But what struck me with particular power as I surveyed the Catholic media was that the vast, vast majority of Catholics reported Hitchens’ disease and then, with transparent sincerity, urged people to pray for him.

In making that recommendation, of course, they were on very sure ground indeed. Jesus said, “Love your enemies; bless those who curse you; pray for those who maltreat you.” Christopher Hitchens is undoubtedly the enemy of Christianity—even of Christians—but he is also a child of God, loved into being and destined for eternal life. Therefore, followers of Jesus must pray for him and want what is best for him.

Hitchens seeks by means of specious argument, insinuation, and sometimes plain smear-tactics to undermine religion. He ought to be opposed, vigorously, with counter-argument and clarification of fact. But all the while, he ought to be respected…

So read Christopher Hitchens; disagree with him and get angry with him; defend the faith against his attacks. And pray for him.

***
Hordes of atheists are commenting on yesterday’s post from a Catholic priest who says Christians should pray for the cancer-stricken Christopher Hitchens, even if he is an enemy of religion. Far from being touched by the priest’s gesture, the atheists are mostly offended:

“As an atheist, I find it objectionable that anyone should feel the right to pray for me because I don’t believe as they do. That’s as bad as that idiot church who thinks its a good idea to baptize dead Jews or protest at military funerals. It’s the worst kind of pandering.”

***
HH: Now Christopher, since we last spoke, your illness you disclosed on the web, and people will want to know off the bat how you are doing, and how your treatment is going.

CH: Oh well, I have, in case people are just tuning in, I have cancer in my esophagus, which has I think spread a little to my lymph nodes as well. And I’m two weeks into the chemotherapy course. So I feel pretty weak, and my voice isn’t what it was, but that’s supposed to be a good sign in that the amount of poison I’m taking is presumably working on the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. And this morning, I found that my hair was beginning to come out in the shower, which is a bit demoralizing, I have to say, even though it’s the least of it…

HH: The number of people I’m sure who are praying for you, including people who come up to me and ask me to tell you that, people like Joseph Timothy Cook, how are you responding to them, given your famous atheism?

CH: Well look, I mean, I think that prayer and holy water, and things like that are all fine. They don’t do any good, but they don’t necessarily do any harm. It’s touching to be thought of in that way. It makes up for those who tell me that I’ve got my just desserts. It’s, I’m afraid to say it’s almost as well-founded an idea. I mean, I don’t, they don’t know whether prayer will work, and they don’t know whether I’ve come by this because I’m a sinner.

HH: Oh, I…has anyone actually said that to you?

CH: Yeah, oh yes.

HH: Oh, my gosh. Forgive them. Well…

CH: Well, I mean, I don’t mind. It doesn’t hurt me. But for the same reason, I wish it was more consoling. But I have to say there’s some extremely nice people, including people known to you, have said that I’m in their prayers, and I can only say that I’m touched by the thought.