"The mark of an independent mind is not what it thinks, but how."Christopher Eric Hitchens
(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 who could always
agree with 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, even though he was hardly a political conservative. 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 fundamentalist religion.
He died in a Houston
hospital on December 15, 2011 from complications relating to oesophageal cancer.
His work provides examples of:
- Accentuate the Negative: Unsurprisingly, god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything focuses on the negative aspects of religion.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- 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."
- Sibling Yin-Yang: With his younger brother Peter, a convert to Christianity and opponent of the Iraq war. They were estranged for a time but eventually reconciled and engaged in a number of public debates on religion.
- 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.