Atheist vs. Saint

Christopher Hitchens, one of the world’s best-known atheists, author of bestsellers with titles like God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, has left us. He died at the age of 62. And he departed without, apparently, ever changing his mind on God—at least to our knowledge.

He likewise never changed his mind on Mother Teresa. Yes, that’s right: Mother Teresa, who Hitchens once referred to as “the moonbat of Calcutta.”

I know people who knew Hitchens; serious Catholics who knew him well, in fact. One of them debated Hitchens around the country, constantly. We talked several times about Hitchens’ incredibly strange contempt for Mother Teresa. It puzzled them, too. It made no sense, at least not in the natural order of things.

Perhaps Hitchens’ position on Mother is a fitting symbol of where he stood in this life. Mother Teresa was truly a saint among us, widely revered by people of all faiths (and no faiths) and all political persuasions. She was a living saint in Hitchens’ lifetime. There was an inherent, discernible anger in Hitchens, both in general comportment and spirit. I watched him many times excoriate people. No charity there at all.

From what or whom did that anger stem? It must have been fueled in part by the lack of grace and light generated by that unyielding, militant atheism. Such dogged unbelief breeds darkness. When Hitchens encountered Mother Teresa, even from afar (I doubt he ever met her in person), he recoiled from what she emanated, or, better, reflected.

Of course, Mother Teresa struggled with the dark night of the soul, as did Saint John of the Cross and so many saints. But she carried her cross and persevered to Calvary. For Christopher Hitchens, however, the dark night was a long one. How ironic that it ended a week before Christmas, when the world celebrates the ultimate source of Goodness and Light—and that source’s infinite mercy. Christopher Hitchens will need it all.

For Catholic and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.

Editor’s note: A longer version of this article first appeared at

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • chaco

    A discussion about the difference between soul(intellect & will) and Spirit seems applicable when trying to understand atheists; If someone loves something ie; Life, the thought of losing it must necessarily cause some saddness. Without an experience of “Spiritual Consolation” [gained by those who cry out to God Acts 2. 21 ] the only defense against such saddness is Positive Mental attitude. P-M-A can only “switch on” the soul/intellect/will. Whereas, seeking God can switch on the Spirit. Lord, by the infinite merits of your Sacred Heart and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we beg of you the conversion of poor sinners(taken from Fatima Eucharistic Prayer).

  • Red

    yet i have never heard a serious refutation of the facts that Hitchens stated about Mother Teresa. You can call it hate, call it what you want. But better present proof to the opposite, which hasn’t been done. Yes, Hitchens was often sort of angry during debates, but that’s because he was passionate and convinced and often perpexed by the absurdity of opposing arguments. He was always entertaining, never dull.