“I’ll close on the implied question that Bill asked me earlier.
Why don’t you accept this wonderful offer? Why wouldn’t you like to meet Shakespeare, for example?
I don’t know if you really think that when you die you can be corporeally reassembled, and have conversations with authors from previous epochs. It’s not necessary that you believe that in Christian theology, and I have to say that it sounds like a complete fairy tale to me. The only reason I’d want to meet Shakespeare, or might even want to, is because I can meet him, any time, because he is immortal in the works he’s left behind. If you’ve read those, meeting the author would almost certainly be a disappointment.
But when Socrates was sentenced to death for his philosophical investigations, and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city — and he accepted his death — he did say, well, if we are lucky, perhaps I’ll be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters too. In other words, the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on.
Why is that important, why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But I do know that that’s the conversation I want to have while I’m still alive. Which means that to me, the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way, is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet; that I haven’t understood enough; that I can’t know enough; that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
And I’d urge you to look at those people who tell you, at your age, that you’re dead ’til you believe as they do — what a terrible thing to be telling to children. And that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way. Thank you.”
Christopher Hitchens’s improvised closing remarks at one of his final debates on faith and reason. This debate was against the very erudite and convincing William Dembski of Baylor University, and the entire contest is worth watching (and is on Youtube), but this particular segment is below.