) say Hitch “lost his battle with cancer” but nobody will say La Liz “lost her battle with congesitve heart failure”?

      She did set some kind of standard for female beauty in her day. (And Le Hitch actually didn’t look bad in his youth.)

      1. Perhaps more memorably, depending on your POV, she was one of the first AIDs activists, beginning at a time when it was widely thought of as shameful, unmentionable…divine punishment, in fact.

  9. I too think that Hitch wrote that headline himself. Note the “He hopes to file soon.” Hopefully it’s the chemo cocktail that has decked him temporarily.

    I love this man so much.

  10. I am sorry about Mr. Hitchens. I enjoy his perspective and his writing. I wish him the best.

    I am not sure how many of Jerry’s readers live in the countryside but I thought I would mention that rural living is different than city living. I grew up outside of Chicago and went to a Big Ten college and lived there 20 more years, to the age of 36. Then I moved to a very remote rural upper Midwest (U.S.) region and have to deal with a different sort of people. Due to very sparse population (the nearest stoplight is 20 miles away) you don’t have many neighbors and friends from which to choose in the first place, so you have to to get along with one another as best you can. Churches are, unfortunately, one of the two main places people socialize and form communities.

    Living in this rural lifestyle has made me more tolerant of language such as, “I’ll pray for you”. I still don’t like it much but I have been told by locals that it does not necessarily mean “I’ll pray for you to see the light” or to “come to the Savior” but it is just their way of giving best wishes. I (a non-churchgoing atheist with an evolution education) mistakenly wrote “I’ll pray for you” once in an email to someone and just about got my head bit off. I was wishing to express my deep concern over a health matter, and I guess some of the local language had brushed off on me. I never had used it before.

    I just wanted to mention this in case there are many non-rural commenters on this blog who might like to know why some people would say this.

    1. I suppose I should have placed this comment of mine somewhere up above, in response to Daniel. Sorry, everyone… I am still learning.

      1. No worries:-)) I know just what you mean–I’m a Hoosier girl, myself, and used to teach German in an itty-wee town in northern Indiana many moons ago. People *do* use “We’ll be praying for you” or some similar version simply to more or less mean “We’re keeping you in our thoughts/hoping for the best”. Were things a little farther along, with religion in the US in gradual phase-out, I would expect that phrase to become something of a linguistic fossil–still commonly used, but not in its original sense. So I don’t get to upset, either, when people say that to me.

        1. … used to teach German in an itty-wee town in northern Indiana many moons ago.

          [jaw drops in awe…]

          You are a woman of many talents!

    2. That’s kind of you. I think if Daniel had said “I’ll pray for his health,” response would have been muted or non-existent. It would have been a kind thought. But he included the bit about bringing him to the Savior, which just isn’t a kind thought in this context.

      Anyway your explanation is useful; I hadn’t thought of that before.

      1. Thank you for your kind response. I am nervous writing on blogs; never know if my comment will make someone angry or not!

        1. Also, don’t worry too much if someone gets pissed off with you for something.

          Or at least – don’t worry too much if someone on one of the Gnu atheist messageboards gets pissed off with you.

          If someone’s taking the time to address you in the first place, that’s probably a much better sign of respect around these parts than if they ignore you. It shows they’re taking you seriously. ^_^

          As for your story… I currently have a very ill relative.

          Many of my friends have been contacting me to let me know that they’re praying for us.

          And I appreciate the thought and the intent, and I try to be graceful.

          But the little part of me inside that won’t let anything go winces and thinks: Did you leave out milk for the fairies too?

          1. Thanks for the encouragement.

            Sorry for your relative’s illness.
            You wrote, “But the little part of me inside that won’t let anything go winces and thinks: Did you leave out milk for the fairies too?”

            I know. But, indeed, a person does need to pick their battles.

