Christopher Hitchens ∞ 1949-2011

What do you most value in your friends? Their continued existence.”  ~  Hitch-22

This is, according to WordPress, my 450th post. I was going to save it for an auspicious topic, but Christopher Hitchens seems to have pre-empted that, or should I say,  he made it superfluous and irrelevant. Of course this post will be about him.

Hitchens was a writer’s writer. He had the unique ability, shared by few, to be able to say in a sentence or two what most writers need entire books for. This made him a great essayist, because the essay, by its very size, limits the ability to elucidate and convince to someone who can take proper advantage of the form. Hitchens was a master at it.

Of course, for me he articulated so well the lack of religious beliefs I share with him, not just in his book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, but also in his essays, and most prominently, in his debates with theists. Unlike other atheists who felt that sharing a podium with a theist simply empowered them, giving religion legitimacy it couldn’t otherwise lay claim to, he did not shy away from debating the pros and cons of religion with people like Dinesh DeSouza, William Lane Craig and even Tony Blair, in the process demolishing their arguments piece by piece. I think that was his true calling and he seemed to always rise to the occasion with aplomb and good wit. Even after his diagnosis with esophageal cancer, he continued to debate.

His ability to turn a phrase was his stock in trade. Consider:

“She [Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.”

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”

“What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.”

and of course

If you gave [Jerry] Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.

Finally, this, possibly his epitaph:

“Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.” .”

He’ll be sorely missed.

5 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens ∞ 1949-2011

  1. *sigh*

    I was hoping he’d be with us at least a little while longer. At least I can turn to his books and essays for thought-provoking ideas and admirable prose.

  2. None of us lack religious beliefs. We lack more voices like Hitch.

    I don’t think anyone survives esophageal cancer. There are certain places in the body where even if it were early and truly isolated, removal simply is too devastating. Another reason to battle for science education, continued government funding and loans for education and research, and never to sacrifice such things for the satiating of ignorant and/or selfish desires such as those prompted by religious beliefs.

  3. Better than reading Hitch – I loved to listen to him. The accent and the cadence alone were worth it, but the mighty intellect that was on display, the speed of the witty retort, made him a rare, rare creature.

    I have to say that I disagreed with him on MANY issues, but all is forgiven for the tremendous good he did in keeping the torch of free-thought burning.

  4. I would just like to say that the fact that many atheists disagreed with the Hitch on any number of issues (I was one) is a good thing because I for one am sick and tired of theists trying to portray atheists as 2D and painting us with the same brush. We all returned to atheism (some never left) in our own ways and we are thinking individuals, unlike the assembly line believers…..

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