One of the foundational assumptions behind this blog is that people are whole, integrated persons. Thus, the way we see all of life and interact with all people should be framed by a sense of the wholeness, the integrity, of all of life.
This holds true even in the lives of those with whom we disagree strongly. Christopher Hitchens, the outspoken atheist and author of God is Not Great, is no exception. In a recent interview on NPR, he reflected on a painful, seemingly life shaping moment from his past.
Prompted by the recent release of his newest book, a memoir of his life, he was asked about his parents. His response went as follows:
” My father was, as you say, a lifelong Navy man, so I had this rather morose Tory in my background who was hit off brilliantly, by contrast, by my mother, who I always called Yvonne. And I call her Yvonne in my chapter, because it’s a stylish name and because she was a stylish girl.
And her story’s a tragic one and it ended tragically, in that having waited I think rather too long, because divorce and separation were extremely frowned upon in that set in those days. She did take up with another man after my brother and I had grown up, and it didn’t quite work out. In fact, it didn’t work out at all. And they made a decision to put an end to their lives and committed suicide together in Athens.
I think I had a chance to save her and failed to grasp it. She tried to call me from Athens and failed. Though I might have just missed the call by a few minutes, I don’t know. But I’ve always been certain that if she’d heard my voice, she wouldn’t have done it. So I’ve been trying to write my way out of that ever since.”
You can read the full interview here:
Most of the responses to Hitchens that I have seen have all been entirely cognitive and philosophical. Perhaps we need to consider that some (most?) of Hitchens’ atheism stems from other aspects of his integrated being.