My favorite Hitch story concerned the time he was called to the Vatican on the matter of one Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. Popularly known as "Mother Teresa," Hitchens had found her an insidious fraud and cunning religious extremist. Naturally, the Holy See was fast-tracking her for sainthood.
The process of beatification includes, effectively, a trial, in which the church argues for sainthood while the Devil — in the person of his advocate — argues against. Yes, the Devil's Advocate was an actual office in the church, if not much of a career. I say "was" because Pope John Paul II eliminated the office to streamline his sainting frenzy.
Though Hitchens never assumed the office of The Devil's Advocate, he quipped, "I drew the job of representing the Evil One, as it were, pro bono."
That was Hitchens' great genius; challenging sacred, entrenched biases with passion and wit. This creation of a lasting expression of genius has ever been the atheist's immortality.
Q: Your least favorite virtue, or nominee for the most overrated one?
A: Faith. Closely followed — in view of the overall shortage of time — by patience.
- Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22