Hitchens on Anderson Cooper

Here’s Christopher Hitchens’s nine-minute interview with Anderson Cooper last night.

Cooper brings up the question that everybody wants Hitchens to answer, and I must say that it never crossed my mind.  If you think he’d abandon his principles for God on his deathbed, then you either don’ t know him or think he’s been lying all along.

Cooper: In a moment of doubt, isn’t there? . . I just find it fascinating that even when you’re alone and no one else is watching, there might be a moment when you want to hedge your bets.

Hitchens:  If that comes it will be when I’m very ill, when I’m half demented either by drugs or by pain and I won’t have control over what I say. I mention this in case you ever hear a rumor later on—because these things happen, and the faithful love to spread these rumors, “On his deathbed. . .”  Well I can’t say that the entity that by then wouldn’t be me wouldn’t do such a pathetic thing, but I can tell you that “Not while I’m lucid, no.”  I can be quite sure of that.

Cooper: So if there’s some story that on your deathbed.. .

Hitchens:  Don’t believe it. Don’t credit it.


  1. BradW
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    No one who has read his writings or attended or watched any of his debates with religious people would expect anything less.

    Although the probabilities are not good, if he is one of the lucky ones who makes it through this ordeal, his attitude of not feeling sorry for himself and looking at the illness in a rational manner will most probably have contributed to his success. Watch all the religious twits jump on that!

  2. Posted August 6, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    Another aspect that I am grateful for (I am grateful that his literary talent still shines), is that Hitchens is letting us all see what a gravely sick person looks like. We need that. We need to face up to reality, to our fragility, without caving in from fear. Make it a part of our media life, please. Kudos to Cooper, even though his veiled reference to the slimy Pascal Wager is disappointing.

    The fact that fear of death is the main driver why people embrace intellectual dishonesty, self-deception, and outright lying via their god-soaked beliefs, is supported by the lame notion that religious believers obsessively and mistakenly hold that there are no atheists in foxholes and none on the death bed. Bunch of cowardly idiots.

    All religious faith is, is a projection of the human family, via a sky daddy, a good mother, and and obedient son (Christian version), on the supernatural plane. It is so transparent and they are so blinkered, it is maddening.

    And that is what praying is all about, to make these cowards feel better about themselves, so they can feel that they are doing something good when there is nothing to do except what Hitchens is already doing. They just can’t accept reality and their own helplessness.

    • ckitching
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      Kudos to Cooper, even though his veiled reference to the slimy Pascal Wager is disappointing.

      I’m glad for the reference to Pascal’s Wager. It allowed Hitchens the chance to address the ‘deathbed conversion’ thing before the lies start. This was his opportunity to make it clear that he is willing to face oblivion without regret, regardless of what lies people may tell about him later.

      I am hoping he manages to beat the steep odds against him. He is one of the most memorable writers and speakers alive today, and I’d greatly prefer that it remains that way.

  3. justsearching
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Preachers love to share stories about heathens or homosexuals who converted on their deathbeds. If we want to understand ultimate truths, it seems, we are asked to rely on the feelings/perspectives of the dying, poor, emotionally broken, and the indoctrinated. Healthy, stable, sane, unprejudiced people just can’t have the same insights.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      One also suspects there’s a fair number who abandon their faith in extremis, realizing that it is doing absolutely nothing for them/their loved ones.* But of course, confirmation bias being what it is, these cases are ignored.

      *In terms of curing illness, e.g.

  4. Insightful Ape
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    He was great on the interview. Absolutely admirable.
    And he made a reference to alcohol and tobacco as well. Which I think was appropriate. A brave person should acknowledge their errors.

    • Andy
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      Yeah, a lot of us damaged our long term health with smokes and drink. And a lot of us who did so are, like Hitch, well-educated people who understood (essentially) the liabilities of our actions. It’s addiction. But Hitch’s line rings true for many of us” “…burning the candle at both ends gives off a lovely light.”

    • steve oberski
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Why do you say it’s an error ?

      It’s about trade offs.

      You weigh the benefits of smoking, drinking, sedentary life style, buying lottery tickets, snorting cocaine etc against the drawbacks and make your decision.

      To the extent that you have all the information you need to make rational choice (i.e. I know that smoking causes cancer, emphysema, bad breath versus the pleasure the nicotine provides) then it can’t be an “error” as it’s a subjective decision.

      I think Hitchens might say he made bad choices but not errors.

      I say this as a drinking, ex smoking, non snorting Hitchens admirer.

      • Posted August 6, 2010 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        That leaves addiction out of the picture. Talk about not having free will…

        • Insightful Ape
          Posted August 6, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

          Free will is an illusion.
          Human behavior is shaped by many factors. Short term gratification is one of them. The desire for long term health is another.
          And in every individul one or the other may carry the day.
          It is not so easy to call either approach right or wrong. I tend to have a stronger desire for the long term health and my behavior is in line with that. I am also aware that unforeseen developments may thwart my desires for long term health and so the “investment” may not pay off.

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted August 6, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

            All of us, I think, deliberately do things that we know will shorten our lives in favor of pleasure now. Look, we all know that the way to live the longest is constant exercise and semi-starvation, eating only roots and tubers. But few of us starve ourselves or behave this way. I, for one, would rather have the pleasure of food.

            • Insightful Ape
              Posted August 6, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

              The “healthy” lifestyle is not all too healthy, it turns out.
              For instance, Parkinson’s disease is more common among nonsmokers than smokers.

