Larry Taunton, the Christian speaker who debates atheists, rode his bicycle down a hill in Birmingham three months ago on a Saturday morning and hit the grill of a car with such force that it threw him at least 15 feet into the air.
Discussion of the Best News in the World, the Gospel of Jesus, and related topics
Author’s book on Hitchens gets him on Fox, MSNBC
Update: Tim Challies evaluates this book and Hitchens better than this article here.
Larry Taunton, a Christian author in Birmingham [Alabama], has recently made TV appearances on the right-leaning Fox News and on the left-leaning MSNBC.
Taunton’s book, ‘The Faith of Christopher Hitchens,’ was released on April 12, 2016.
Taunton’s new book on famous atheist Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011, has gotten rave reviews from prominent atheists, and prominent Christians.
It’s a hot topic among liberal and conservative intellectuals.
Taunton, founder of the Christian ministry the Fixed Point Foundation in Birmingham, became friends with Hitchens in 2008 when the bestselling atheist author of “God is Not Great” began challenging Christians to debates.
Their friendship became so close they went on two long road trips together, with Hitchens reading aloud from the Gospel of John on one of them.
As Hitchens suffered and died from esophageal cancer, Taunton believes he was giving Christianity a kind of final review. Hitchens, who was baptized as a child in the Church of England but declared himself an atheist and burned his Bible at 15, never recanted his atheism.
But Taunton believes Hitchens gained a new appreciation for evangelical Christians who actually believe the Bible. “For the first time in his life, he was engaging evangelical Christians,” Taunton said. “He found them to be different from the veneer of Christianity in Britain. When he began debating these evangelicals, he began to like them.”
Taunton finished the manuscript for “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist,” a week before a near-fatal bicycle wreck in Birmingham. Taunton was hit by a car and is still recovering.
“I’m getting better a little every day,” Taunton said in an interview with AL.com on Thursday. “They weren’t sure I would live.”
He has been well enough to make TV appearances to promote the book, which was released Tuesday. He appeared with Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” on Monday night.
“He read the book and he loved it,” Taunton said of Matthews. “He knew Hitchens, and he liked Hitchens. He thought it was a compassionate take on friendship. I don’t know if I can write anything ever again that gets universal praise from both the left and the right. This book is getting quite a reaction. The reception has been so kind, no nice. The atheist Michael Schermer loved the book.”
As a sponsor and participant in debates between Christians and atheists, Taunton became friends with British scientist Richard Dawkins also. He recently visited Dawkins in England, since recovering from his accident. Dawkins has been recovering from a stroke.
“I could empathize with what he was feeling,” Taunton said.
The Hitchens book, published by Thomas Nelson, is already in its second press run.
“Amazon ran out two days ago,” Taunton said on Thursday. “The book has been in high demand. It’s gotten a lot of visibility.”
Hitchens did two debates in Birmingham hosted and moderated by Taunton, in 2009 and 2010. They also debated each other in Billings, Montana, then drove together to Yellowstone National Park.
“I discovered Christopher is not defined by his atheism,” Taunton said. “Atheism is a negative and you can’t build a philosophy around a negative. Christopher was searching for a unifying system of thought. They’re accusing me of saying he converted. I make no such claim. It’s not my claim that Christopher converted, it’s that Christopher was contemplating conversion. I think I substantiate it in the book.”
More than anything, Taunton said, Hitchens’ stay at Taunton’s house leading up to his first debate in Birmingham had an effect on him. “There are fans of Christopher Hitchens who think that Christopher hated people of religious belief,” Taunton said. “I know for a fact that wasn’t true.”
Hitchens met Taunton’s adopted, HIV-positive daughter, Sasha, and was deeply moved by her life and faith. “Sasha’s impact on him was huge,” Taunton said. “It’s because of her own innocence. He was powerfully moved by her, an argument he couldn’t refute… At the end of the day, the most powerful apologetic is love.”
New book by founder of Fixed Point Foundation tells of his friendship with prominent atheist and adoption of child from Ukraine.
Hitchens appreciated integrity and people who really believed what they said they believed, Taunton said. He hated phonies, especially people who said they were Christians but secretly admitted they didn’t really believe it.
Taunton asked Hitchens after the Billings debate why Hitchens didn’t attack him personally. “He said, ‘Because you believe it. You really do believe what you’re saying. You really are in pursuit of my soul out of compassion.'”
Before Hitchens’ debate with a liberal Anglican bishop at Westminster Abbey, he told Taunton, “You’re with me on this one,” Taunton said. “Christopher had become this unlikely defender of the faith. He would defend me in front of a snarling crowd. He spoke so highly of me in a way that moved me. It mattered to Christopher that he knew he wasn’t a trophy I was pursuing. He knew I cared about him. He respected it and appreciated it. Christopher was appreciative that he knew that he mattered to me. Christopher valued friendship above ideology.”
After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hitchens famously broke with his leftist friends and supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “After 9/11, when he became a neo-con, he found an enemy in Islamo-fascism,” Taunton said.
“One of the unifying factors with evangelicals was with Islam,” Taunton said. “Christopher could not get over the blindness of the left. He could never get beyond their willful blindness to the dangers of Islam. Christopher felt a rising alarm about Islam. I agreed with everything Hitchens said about Islam. I recognize that not every Muslim is a terrorist. But if you read the Quran and the Hadith, If you take those writings seriously, infidels must pay a tax, convert or die.”
Pair will talk on topic: “How Atheism Poisons Everything”
Taunton recalls that after Hitchen’s last debate in Birmingham, U.S. soldiers lined up to greet him afterward.
“Some veterans of Iraq were lining up to meet Christopher,” Taunton said. “Military people are generally conservative, but they loved Christopher for his defense of the man in uniform.”
In the end, Hitchens had created too big a reputation on his atheism to convert to Christianity, Taunton said.
“Christopher was in a difficult place,” Taunton said. “He’s a dying man. He asked me why I thought he didn’t convert. I said, ‘You’ve created a global reputation as an atheist, your fortune, your reputation is based on it. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to admit you were wrong. You created a prison for yourself.'”
To see the Fox News interview, click here. (It’s good!)
Article from al.com.
MSNBC interview, click here.