CollinsChristopher Hitchens is one of the most outspoken atheists today and author of the best-selling book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Francis Collins is a world re-known scientist with a strong Christian faith, noted for his leadership of the Human Genome Project and his best-selling book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Faith.

The Telegraph, a newspaper based in Great Britain, reported on an unlikely bond of friendship and trust between these two very different people. Even so, a March 2011 newspaper headline announced, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens could be 'saved' by evangelical Christian." The article went on to report, "The two had often met in the past as adversaries in the debate about whether God exists. Against the odds they [have] become friends." This improbable friendship started because Hitchens, a cancer patient, became part of an experimental treatment program that involves genome sequencing. Doctors plan to map Hitchens' genetic makeup so they can target and treat his damaged DNA. It just so happens that this experimental treatment is being pioneered by Dr. Francis Collins.

Hitchens has spent years blasting religious faith and religious believers. In his book There Is No God, he argues that "Organized religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry …." But when asked about his friendship with Dr. Collins, Hitchens spoke with only respect and admiration. "It's a rather wonderful relationship," he said, "I won't say he doesn't pray for me, because I think he probably does; but he doesn't discuss it with me."

What an interesting story … God does work in mysterious ways.

Sources: Matt Woodley, managing editor, and Richard Alleyne, "Atheist Christopher Hitchens could be 'saved' by evangelical Christian," The Telegraph (3-26-11).

5 thoughts on “Unlikely Friends

  1. Please note: although Francis Collins holds evangelical beliefs, he rejects Intelligent Design and Young Earth Creationism.

    He believes in Theistic evolution, which is not compatible with the general views of Pentecostals. These are all described in his book.

  2. Thanks Mark very interesting article and most helpful information on genome sequencing. God DOES work in mysterious ways!

  3. Interesting to see the atheist’s view of the violence in religion, especially considering the vastly higher number of people affected by atheistic regimes such as the USSR, China, Nazi Germany, etc. Ray Comfort makes an interesting point on the effect of Nazism in his recent movie “180” ( It’s also interesting to note that the majority of violence from religion today comes from one in particular (I’m sure there’s no need to mention which one, lest someone take offense and issue a fatwah).

  4. Another interestinoma- Christopher Hitchens’ brother is a christian- he wrote a book called- ‘The Rage Against God’ (how atheism led me to faith) by Peter Hitchens

Leave a Reply