Christopher Hitchens and his brother Peter debated whether civilization can survive without a belief in God yesterday during a talk hosted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The brothers have sparred over the issue for decades, most notably when Peter published the book The Rage Against God in response to his brother's tome God Is Not Great. Christopher Hitchens, the elder of the two, has politely accepted public prayer on his behalf through his struggle with esophageal cancer, while remaining resolute on his views on atheism. During yesterday's friendly sparring match, he admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the support.
"People say, 'Cancer picked the wrong foe in you — you can beat this if anyone can,' lots of that kind of thing, and it has the effect of kind of giving me the blues because I don't want to let people down. The psychological makeup of this is roughly the same whether you assume a supernatural dimension or not."
During the talk, Hitch said that the "post-religious society" has proven that it leads just as civilized lives as previous generations, citing the people he encounters who espouse an "ethical humanism with a vague spiritual content."
He specifically pointed to two American examples: Reform Judaism and self-described American “cafeteria Catholics” who pick and choose aspects of their faith they find appealing. That, he argued, proved God, and to a larger extent organized religion, are unnecessary to continuing civilization.