Remembering Mr. Hitchens

It’s an insecure, easily-threatened worldview which feels the need to frame every tragedy its opponents face within its own narrative. But that’s the outpouring we’ve seen from some on the Christian right over the passing of the prominent, relentlessly thoughtful atheist advocate Christopher Hitchens. Most of the acknowledgments take this simple form — “now he knows” — as if, somewhere, Mr. Hitchens is finally receiving his cosmological come-uppance. The sentiment is as arrogant as it is mean-spirited, even if delivered lovingly (as by Mr. Warren). And it’s also wrong.

Personally, I don’t stake a position on the theism v. atheism debate. It feels like a hard thing to be certain about, and (personally) I would hope there is some cosmic force that watches over mankind, for we sorely need it. Against such doubt, the only thing one can say about Mr. Hitchens is that either he does know, or he doesn’t. And either way, Mr. Hitchens faced the event which would finally resolve the question of divinity for him, personally, with bravery and a confidence that he used his time here well. As all should.

He has passed beyond a barrier where the scoring of the petty points so prized by his opponents no longer matters. I will remember him as someone who made us think, and for that, deserves our gratitude.

Note that if you want an excellent, touchingly human view of Mr. Hitchens, consider his correspondence and relationship with his (very religious) friend Andrew Sullivan.


  1. To me, the whole atheism/theism debate is useless. The perfect microcosm for this debate to me is Christmas. I can get wrapped up in calling it Christmas or Happy Holidays, I can fight for Santa or Jesus.

    Or I can say, forget it, and just focus on supporting a larger meaning for the holidays, of supporting altruism, helping others out, being with friends, and loved ones.

    The debate is a silly distraction from finding common ground and making a better society/world/people.

    1. The thing that gets me about that debate is, wouldn’t deliberate overmisuse of “Merry Christmas” be a better weapon against Christmas? “Oh no, your mother just committed suicide? Merry Christmas!”

      1. You’re a sick man some days Steve.

  2. Christopher Hitchens was one of that very particular kind of intellectual (very often Oxbridge-trained, interestingly enough) who make a career out of shouting polemics at pretty much everyone and everything, but never actually offering anything of a constructive nature. There appear to be a lot of people who are very impressed with his type, but I don’t think I’ll ever quite understand why.

    Vaclav Havel died last week, too. It would be interesting to compare the press coverage of the two deaths – I suspect it would not quite reflect their respective significance.

    1. Indeed it doesn’t. If Mr. Hitchens was the true man of intellect he liked to pretend he was, then he would not have stated enemies, nor would the ad hominem be a staple of his intellectual discourse. Rather, he would have welcomed all comers, and recognized that true intellectual advancement comes from the frank engagement of all views, not the mere rote discarding of those you don’t agree with.

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