We all knew he was dying. For the past few weeks I have thought about him for that split second before I turned on the radio or computer and wondered. I sent him a letter, two actually, in the weeks before he died – thousands of people did. We all wanted him to know that he had changed our lives, made us a little braver, a little less afraid and a lot more certain that we weren’t alone in our non-belief. Despite all that, I felt so sad when I heard.
For me, Christopher Hitchens made the arguments I felt but could never articulate. His way with words often left me in awe. How could someone think so clearly, rationally and linearly and then describe his thoughts so powerfully?! He was passionate, incredibly prolific and a powerful advocate for rational thought. Some people found him to acerbic, confrontational and controversial. I loved him, even when I disagreed with him. I get tired, in this day and age of political correctness, of people mincing words. If you have an opinion, fight for it. If you have the gift of language that Hitch had, you use it. When you see something so absurdly wrong about the world, you change it.
Hitchens was a humanitarian in the truest sense of the word. He aspired for greatness for all of us, for everyone. He wanted us to rise above our base superstitions and fears and long-expired wisdoms and think for ourselves. He saw religion and dogma and theocracy for what they are – shackles on humanity. Dogmatic thought (whether religious or otherwise) keeps us from reaching our potential for creativity, happiness and kindness. He knew we could be better, even when faced with evidence to the contrary. No wonder he sometimes seemed so angry.
He was a voice for atheists everywhere. He, along with his neo-atheist counterparts, made being an atheist something to be proud of. He made being religious look silly and infantile. He cut through all the bullshit and held a mirror up to religion and the religious – this is what your book says, this is how you act, this is what you claim to believe and this is what you’ve done to the world. It was not a pretty image. Nobody wanted to see it.
Christopher Hitchens was a giant and all I can hope for is that his memory will live on and make all of us aim to articulate a little better, think a little harder and feel proud of the fact that we used our brains to come to a conclusion that we aren’t afraid or embarrassed of. We are atheists and we are fortunate to have kept company with one truly great man. May he live on in reason.
“The only position that leaves me with no cognitive dissonance is atheism. It is not a creed. Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.”
― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-believer