I was never a big fan of Christopher Hitchens’ take on religion. A self-described antitheist, Hitchens took great pleasure in mocking God, religion, and people of faith. While there are many valid critiques of religion out there, Hitchens’ attacks seemed designed to get a rise out of his readers rather than to add any new insight to the debate.
Even though I wasn’t a fan of Hitchens’ views on religion, I’ve become a fan of the man. After he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2010, Hitchens began writing about his life refracted through this new lens. The cancer did not let up, and he died at the end of last year. But his words live on, particularly in a posthumously-published book entitled, Mortality, a collection of his Vanity Fair essays on the challenges of “living dyingly” with cancer.
I didn’t find a soft spot for this man simply because we have a stage IV cancer diagnosis in common. I became a fan of his writing because I think it’s worthwhile to talk about cancer in ways that do more good and less harm.
In his essay entitled “Miss Manners and the Big C,” Hitchens makes clear why more conversations on how to talk about cancer are necessary. He points to the need for better manners by those whose insensitive comments about life with cancer leave their mark.