Christopher Hitchens died on December 16 at the age of 62. The man faced cancer head-on without, what he called, the false consolation of religion. He was a steadfast opponent of “mind-forged manacles” and “celestial dictators.” He had a legendary wit that he wielded with deftness against “elderly villains” such as Henry Kissinger and Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). He was a champion of freedom of speech and he abhorred what he viewed as the servility promoted by religion. A self-described “anti-theist,” Christopher Hitchens was one fourth of the so-called Four Horsemen with Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. He died in the presence of his friends and without a deathbed conversion. He wrote in his biography of Thomas Paine, “Thus he expired with his reason, and his rights, both staunchly defended until the very last.” The same could be said for Hitchens. A voice for reason in an age of overwhelmed by nonsense has been forever silenced but, Hitchens wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It will happen to all of us, that at some point you get tapped on the shoulder and told, not just that the party’s over, but slightly worse: the party’s going on — but you have to leave. And it’s going on without you. That’s the reflection that I think most upsets people about their demise. All right, then, because it might make us feel better, let’s pretend the opposite. 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.”
—Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011
Christopher Hitchens’ eloquent words have touched the lives of many atheists here in the Filipino Freethinkers. Below are some personal reflections on the impact Hitchens has made in the lives of freethinkers.
Christopher Hitchens was the voice that led me out of the darkness, the wit that showed me the light. “god is not Great” was the first atheist book I had read on my journey away from theism. His words were the clarion call that crystallized the hazy thoughts that swam in my head as I pondered a universe without a God. I’ll genuinely miss his scathing, fearless humour.
We’ve lost one of the great voices for reason of our generation. While we can’t look forward to meeting Hitch in the afterlife, each and every one of us can help carry on his legacy. In our own ways, we have to raise up our voices against vicious unreason, we have to bring our wit to bear against ideas and beliefs that shackle people’s minds. We all have to be our own Hitch.
The first time I encountered Hitchens was several years ago, before I started giving a fuck about whether there was a god or not. I spotted the title “god is not Great” while scouring a bookstore, and the small “g” alone gave me chills. I felt drawn to the statement. I really wanted to agree with it, wanted to actually think further about it. It would take a while before my head was actually clear enough to embrace these few words wholeheartedly, but what matters was that I embraced them in the end. I read the book only after I realized that god did not exist, and that was a mistake. I should have grabbed that book the first time around. I will no longer doubt doubt from now on, Hitch.
I was 18 years old and very combative. I was very eager to argue with anyone I met that god is not great and that religion is a big lie. In fact, I did have this argument with a lot of believers. Looking back, I really wish I met Chritopher Hitchens as early as then. A touch of Hitch would have made all those debates more tonge-in-cheek and enjoyable. Finally getting to know Hitchens a few years back was life changing; although Hitch didn’t cause me to change my major beliefs, he effected something much better — he changed my way of approaching and delivering all rational arguments.
Hitch taught me that arguments should never be monotonous and dull and that reason and humor made an excellent pair. He showed me that serious talk does not have to be somber and that life-and-death matters can be and should be laughing matters. Yes, Hitch will be sorely missed, but he left us all an abundant gift of wit-spiced reason that we will always be grateful for.