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August 7th, 2010
10:42 AM ET

Video: Extended interview: Hitchens on cancer and atheism

Editor's Note: Watch a new extended version of Anderson's revealing interview with author Christopher Hitchens.

August 5th, 2010
04:51 PM ET

Thoughts before debating Christopher Hitchens

Program Note: Anderson Cooper interviews Christopher Hitchens tonight at 10pm ET on AC360°.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero. Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

Stephen Prothero
Special to CNN

After professional provocateur Christopher Hitchens announced that he had come down with cancer, legions lined up to pray for him. I have been known to lapse into prayer on occasion, but I did not pray for Hitchens, and I don't expect I will.

I understand why Mormons want to baptize the dead and, on the theory of "no harm, no foul," I don't object to it in most cases. But praying to God for the Great Unbeliever seems like something akin to sacrilege (and not against the divine).

Not so ripping into him. In a scathing review of Hitchens' "God is Not Great" published in the Washington Post, I wrote that I had "never encountered a book whose author is so fundamentally unacquainted with its subject." I also wrote, however, that "there is no living journalist I more enjoy reading."

I stand by both statements. This post is prompted by the latter.

I teach a course at Boston University called "Death and Immortality," and in it we read remarkable work about the "undiscovered country" of death and whatever (if anything) lies beyond. Hitchens wrote this week in a piece in Vanity Fair of "the unfamiliar country" of people with cancer, and his reflections rank up there with the best writing I know on that sickness unto death.

Keep reading...


Filed under: 360° Interview • Christopher Hitchens • Opinion • Religion
August 5th, 2010
04:01 PM ET

Hitchens on cancer diagnosis: 'Why not me?'

Update: Watch Anderson's interview with author and Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Christopher Hitchens on his cancer diagnosis and whether it has changed his thoughts on God. Watch a new extended version of the interview.

Editor's Note: Read Christopher Hitchens's Vanity Fair article in which he opens up about having esophageal cancer.

Anderson Cooper

I just flew down to Washington to talk with author Christopher Hitchens. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June, and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Many people upon receiving a cancer diagnosis would ask "why me?" Hitchens's answer, is "why not me?"

Much of his hair has fallen out, but he seems strong as ever. We discussed whether his diagnosis has in any way altered his well-known opinion of religion and prayer.

Tune in tonight for the full interview.

Read author Stephen Prothero's CNN blog about Christopher Hitchens.