Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 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, Slate, 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/Foreign Policy poll. He was the older brother of fellow journalist and author Peter Hitchens.
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" movement.
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 (although he would later criticize the way it was conducted), but in contrast to the neoconservative camp, he was critical of Israel, though he also made no secret of his disdain of Saudi Arabia, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran, Israel's main rivals/enemies. 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 esophageal 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 it is refused, the person goes to hell..
- Boarding School: He said this on the subject-"Don't believe everything you hear about our boarding schools. (Beat) Don't dis-believe everything you hear either."
- Cessation of Existence: Naturally, as an atheist, this was his view on what happens after death and he spent much of his time outlining why such a fate isn't something to be feared, particularly in his final months."It will happen to all of us. That at some point you'll be tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party is over, but slightly worse: the party's going on but you have to leave."
- Crapsaccharine World: This was his view on Heaven, likening it to a North Korea style totalitarian regime where absolute devotion is expected and dissent is not allowed and everyone is expected to be happy anyway.
- 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."
- God Is Evil: A major recurring theme in his work, to the point of one of his most famous novels being outright called "God Is Not Great", is that even if he did believe in God, he wouldn't consider Him worthy of worship and that He'd be more akin to a brutal and omniscient dictator than a benevolent deity.
- Hell of a Heaven: This was his view on Heaven, comparing it to a party you can never leave and at which you are obligated to have a good time:All right, then, because it might make us feel better, let’s pretend the opposite [of Cessation of Existence]. Instead, you’ll get tapped on the shoulder and told, Great news: this party’s going on forever – and you can’t leave. You’ve got to stay; the boss says so. And he also insists that you have a good time. The father proposed by monotheism is the father that doesn’t die. Who reassures his children ‘don’t worry, I’ll never leave you. You’ll never see the end of me. You’ll never get the chance to feel sorry, I’m always there. I’m the absolute ultimate in dictatorships and in my courts there is no appeal.’
- Insistent Terminology: He was vocal in wanting to be seen not just as an atheist but an antitheist, drawing the distinction that many atheists would like to believe in religion or a higher power but simply lack the conviction while he was adamant in viewing such beliefs as inherently harmful and was happy he didn't hold such a view.
- 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."
- I Take Offence to That Last One: When George Galloway said to Hitchens "You're a drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay", he replied "Only some of which is true". He later explained that he was very definitely an ex-Trotskyist, was quite probably a popinjay (meaning either a cocky person or, archaically, a frequent target) but was an expert at holding his liquor.
- The Necrocracy: He variously referred to North Korea as probably the world's first "necrocracy", "mausolocracy", or "thanatocracy", because its head of state, Eternal President Kim Il-Sung, was a dead man. He was also fond of saying it was "just one short of a trinity". Hitchens died before Kim Jong Il, who was of course succeeded by his son.
- Never Speak Ill of the Dead: He most emphatically did not believe this was a good idea, although he did slightly temper it with the suggestion "Never say anything nasty about the dead that you weren't brave enough to say while they were alive. Everything else is fair game.". His post-mortem broadsides at Mother Theresa and Kim Il-Sung have already been mentioned, but his crowning glory was probably being asked to comment on the death of Jerry Falwell:"He woke up every morning, pinching his chubby little flanks, thinking 'I've got away with it again'... If you gave Falwell an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox."
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: He claimed in his books and lectures that religion in general is ultimately a dangerous and destructive organization, referring to religious belief as "sinister and infantile", and believed that a religion-free world would be much better.
- Political Correctness Is Evil: He was openly contemptuous of political correctness, especially when it came to protecting religious sensibilities.
- Pun-Based Title: His treatise on Mother Teresa, "The Missionary Position".
- Reality Is Unrealistic: He claimed to hate clichés in writing, so when he visited Communist-era Czechoslovakia, he promised himself that he wouldn't make references to Franz Kafka in his reports. When he was arrested while visiting a group of political activists and told by the police that he didn't need to know the charge, he realized that reality is sometimes indistinguishable from parody. Similarly, he didn't want to mention Nineteen Eighty-Four before he visited North Korea, but found it to be such a perfect rendition of the dystopian state in the novel that he almost suspected it to be the regime's unofficial source of inspiration.