Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Last Temptation of Christopher Hitchens

There was an interesting interview of Chris Hitchens' widow that was published in The content has certainly been altered after I first read it today morning. The original version had this specific description of a conversation during Hitchens' last days:

"...In Hitch's words, the same demand was made of him as his eyes were closing. Do you wish to believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?"

Hitchens' widow recalls that he was essentially asked the same question that was posed to Tom Paine when he was dying. This text is missing in the article now. I googled and found a preview of WGBH News version of that same interview. Here is the snapshot:
1. Why would such a question be asked of a person who was an outspoken supporter of atheism all his life, and poured scorn on the church and its 'saints' like Theresa? What is at stake here?

Answer:  A fundamental Christian belief is that every human other than Jesus is born with a sexually-transmitted defect that renders him or her, along their soul, a sinner destined for eternal damnation. This situation can only be remedied by 'third party intervention' via an affirmative answer to the quoted question (the body and it's soul are the first two parties and quite helpless on their own in this regard).

 2. Does an affirmative answer to the quoted question instantly transform a non-believer into a permanent (until kingdom come, literally), bona-fide Christian?

Answer: Yes (getting Baptized is like getting a printed membership-card, perhaps).

Christianity, like other Abrahamic religions is history-centric', a term coined by Rajiv Malhotra in his book 'Being Different: An Indian Challenge to Western Universalism". A history-centric belief is time-dependent. To become a member of the Christian history-centric system, it is both necessary and sufficient (in an overwhelming majority of its denominations) to believe in a divine historical prior that consists of a finite and unique set of frozen events in the past that can never ever reoccur in the future. Church membership demands unquestionable affirmation of the 'Nicene Creed' in which the 'Jesus immaculately conceived as the son of God' clause is the center-piece. This is a binary condition: If you accept and believe this, you are in, otherwise you are out. This condition is readily accepted by all members regardless of whether he/she is a mild-mannered, jovial, and moderate person or a fanatic and zealous believer. Everything else, such as celebrating Christmas, etc., is optional. Notice that almost every ritual in Christianity is directed toward solidifying and reinforcing the history-centric belief that is enshrined in the Nicene Creed. Thus, in such a system, to merely think of Christ as a wise, kind, and great human being and act upon his message of love is insufficient; to think that you and your soul on your own can find 'salvation,' is unacceptable.

In direct contrast, if Hitchens were a member of a Dharmic thought system (another term coined by Rajiv Malhotra), he probably would have found no conflict between that thought system and the way he lead most of his life in search of truth, by following his Dharma. There is no history exam required to qualify as a Dharmic person.

Hitch's last temptation was to abdicate responsibility for a lifetime time of activity that was based a certain ethical value system in exchange for a shot at eternal, history-centric heaven. All it took was a mouse-click, a push of a button, or a nod of the head to discard that brief period of time which was already in the past and book his ticket to everlasting future happiness in history-centric heaven. Even in death, he recognized and rejected what he identified as silliness and performed his duty on this earth to the end. He is a true hero. 

1 comment:

  1. Great catch. Shows how even 'liberal' outlets like NPR get squeamish when the underbelly of Christian history-centrism is exposed too directly.

    Hitchens did a great service by utterly exposing that corporatized 'saint' M Teresa. I I recall right, he -along with a few others - meticulously documented how this woman used her clout to 'baptize' dying hindus etc in her 'sisters of charity' sickbeds.