The late Christopher Hitchens would have turned 64 on April 13, 2013 had he survived esophageal cancer, which took his life in December, 2011. “Hitch,” as he was called by his friends, was a fierce opponent of religion, fascism and totalitarianism, and spent part of his life living and reporting in totalitarian nations like North Korea and Iraq. He authored books such as God is Not Great, The Missionary Position (A critique of Mother Theresa of Calcutta), and The Portable Atheist. Had he survived cancer, he would have witnessed one of the shortest terms of the papacy – Pope Benedict XVI’s shocking resignation – During a time when rumors in the Roman Catholic Church are rampant of gay priest and cardinal sex-escapades’.
Hitchens and Stephen Fry vehemently criticized the former Pope a few years ago on the debating platform, Intelligence2 , for the way he handled the child abuse by one of his clergymen, Cardinal Bernard Law . Former Archbishop of Boston, MA, Cardinal Law was removed of his duties after being convicted of raping and sexually abusing children. Upon his removal, many thought the delivered penalty would be dire. But Ratzinger later appointed Cardinal Law, who was permitted to vote in the conclave after the scandal and during Ratzinger’s election, as vicar of a church in Rome. Hitchens had this to say at the Intelligence2 debate about Ratzinger’s decision “I don’t know, I don’t know, I think I would like to hear a bit more shame about this! I think I’d like to see a bit more confrontation, with the reality of the business .” And, as we all know, the Vatican’s ‘business’ extends beyond one child-abusing Cardinal. Their are rumors and allegations of gay, cross-dressing priests visiting nightclubs in Rome.
Recently, the Vatican has tried to ‘cleanse’ itself of its evil acts with the election of Argentinian-born, Pope Francis. Consequently, the decision for Ratzinger to step down in the face of his calamitous decisions’ seems to be a good political move for a few reasons: To put an innocent, humble character at the head of the Church is an attempt to change the Church’s image, a tactic to proselytize the growing majority that live in the global South, Latin Americans, as roughly three-quarters of Latin America’s entire population – about 483 million – is now Catholic.
Pope Francis is starkly different than his predecessor: Francis is known for his humility, his concern for the poor, and his commitment to dialogue as a way to build bridges between people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and faiths . The election of the new Pope will change the face of the Catholic Church for the better, or at least that’s the agenda, but it cannot and should not erase or hide the evil acts that have been committed all in the name of God.
Moreover, the thread that runs so true is a belief that the religious claim infallibility by Divine right. This type of audacious exclamation allows the Vatican and its officials’ and clergy to be almost legally and morally untouchable and baneful. And it is also an undertaking that angers Hitchens the most. Of course, the very threat of divine punishment doesn’t seem to deter some people from committing evil acts — Like child abuse. Indeed, as Steven Weinberg is famous for saying ” Good people will do good things, and bad people will do bad things. But for good people to do bad things, that takes religion .” Thus, all acts are permittable when one believes God is on their side.
During the Intelligence2 debate, Hitchens was asked why he chose the subtitle ‘Why Religion Poisons Everything’, for his book God is Not Great. In reply, he said “Religion attacks our innate morality; the religious say, where would your morals come from if there was no God? This again seems to me to be a profound insult to our very deepest nature and character. It is not the case, I submit to you, that we do not set about butchering and raping and thieving from each other right now only because we are afraid of a divine punishment, or looking for a divine reward.” After much suffering, endured with the most heroic fortitude, Hitchens passed away, and we can only guess as to what this brilliant orator, essayist and opponent of all forms of totalitarinism would have said.