Perhaps, but he seems to be honest with himself. On the other hand, throughout Mortality, the book from which this quote is taken, he constantly draws on memory to describe pain.
What is it? How do we know it? What is happening when we say, we feel, pain? We even measure it on a scale from one to 10. But not Mr. Hitchens; his pain is more complex; it is plural, not easily "caught," not easily "explained," certainly not easily conveyed to others, even nurses and doctors. But the pains, Mr. Hitchens experiences, are the pains of death, and that is the theme of his book, to speak to the reader about how these experiences are at the same time one alone, isolated, secluded; and yet humanly universal.
Suffering, torment, aching, sorrow, grief, sadness, unhappiness, desolation, despair, misery, agony. These are only a few of the innumerable words indicating pain, but each takes on different meanings; the experience of death turns these words strangely, no longer easily public expressions - cliches - but the final experiences of life - in words.
In "Mortality," Mr. Hitchens tells us about his first awareness of the disease, "My father had died, and very swiftly, too, of cancer of the esophagus. He was 79. I am 61. In whatever kind of a "race" life may be, I have very abruptly become a finalist." The first three sentences introduce us to a fact, the discovery, and the fourth, to the character of the writer, as if he is in a contest, avoiding emotion, but at the end of the "race." He even intensifies the situation with "Why me?" the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: "Why not?" And adds, one more personal level, "when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists ... You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness," but focusing on the universal effect of the disease for the male, "the immediate loss of Eros is a huge initial sacrifice"-ironically, even comically, placing the loss of sex above the loss of self.
It is this tone that dominates the book, the subtle comic effect, always handled gently, even humbly. His focus is on what appear to be the important themes of his searching mind.
One is religion. Although he is not a believer, religion is invoked several times through the book with prayer suffering a close social and somewhat intellectual analysis, thus destroying the assumed power of prayer as a conversation with godbook, releasing the destroyer into an existential aloneness, without a compass. However, Mr. Hitchens, suffering from an aggressive cancer, does make clear where he is on religion in general, by arguing - passionately and persuasively - that "those who want me to die in agony," and those " who want me to burn in hell are also mocking those kind religious folk who do not find me unsalvageably evil." Thus he appeals to the ethics of religion, specifically of prayer, among "kind religious folk," substantially weakening, even contradicting, his publicly, frequently asserted anti-religious position. And in this "mood" he turns to the dramatic example of "Cat Stevens who as 'Yusuf Islam' once endorsed the hysterical Iranian theocratic call to murder my friend Salman Rushdie," thus relying again on the ethics of religion - as he sees it.
But then, not surprisingly, he turns again to his public position on religion and prayer: "I sympathize afresh with the mighty Voltaire, who, when badgered on his deathbed and urged to renounce the devil, murmured that this was not time to be making enemies." He gets back to this position a few pages later with another example of someone who finds the world "all wrong" (sarcastically thanks to a good god), and is moved to instruct god "how to put them right," implying that "nobody is in charge, or nobody with any moral authority." Thus, "The call to prayer is self-canceling."
As stated above, one can see, feel, that Mr. Hitchens is a "believer," not out of a dogmatic religion, but out of the simple, meaningful ethics of behavior for human survival: Peace in place of Pain.
This leads Mr. Hitchens to the argument that, though whatever the believers believe is false, there is a way to find some solace, even pleasure, in life. Through science. In this section he sees the possibilities of eliminating the health threats, "I was hugely excited. It is now possible to remove T cells from the blood, subject them to a process of genetic engineering, and then reinject them to attack the malignancy." Further research indicated that his tumor and immune cells needed a special molecule to make the T cells work this way, but unfortunately he didn't have the right one. He was also told that another possibility from a human embryo might work, but which was forbidden by a Republican amendment based on the religious assumption that since god makes babies, they must be protected at all stages.
Mr. Hitchens, of course, attacks this "religious" interference that opens the door to death: "If you want to take part in the 'war' against cancer, and other terrible maladies, too, then join the battle against this lethal stupidity."
The scientific attempts to at least delay the worst, failed. He then knew, along with countless others, he would not beat back what he had dubbed, as if he had known then, "the blind, emotionless alien."