One We Lost in 2011: Christopher Hitchensby jason on Dec. 26, 2011, under Art & Culture, Biblical Inerrancy, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Clarity, Conservatism vs. Liberalism, Critical Thinking, Faith, Fundamentalism, God & Bible, Government, History, Islam, Logic, Power of Prayer, Reason, Religion, Sanity, Science, Willful Ignorance
This article comes to us from Jim Wilson:
I spent much of the last several days watching video clips of Christopher Hitchens from his numerous debates and news show appearances and I recommend everyone reading this do the same. I can hardly say anything to do this man justice. Read his books, numerous articles and watch any video footage on him you can find. It is well worth it. The world has lost a powerful mind and voice with his passing last week. His eloquence, humor, intellect, and his direct in-your-face personality have made a lasting impression on me as a distant admirer, and I’m sure the same is true of those fortunate enough to have known him personally. His boldness and willingness to take controversial stances have gained him many philosophical friends and enemies from all over the spectrum. Whether you agreed or disagreed with any of his diverse mix of strong opinions, he got you thinking.
Like many of our readers I came to discover Christopher Hitchens through his harsh criticism of religion, which he declared the “main source of hatred in the world.” All this is well outlined in his excellent book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. He compared the Christian God to Kim Jong Il or a tyrannical parent who treats us all as children. He pointed out the endorsements of slavery, violence and genocide in religious text, he railed against the religious commandments that one mutilate their own child’s genitals, and criticized mother Teresa as a fraud with a fetish for poverty and human suffering. He called out the catholic church for its corruption and indecency, especially when it came to covering up child rape and abuse. When asked if Jerry Falwell (who Hitchens credits for spreading superstition and bigotry) was in heaven he replied, “No, and I think that it’s a pity there isn’t a hell for him to go to.” I loved every bit of it and still do.
With his baritone voice and thick British accent, he destroyed defenders of faith and willful ignorance. The term “Hitchslap” was coined to describe his verbal retorts, which would leave those arguing against him lost for words. In one instance, a religionist explained to Hitchens that God owns him and asked if Hitchens has a problem with ownership, to which he responds “of people…yes”. In another instance, speaking of circumcision Hitchens responded to a claim that a child screamed more during his haircut, pointing out how disgusted one would be if the same was said about the horrendous practice of female genital mutilation.
He recognized religion for the evil that it entails and called it out. This included the slave-master mentality, the repression it creates of normal human sexuality and above all the fear and paranoia that it demands its followers instill in their children who are not yet old enough to think critically. He hated that parents were instilling a fear of eternal punishment in their children and asked them to fall into subservience to a being that does not exist. He hated that people were compelled to blow themselves and innocent people up in the name of their faith and the history of murder and torture that religion has given the world.
But, there was much more to him than that. He was a huge proponent of Enlightenment ideas, and looked up to figures like Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, as well as literary anti-authoritarians like George Orwell. He also provided much deserved criticism of figures like Henry Kissinger and Ronald Reagan who he deemed as war criminals. For much of his decades long literary career, he was influenced by more radical sections of the political left, but always thought for himself. This largely shocked many people when it manifested itself in the form of support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the 2000s. He was never afraid that his position, which were always thought provoking and well thought-out, would alienate others. It did, but he was more than happy to live with that.
For better or worse Hitchens was a man who enjoyed some of life’s excesses. His love of Scotch and tobacco for example were infamous. In fact, his frequent and copious alcohol consumption contributed greatly to his larger than life reputation. As such, he pointed out that burning a candle at both ends often gave a lovely light. Perhaps it was his enjoyment of these excesses that led to his prolonged battle with esophageal cancer, which recently claimed his life.
Despite his chemo therapy and constant sickness, Hitchens remained a fighter. Countless religionists were disappointed that his battle with cancer did not spark a change in his attitudes about religion. In fact their desire to use this as an opportunity to convert him seemed to make him more vehement.
It was during this time I was fortunate enough to see him and fellow atheist horsemen debate two Rabbis in California on the topic of an afterlife. One could tell he had been through a lot. His voice was hoarse, his hair gone, but he showed the same aggressive wit he was known for. I was taken with his comparing an afterlife to a party where you have to stay indefinitely and be forced to enjoy yourself, and despite facing death still made it clear he found the notion repulsive and disproved of the servility it implied. The Rabbis acknowledged before Hitchens even spoke that they had little chance with him as an adversary.
Being able to actually see him, especially knowing that it was unlikely he would be with us much longer, was a great honor. I could go on indefinitely about my appreciation for Christopher Hitchens, and still not do him justice. I can only encourage all of our readers to look up some of the writtings and public appearances of this unique, intelligent and always controversial character.