Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Good Intentions

What Christopher [Hitchens] should understand is that for those who are praying for him, to somebody or nobody, it is not necessarily about asking God to save him. It is not an insult. They are giving him the greatest gift they can, no matter what form it takes. (I'm not talking here about those who pray that he will renounce his atheism to save his soul or those who pray he will go to hell.)
Sally Quinn - Why I'm praying for Christopher Hitchens
I'm tempted to disagree with Ms. Quinn's exclusion of those people who pray that Mr. Hitchens will renounce atheism. While we might find their wish for divine mind control to be unsettling, they are, in effect, acting on a sincere wish that someone not go to Hell - which is much more than can be said for those people who are willing to take the time to ask the Divine to consign someone to eternal torture, seemingly for no better reason than their own smug assurance that they are correct in their worldviews. (Since there's no way of determining if someone has, in fact, been sent to Hell, the place itself is of little use as a disciplinary measure.)

But I'm also tempted to disagree with Ms. Quinn's assertion that Mr. Hitchens should not be insulted by the fact that people are praying for him. It's always considered bad form to force a gift upon someone that does not want it. By the same token, it is difficult to claim that you respect someone with one breath and with the other do something that you know that person disapproves of, in their name.

Of course, outside of those people who have the temerity to wish that Mr. Hitchens go, literally, to Hell, people are praying for him with good intentions. But, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with just such good intentions.

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