An evangelical Christian author claims that he had private conversations with Christopher Hitchens just before he died where the latter had contemplated becoming a Christian.
Of course fake stories of deathbed conversions of prominent atheists are not new, with Voltaire and Charles Darwin being prominent examples. Hitchens was well aware of this and in his last days went to extraordinary lengths to warn people not to be taken in by such stories about him.
But can one really prevent this kind of story? People who are dying publicly often have a stream of visitors towards the end even though they usually die alone or in the company of a very few people, and atheists usually have many religious people among their circle of friends and relatives. Even if the people at the final bedside deny hearing any kind of conversion, there is nothing to stop any of the earlier visitors claiming that the deceased secretly told them of having second thoughts. I think we have no choice but to expect that the death of any prominent atheist is going to be followed by a story of conversion.
Oddly enough, I have not seen the reverse, of reports of very religious people at the end telling those close to them that they actually suspected that there was no god, unless there is concrete evidence like in the case of the posthumous publication of Mother Theresa’s letters describing her struggles with belief.
I suspect that the problem for believers is that they find it hard to accept that atheists can face with equanimity the thought of death being the end. On the other hand, atheists understand that the idea of heaven and god, while not doing anything for them personally, can for others be a source of comfort that they will cling on to until the very end.