By Andrew L. Seidel
“You don’t so much as become an atheist as find out that’s what you are. There’s no moment of conversion. You don’t suddenly think ‘I don’t believe this anymore.’ You essentially find you don’t believe it,” Christopher Hitchens said in an interview with Sally Quinn. Like so many of his words, this hit home for me. Yesterday, freethought lost a giant. Christopher Hitchens died at age 62. He leaves a hole in FFRF’s Honorary Board that none can fill.
Hitch is one of my three favorite writers along with Oscar Wilde and Mark Twain. I began each week by reading his Slate.com article and eagerly awaited any Vanity Fair articles or new videos of his debates. His article on the Ten Commandments inspired me to write a law review article comparing the Decalogue to our Constitution. He was prolific, witty, brilliant, and a whole host of other adjectives that writers with more talent and more knowledge of Hitch as a man will use to describe him. When I read Hitch, I wished I could write like him. When I heard him speak, I wished I could sound like him.
Though I never met him personally it was hard not to feel like Hitch was a friend. Hitch’s writing demolished the crumbling walls of my religious cognitive dissonance. Thousands of people realized that they were atheists and gathered the courage to say so because of his words. Without doubt, that will be his greatest legacy. Though he died, his ideas will endure and help free thousands of future readers from the mind-forged manacles of religion.
The only immortality any person can hope to have is in the minds of our friends and family and in the words we pass on. Hitch had an almighty gift for both writing and speaking. Fortunately, he left us a library of literature and debates. Tonight, I’ll watch you trounce the Catholic Church, raise a glass of Johnny Walker Black and toast to you, Hitch. Thank you for all you have done, I’m going to miss you.
Andrew Seidel is the newest member of FFRF’s legal team and our first Constitutional Consultant. He joined FFRF in November and absolutely loves his job. He, and all of FFRF, are truly going to miss Hitch.
Even though many of us have our own views and are able to guide ourselves, it is nice to know you are not the only one who sees the world as you do.
Thanks for posting. Just so sad. I was hoping he'd make it through, but knew that with esophageal cancer, your odds aren't good. I haven't been affected by a "celebrity" death like this in many years. Probably since Dimebag Darrell died, but I actually knew him and hung out with him. (If you don't know Dimebag, he was the guitarist for Pantera, and was murdered onstage during a show.) The world is really going to miss Hitch. I know I am.
I didn't agree with everything Hitchens said, wrote, or advocated (especially his flag-waving in favor of the shameful, useless invasion of Iraq), but his expose' of that old celebrity suck-up, The Fraud of Calcutta ("Mother Teresa") will forever be a classic.
I just wish more people would read The Missionary Position, and convince the Cat-Lick Crutch that pushiing for her canonization will embarass them in the long run. (Of course, if they feel no shame or sorrow over the hundreds, maybe thousands, of children who have been raped by priests over the centuries, perhaps the truth about that skinny little Albanian con artist isn't even on their radar.)
I hope Hitchens' publishers start putting together collections of the articles he wrote for Slate and Vanity Fair. I'm printing as many as I can find on line, but it's a big job. I'd also like to be able to read transcripts of some of his debates... That should be FUN!
I love (present tense...he may have "left the building," but his words have not) his razor-sharp wit. Too many atheist/agnostic writers lack the ability to poke fun at Crispy Crowd. (George Carlin was another one I will miss forever.) I have always believed that laughter is a powerful weapon. (See the collections of WW2 Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons for some examples.)
So Long, Hitch, and Thanks For All the Mind-Food.
Here's a fantastic compilation, Sk8ey: The Best of the Hitchslap
I have read a lot about his assault on MT, but haven't read the book itself. (If everything of his wasn't currently sold out, I might get it tonight! I'm sure it'll all be back in stock at Amazon soon.) I've got a few others to read in the meantime. But yes, all his incredible articles from all over the place....I'd love it if they were all in one place. And there are some really fine tributes from many of his friends and enemies. I haven't read very many, but have enjoyed Andrew Sullivan's many posts on his blog at the Daily Beast, Richard Dawkins, and Ian McEwan's. Good stuff.
Oh, and just a suggestion: Instapaper is a good way to save all the links, if you like, so that you can find them and print them or read them later.