Creator: Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Eric Hitchens
The mark of an independent mind is not what it thinks, but how.
(born 13 April 1949, died 15 December 2011) was an English-American author and journalist whose books, essays and journalistic career spanned more than four decades. He was a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic
, Vanity Fair
, World Affairs
, The Nation
and Free Inquiry
, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008. He was a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits. In 2005, he was voted the world's fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect
He was best known in recent times for his strong and vocal opposition to religion. Demonstrated, among other places, in his 2007 book god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everythingnote
, and he is considered to be a founder of the "New Atheism"
Although admired for his speaking and writing, you'd be hard pressed to find someone with the same political views as him. Hitchens began his political career as a socialist, but broke with the left in the 1990s. He began to moderate his views on economic policy and promote interventionist foreign policy, which sometimes led to him being called a neoconservative. He supported the Iraq War
and never regretted it, but in contrast to the neoconservative camp, he was critical of Israel
. Many of his stances came as a result of his opposition to religion.
He died in a Houston
hospital on December 15, 2011 from complications relating to oesophageal cancer.
His work provides examples of:
- Artistic License - History: A major criticism of his works. This  shows some quite prominent flaws.
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: Hitchens felt the Christian idea of redemption (through accepting Christ's sacrifice on your behalf) amounted to this, since if refused, the person goes to hell.
- The Anti-Nihilist: Was always very outspoken about the inbuilt morality of human beings, and did not fear death at all, even when confident that he would experience Cessation of Existence.
- Bi the Way: Described in his memoir. Identified as bisexual and had his share of homosexual encounters during his lifetime.
- Cain and Abel: His brother, columnist and conservative Christian Peter Hitchens, disowned him over a blue joke told over dinner. (Really.) They never mended fences. After Hitch died, Peter eulogized his brother in his column.
- Corrupt Church: Hitch saw all religions and sects this way, to varying degrees.
- Deadpan Snarker: Oh boy, whenever he appeared in public.
- "Will an Iraq war make our Al Qaeda problem worse? Not likely."note
- (On Jerry Falwell): "If you gave Falwell an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox."note
- (On Michael Moore): "But speaking here in my capacity as a polished, sophisticated European as well, it seems to me the laugh here is on the polished, sophisticated Europeans. They think Americans are fat, vulgar, greedy, stupid, ambitious and ignorant and so on. And they've taken as their own, as their representative American, someone who actually embodies all of those qualities."
- "One has to marvel at God's thinking here: Let's not appear to the Chinese, where people can read and write, and study evidence, and have a civilization, or to the Greeks, or the Egyptians, or the Babylonians, or the Persians, no, let's find one of the most backward, primitive tribes, in one of the less literate parts of the Middle East, and tell them to journey across miles of inhospitable desert, to take as their homeland one of the only bits of the Middle East where there is no oil. Good job!"
- This exchange:
Christian Broadcaster: If God exists, would he not have been good to you?
: No. It would mean that I had an eternal supervising parent, who would never die and let me get on with my life, never let me be my own person, who monitors and judges all my innermost thoughts, to whom I owed all of my success. It would be like living in North Korea
Christian Broadcaster: Well, I'm not sure God is Kim Jong-il.
Christopher Hitchens: Well, ask Kim Jong-il, he has a different opinion.
- Devil's Advocate: Literally. When the matter of raising Mother Teresa to sainthood was raised, Hitchens was brought into argue against it (he described the experience as "working for the Devil pro bono").
- Fake Ultimate Hero: How Hitch saw and described in his writings many revered figures, most notably Mother Teresa, widely viewed as a saint.
"[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."
- Fan Nickname: When Hitchens made a particularly good point or refutation, it was often referred to as a "Hitchslap". Hitchens himself is sometimes referred to as 'Hitch', including in the title of his memoir, Hitch-22.
- God Is Evil: Though he didn't believe in it, obviously, he felt that if the Christian god existed it would be like this, explicitly comparing it to the Kim family of North Korea ruling the universe for all eternity.
- The Grinch: His articles could spoil holiday mood. See this essay, or this one. He wasn't too wild about Hanukkah, either.
- Neutral No Longer: Like his brother, Christopher's political awakening sprung from the antiwar scene in the sixties. Like his brother (again), he eventually split from the liberal wing over its perceived appeasement of totalitarian regimes and the threat they pose to western civilization as we know it. This evolution occurred during the The Falklands War, when a bewildered Hitch confessed he agreed with Thatcher's war policy. The rest of his career was dedicated to denouncing his one-time allies in the antiwar movement, such as Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, and Harold Pinter.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Took tea with General Jorge Rafael Videla, the brutal overseer of The Process in Argentina, and man responsible with for at least 30,000 deaths and innumerable tortures. They didn't care for each other.
- Insult to Rocks: From his scathing review of Michael Moore's Bush-bashing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11:
"To describe this film as dishonest and demagogic would almost be to promote those terms to the level of respectability. To describe this film as a piece of crap would be to run the risk of a discourse that would never again rise above the excremental. To describe it as an exercise in facile crowd-pleasing would be too obvious. Fahrenheit 9/11 is a sinister exercise in moral frivolity, crudely disguised as an exercise in seriousness. It is also a spectacle of abject political cowardice masking itself as a demonstration of “dissenting” bravery."
- Just for Pun: His treatise on Mother Theresa, "The Missionary Position".
- Not So Different: Like Dawkins he was often accused of bigotry and historical inaccuracy. A lot of atheists don't like to be associated with him.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: He claimed in his books and lectures that religion in general is ultimately a dangerous and destructive organization, and that a religion-free world would be much better.
"All religious belief is sinister and infantile."
- Politically Incorrect Hero: He originally shot to fame with the book The Missionary Position, a trenchant and no-hold-barred attack on the works of Mother Theresa. His later published articles include "Why Women Aren't Funny" and "North Korea: A Nation of Racist Dwarves." In addition, he has also been accused of being quite bigoted against Muslims.
- Religion of Evil: He believed they were all this, to varying degrees, as in the subtitle of his book god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. However, he opposed the Abrahamaic, monotheist religions (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) the most. Islam was possibly the worst of these in his view.
Now I prefer to argue that it would be horrible if it were true. I'm not an atheist in other words, I'm an anti-theist. I don't, in myself, have any desire to live under a permanent, unalterable dictatorship… When I was in Christian prep school I used to wonder what Heaven would be like if it actually did consist of everlasting praise. Sounded like Hell to me, but I couldn't picture it; nobody can of course, but I've seen the nearest approximation to it, which is North Korea, where it is the only duty and job and right of a citizen to eternally praise the Divine Leader and his Divine Father… And it's a life of constant grovelling misery and fear and praise and thanks for the tiny handouts that you get, and it's impossible to describe, the nothingness of the life of a North Korean, but at least you can fucking die
and leave North Korea.
- Sophisticated as Hell: As a master of polemic, it's hardly surprising. When giving a speech or lecture, he was not afraid to use a juicy expression.