            • Josh Slocum
              Posted August 7, 2010 at 12:02 am | Permalink

              Thank you. I’m tired of hearing how it’s an “error” to smoke/drink/eat/not-wear-sunscreen.

              No, it isn’t. It’s a choice. They’re all choices. They all come with trade-offs. Longevity for the sake of longevity is not the only choice, and it’s not the Automatically Valid Choice.

  5. latsot
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Christopher is about as brilliant as anyone I can think of. Man oh man I hope he doesn’t die yet. I admire him for his intelligence, his knowledge and his joy in hunting idiots.

    I admire him for the fact that everyone who has ever written a single thing about him begins with “I don’t always agree with Hitchens but….”

    That’s what inspires me. I’m pretty smart. I know many things. And *nobody* gets madder at idiots than I do. But if people eventually say of me “that wanker pisses me off….*but*….”

    I’ll feel like I’m finally starting to live up to an impossible standard.

  6. Posted August 6, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Props to Cooper for, among other things, despising the word and the idea of “closure.” Props to the Hitch for all of it.

    I don’t think there’s any question of his making it through this; it’s a question of how much and what kind of time he can claw back from it. I wish it were otherwise, but it isn’t.

  7. piero
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I’m so very sad for the Hitch. I wish there was anything I could do, but I know there isn’t. Except, perhaps, make it clear that I’m grateful for what I’ve learned from him, and that I do not expect him to do anything at all from now on: if he has a deathbed conversion that won’t change my gratefulness one bit.

    Hitch, I wish you well: you’ve done enough to be exempt from the tiranny of other people’s expectations.

    • Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      I do not expect him to do anything at all from now on

      No no! Wrong line to take! We all expect him to go on writing like this as long as he can. Stopping is the last thing he wants. He wants to go on doing what he does.

      • piero
        Posted August 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        Yes, you are right. But if his strength wanes, I won’t hold that against him.

  8. piero
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Sorry for the typos.

  9. Anonym
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Cooper stutters through another inept attempt to deliver — like a candle facing the sun. …and, he just about burst with eagerness to serve up the ‘conversion’ chestnut, beaming his best naive ‘how couldn’t you’ catechist face. Would Gloria still be proud?

    • Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

      Are you serious? I thought he was fantastic.

      • Anonym
        Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

        Which patently obviates any contradicting opinion. (Sure you didn’t mean ‘cute’, as opposed to “fantastic”?)

        • Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

          Yes, because, OBVIOUSLY, I can’t have an opinion on his journalistic skills. Nope, I must be talking about his hawtness.

          • Anonym
            Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

            If stuttering chestnuts in incomplete sentences — especially when interviewing such as Hitchens — is a skill, he wins hands down.

    • Mack
      Posted December 28, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Completely off the mark. You will hardly find anyone agreeing with you. This was a sensible and interesting conversation between two intelligent men who have lived through and seen a lot and obviously have respect for each other. Something we can’t say about you in regards to AC. Cooper was the only news ancor who who always used to let Hitchens speak instead of interrupting and yelling him down like the rest did. This was not a debate or a platform for AC to get into a wit contest. The outcome is one of the few very personal interviews with Hitch that showed his human side. I like seeing a good Hitchslap but in the end that is just entertainment. This interview showed the dignity and strength he deals with with his illness and that is due to Cooper’s interview style.

  10. Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Hitchens is such a lovely, fierce, and brilliant man, and this was a very touching and powerful interview. Wonderful stuff.

    • latsot
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink


      “fierce” is a brilliant way to describe Hitchens.

      • latsot
        Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        Don’t get me wrong, he’s lovely and brilliant as well. But what a great word to counteract ‘strident’ as a suppsedly bad quality.

        I’m not strident, motherfuckers, I’m *fierce*.

        From now on, I’m a fierce atheist.

        • latsot
          Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          “fierce” might have the same kind of star quality as “gay”, “queer”, “research associate” etc. It would be pretty awesome to rebrand new atheists as fierce atheists.

          Or is it just me?

        • Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

          I like it! 🙂

          • latsot
            Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            I can’t stand these ‘new’ atheists. It turns out that fierceness is the new new.

      • dave's not here
        Posted August 7, 2010 at 12:08 am | Permalink


  11. salon_1928
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    I had a tough time watching the interview. I really can’t think of much to say other than I hope he gets better.

  12. Launcher
    Posted August 6, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I believe it was Dawkins who questioned how someone could hedge their belief in a supposedly omniscient god, merely on the chance that there is a heaven (i.e. Pascal’s Wager), and still respect that god.

    Best of health to you, Mr Hitchens.

    • Anonym
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Pascal’s Wager assumes a ‘god’ than can be pwned by any insincere faker.

    • latsot
      Posted August 6, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, Dawkins is one of those ordinary strident atheists. I think it’s pretty clear that we should only recognise fierce atheists, right?

  13. unidentified
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    For those interested, I just wanted to point out that if you go to ac360.com there is a link to an extended version of the interview with Hitchens.

3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Evolution Is True » Caturday felids: videos! – Hitchens on Anderson Cooper – En av världens mest kända ateister, Christopher Hitchens, har för inte länge sen fått […]

  2. […] Hat tip to Jerry Coyne, over at Why Evolution Is True. […]

  3. […] did not take long for rumors of a possible deathbed conversion to find their way on the internet. Anderson Cooper once asked him if there was ever a chance that one day—and in a moment of doubt—Hitchens might hedge […]

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