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In Theory

September 24, 2010

Monday was "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day," when believers prayed for Christopher Hitchens, 61, the writer and author of books, including "God is Not Great." Hitchens was diagnosed recently with cancer of the esophagus. However, in his cancer-stricken state, Hitchens, an unapologetic atheist, appears to be holding firmly to his godlessness. He declined an invitation to participate in the day of prayer for himself.

"I don't mean to be churlish about any kind intentions, but when September 20 comes, please do not trouble deaf heaven with your bootless cries," Hitchens wrote in Vanity Fair. "Unless, of course, it makes you feel better."

Would you pray for him or other gravely ill people who do not believe in God, even if they chose to skip out on a day of prayer in their name?

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Christopher Hitchens recently spoke at my temple, after which we conversed. I submitted I was surprised that a person of his age would cling to atheism, because it was so sophomoric. I also told him that I love atheists, because they talk more about God than believers!

Atheists affirm that everything is random happenstance. Hitchens' disease is just an event that happened, without rhyme or reason. We cannot pray to "chance" or "good fortune" for healing. It either happens, or it does not!

Because Hitchens considers faith to be fallacious, why offend him by indulging in "superstitious prayer?" Surely, there are others on whose behalf we should direct our limited resources of time and supplications!

What could it possibly matter to Hitchens whether he lives or dies? Existence is no more meaningful than non-existence to an atheist. Because his life has no purpose, neither does his death have any consequence!

Rabbi Mark S. Miller

Temple Bat Yahm

Newport Beach

Prayer changes only one thing: the mind of the person praying. If Mr. Hitchens doesn't believe in the healing power of prayer, I doubt if he would ask for prayer. If, on the other hand, Mr. Hitchens' asked me to pray, I would first recognize the universal presence of God's intelligence and then unify with that presence, declaring my oneness with God's perfection. Then I would speak my word for Mr. Hitchens, seeing him whole, complete and healed. If Mr. Hitchens did not believe in the power of prayer or his own healing, then it would be done unto him as he believed.

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