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A Voice Goes Silent: Christopher Hitchens 1949-2011

To quote Ricky Gervais,"Saying atheism is a belief system is like saying not going skiing is a hobby." But if it were or if you think New Atheism has become something akin to a movement then Christopher Hitchens would have been our most charismatic and well spoken leader. He combined wit and reason in such a way, that he was an unbeatable debater and an unstoppable advocate. He took what is perhaps the ultimate human intellectual truth, that nothing can be known with absolute certainty, and used it to show that any person selling certainty will inevitably make a complete fool of themselves.

I will no doubt spend part of my holiday looking through his final words, his exchanges with Andrew Sullivan and some of his messages to friends to see what wisdom he left us in his final days and weeks. Death is inevitably the hardest thing to face in the human experience and in the face of it many don't stay true to themselves. Hitchens never showed that fear publicly, and hopefully he left us some of what gave him his strength. I almost wished for an "I have seen the mountaintop" sort of speech were he gave us his best advice about where the public debate on religion and so many other topics needed to go and how he would have proceeded in that direction, but I don't know that he ever saw himself as that sort of a leader.

If abandoning faith is a trend verging on a movement, then its pretty regrettable that the hitch won't be there to keep the whole business entertaining. In my opinion, his humor and writing make him as enjoyable to read as Mark Twain. He was Arrogant, erudite, and quite often an asshole, but he embraced those things in his humor and used it to make his arguments against faith, and for reason all the more powerful.

He exposed Mother Theresa as a fraud and Henry Kissinger as a war criminal. Both of those acts were great scandalous reporting, but I think they were also socially relevant acts. The idea that we can't simple trust churches to be a force of good is one he helped forge and you don't have to go to many anti-war rallies, or occupy protests to see that people now think that US officials can be war criminals and are often Hippocrates in regards to international law. He didn't change those things alone, but he made great strides.

I never met him, and clearly my words will be very far from the most profound recollections of his life and work, but I thought is was worth a moment to recognize someone that inspired me, and inspired my father. I recently heard Hitchens recount what he said to someone that introduced himself to Hitchens as a "Fan" Hitchens responded, "Don't be a fan, I don't need fans, what I need is critical readers."

Its a respectable aspiration.

  • Reed

Here are some Great remembrances popping up around the net:

Andrew Sullian: The Dish

Christopher Hitchens obituaries collected and Dawkins.net

Stephen Fry & friends on the life, loves and hates of Christopher Hitchens


 

Comments

Death is a very liberating thought http://youtu.be/cZ4bA0wqIQ0

Let's not forget though that he was INCREDIBLY WRONG in his support for the Iraq war and his cheerleading for war was dangerous and wrong.

As Glenn Greenwald writes, "Subordinating his brave and intellectually rigorous defense of atheism, Hitchens’ glee over violence, bloodshed, and perpetual war dominated the last decade of his life."

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/17/christohperhitchensandtheprotocolforpublicfiguredeaths/singleton/

Yes, he was a champion against religious nonsense, but he also held on to his own forms of nonsense and stupidity as well.

Well, I hadn't forgotten that, but it really hasn't come up as much since he announced his support for Obama in 2008, although he certainly never recanted.

His life's work certainly amounts to more than that.

Well, I hadn't forgotten that, but it really hasn't come up as much since he announced his support for Obama in 2008, although he certainly never recanted.

His life's work certainly amounts to more than that.

I agree that there is more to a man's life than just his cheerleading for war. However, like Greenwald, I think that any eulogy of Hitchens should address it.

As it was said by Gawker: "He loathed sentiment, welcomed combat, and delighted in inflicting hard truths. In that spirit, it must not be forgotten in mourning him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life horrifically, petulantly wrong."

http://gawker.com/5868761/christopher-hitchens-unforgivable-mistake

I agree with you, right up to the point of...

decade of his life

and

the single most consequential decision in his life

Both are hyperbole. No doubt he would welcome the challenge, as long as it isn't like the boos the the Bill Maher audience gave him. I sort of take Sullivan's analysis as true. That his intellect was guided by emotion in regards to his prejudice against Catholics and Muslims.

Is it hyperbole to think that cheerleading for a war that caused the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqis and cost a TRILLION dollars?
I can't imagine I'll see a bigger mistake in my lifetime.

It would certainly be harder on my conscience than the boos of a television audience.

So, yes, biggest mistake.

but the quote is...

the single most consequential decision in his life

How is supporting Iraq bigger than opposing Vietnam? Its not like he had a vote in congress or worked at the pentagon.

I'm with ChrisM70 on this one: Hitchens was totally wrong about the war, the biggest foreing policy gaff in US history.

I'm with ChrisM70 on this one: Hitchens was totally wrong about the war, the biggest foreing policy gaff in US history.

I didn't screw up; I posted twice for emphasis! And Andrew Sullivan hasn't been right ever...on anything.

If you watch one of Sullivan's videos, he talks about Hitchen's upbringing contributed to how he hated the catholic church. He also mentions how his relationship with Salman Rushdie led him to similar dislike for Islam and that was a significant inspiration for his support of the Iraq war. Which sounds right on.

Huh? I hated the Catholic Church since I was 4 and I was totally against the war. And Andrew Sullivan is a total cunt who has been on both sides of every issue you can name. Why he gets paid for opinions is way beyond my pay grade. Sullivan actually demanded that liberals who were against the invasion apologize for their dissent (April 2003, it was on his blog but I'm sure he has deleted it by now). Hitchens was a complete asshole about everything concerning 9/11 and Islamic fundamentalism. He thought we could just kill our way out of the problem.

Who are you arguing with exactly?

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