Last week, everyone in the world seemed to be talking about Christopher Hitchens, who you probably know by now has died of cancer. My hiatus has thus made me late to the party. But there simply was no way I was going to not address this story as, for the last couple of years, he’s become one of the most influential figures in my own life.
Christopher Hitchens was a force of nature and a powerful ally in the fight against unreason. More than just one of the world’s leading intellectuals, Hitchens was one of best writers and possibly the greatest orator of our time. Until last week, he may also have been the only one in the world who literally held the title of Devil’s Advocate.
Sure, he had his faults. Namely his inexplicable views concerning the Iraq War. But when it came to religion, the topic that most defined him in his final years, he brought such an amazing combination of eloquent rhetoric, righteous anger, irreverence, and wit. Indeed, his blunt and devastating counterarguments have become so legendary they’ve gained their own nickname, the Hitchslap. A quick Google search will provide anyone with ample examples of the Hitchslap in action.
And though I’m a fan of both Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, Hitchens brought his own wholly unique quality to the religion debate, one that can never be replaced.
Of course, the man who once said upon Jerry Falwell’s death that if you’d given Falwell an enima, he’d fit in a matchbox had his enemies, particularly among what he called the “theocratic fascists”. And sure enough, as news of Hitchens’ death came out, controversy followed. To honor him, fans tweeted their appreciation using the hashtag #GodIsNotGreat. After the hashtag trended, it drove numerous threats of violence from religious people unaware it was referencing Hitchens’ best-selling book (not that that would matter). And in class corporate fashion, Twitter opted to remove the hashtag from the list of trending subjects rather than show any integrity. Moreover, right-wing radio host Bryan Fischer asserted that Hitchens was now in Hell…because “God” loves him. And not surprisingly, the Westboro Baptist Church has vowed to picket Hitchens’ funeral, an act that Hitchens would surely have appreciated.
I was fortunate enough to meet him on more than one occasion, both before and after his diagnosis. But unfortunately I never got the opportunity to share a drink with the man. Christopher Hitchens will surely be missed and I fully intend at the next Drinking Skeptically to celebrate his life with his favorite beverage, Johnny Walker Black.
Also, in his honor, I’m pushing a campaign to put the Chris back into Christmas.
Christopher Hitchens: In memoriam
Since King Jong Il’s death this week, here’s a great clip of Hitchens on religion and North Korea:
- Christopher Hitchens (thehindu.com)
- CFI Mourns the Death of Christopher Hitchens (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Postscript: Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011 : The New Yorker (policyabcs.wordpress.com)
- Christopher Hitchens (geoffarnold.com)
- RIP Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) (bookclubbabe.wordpress.com)
- Christopher Hitchens on Kim Jong-il, One-Party States And…Putting the X Back in Xmas! (reason.com)
- Goodbye Christopher Hitchens …. Welcome to Hell. (mackquigley.wordpress.com)
- Humanists Mourn Christopher Hitchens: Stalwart for Atheism (secularnewsdaily.com)