            1. I understand. I live fairly rural in SW MI. Every election I stand in line making small talk with my neighbors who are there cancelling my vote. But many of them are also the best neighbors imaginable–helpful, reliable, looking out for one another. It’s cognitive dissonance I can mostly live with. And I hope I’m changing their minds a little bit too, about such things as liberal feminist atheists, for instance. 😀

              1. Cognitive dissonance, yes, yes, I understand that all too well. I greatly appreciate having the good doctor’s blog here to read and learn from, and I use it to get grounded. Reading many of his entries polishes some of my biology skills and reading skills that have gotten dull over the years, and it gives me comfort to know I’m not the only atheist left on the planet. Dr. Coyne seems to have attracted an interesting and cosmopolitan crowd that wants to share ideas without usually becoming too petty or mean.

              2. If you’re coming back to biology after some time, prepare for some cognitive dissonance there, too! A good rule is, the things you remember best they’ve revised the most. LOL!

                Word to the wise–if you haven’t come across the concept of “tone troll,” you might want to familiarize yourself with it, and with why some long-time debaters get esp. frustrated with it. I’m not saying you’re one, but you could be mistaken for such on some sites and that’s not pleasant. And yes, most of us do appreciate the relative civility Dr. Coyne maintains here.

    1. @Hempenstein & Michael Fisher
      It is mine and I join you. Best way to celebrate some one is to share their passions
      Robert Estrada

    2. I’m afraid I have no Johnnie Walker Black (accept no substitutes).

      But I’ll hoist a 12 year old Royal Lochnagar (brought back to Colorado from Scotland). And perhaps sip some peaty Bowman single malt from Islay (available in Colorado). I like it better than a blend, anyway.

  11. That’s so sad, especially since he’d just been talking in that 60 minutes clip about how he was concerned that his illness would affect his writing. The odds are bad, but he’s been speaking about it so bravely. Here’s to Mr. Hitchens’s health and continued ability to write. (Afraid I don’t drink alcohol, so it’ll just have to be a soda.)

  12. I found a link to this lovely tribute to Hitch on DailyHitchens. I don’t know anything about the artist but it seems quite heartfelt and it has me on the verge of tears. I suppose it could be interpreted as having capitulated to his current plight but I take it to be admiration put to music regardless of his fate.

    Anyway, I wanted to share for some reason but don’t watch if you need to maintain your composure at the moment.

  13. Hitchens’ sin of rejecting the Creator is no different than my own sins. He needs the Savior just as much as I do, and I pray for God to reveal to Hitchens what he has already revealed to me: that when the veil of human ignorance is taken away, we find out all along that we were not the questioners, the teachers, the testers, the judges, the knowing ones. In reality we are the questioned ones, the students, the judged, the tested, the known ones.

    I would be remiss to only pray for Hitchens’ body. His very essence needs healing as well. Your lack of compassion for his soul tells me that you only care for him because he has championed your cause to a greater level than anyone else in this world. If he did come to God, I expect that all of you would turn on him and that would tell me all I need to know about you. You should stick by his side no matter the choices he makes.

    I pray that God would meet his greatest need, not that the story of his real healing would be proclaimed (that’s not important), but that Hitchens himself would find peace with God as I have. If he does come to the Savior, we never need to know it. God does not need a death bed conversion story to accomplish his work in this world.

    I will continue to pray for Hitchens until he leaves this world regardless of what you think. God is not through with him. He is not through with any of you.

    1. There’s something YOU still haven’t seen through the veils of human ignorance. Specifically, the identity of the being you pray to.

      It’s you. Well, part of you anyway. That’s all gods ever were – mental projections with great sway over the lives of believers but no real substance or independent existence.

      So, by all means keep talking to yourself. Understand it won’t help anybody though, least of all you.

  14. I must apologize to you all. It’s hard to talk about prayer in this way without coming off as self-righteous and prideful. I’m sorry. I still have many things in me that are wrong, and don’t always have the best motivations. I do know that I care, and I’m doing what I can. I’m sorry for the rest.

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