By Jake Meador | the FEDERALIST
In a recent essay for the New Yorker, Lawrence Krauss bemoaned the common habit among some conservative Christians of conjuring up fanciful deathbed conversion narratives about prominent non-Christians. He specifically mentions the well-known tale of evangelist Elizabeth Cotton, who made up such a story about Charles Darwin. She claimed that he told her from his deathbed that he wished to “recant the doctrine of evolution in exchange for Christian salvation.”
Krauss’s odd phrasing aside, he points to a problem that really does exist in pockets of conservative Christianity. In addition to the stories of Darwin, other conservative Christians have made up similar tales about other prominent enemies of the faith—Voltaire and Thomas Paine, most notably. Making up a conversion story about a famous person is obviously a horrible thing to do. At its root it is lying about a person’s views of God, which is horrifying enough, but it also implies a certain distressing insecurity in the believer. Krauss is right to condemn this sort of thing.
What is curious about Krauss’s piece, however, is how he framed the criticism: He begins the essay by referencing a recent book by prominent evangelical apologist Larry Taunton called “The Faith of Christopher Hitchens,” in which the author describes his relationship with Hitchens and the famous atheist’s odd relationship to faith in his final years. Unfortunately, it seems Krauss did not read beyond the title page of Taunton’s book. Indeed, if he had he would’ve found the following excerpt written by Taunton in the book’s final chapter: