One of this generation's most celebrated atheists, Christopher Hitchens, is dying. He has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

Since his cancer was made public, people of various faith traditions have been encouraging others to pray for the man who penned God Is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything, an indulgent bestseller rant against all things God. There's an online push designating September 20 as Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day. There's a Facebook page for those committed to Praying for Christopher Hitchens. Robert Barron, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, wrote an essay for CNN on "Why Christians should pray for Christopher Hitchens." And Larry Taunton, executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, has issued a video blog urging Christians to pray for Hitchens.

Taunton recently drove to Washington, D.C., to fetch Hitchens and carry him back to Birmingham for a previously scheduled debate about all things God with David Berlinski, author of The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions. A reported 1,200 people turned up for the event.

Asked what he considered the most damaging tenet of the Christian faith, Hitchens said, "The idea of vicarious redemption is a disgusting moral teaching … it abandons moral responsibility. Faith is a refuge in cowardice."

Hitchens is no lightweight atheist. He considers faith the least admirable of all virtues. He doesn't even like the term "atheist" because it leaves too much wiggle room for the notion of God. In his most current book, Hitch-22, a memoir, he says, "I suppose that one reason I have always detested religion is its sly tendency to insinuate the idea that the universe is designed with 'you' in mind or, even worse, ...

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