13 April 2013

Warrior for truth

Today would have been the 64th birthday of Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, one of the defining books of the New Atheist movement.  Hitchens exemplified what made the New Atheism so vital and so successful -- he was forceful, unapologetic, and ruthlessly honest in attacking the evil and stupidity of religion, free of the sickly "respect" that religion so arrogantly demands but so utterly does not merit.



Here is Hitchens speaking in November 2010, shortly before his death -- the cancer treatments had cost him his hair but not his acuity:



One of his best performances ever, in Toronto in 2006, during a debate on a Canadian hate-speech law:



More Hitchens in action:










His memoir Hitch-22 shows the human side.  He was not afraid to put his own convictions to the test of empirical reality, as with his 1968 trip to Cuba which made clear the true nature of the regime there.

Hitchens died at 62, startlingly young by today's standards.  He died of esophageal cancer, for which the heavy drinking and smoking for which he was known are both risk factors.  If only he had managed to cast aside those powerful addictions!  He might still be among us today, with another decade or more of helping to lead the good fight still ahead of him.  As it is, his words will continue to inspire, to bolster our resolve, until the parasitic disease of religion is expunged from the minds of humans all over the Earth.

5 Comments:

Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I remember reading somewhere that Hitchens knew he was teasing fate as he continued to indulge in heavy drinking and smoking--a poisonous combination for those with a genetic background for esopheogeal cancer, but he also believed those unhealthy vices contributed to his ability to elucidate his arguments.

Hitchens's father died of esopheogeal cancer. He knew this, of course, but continued on his self-destructive path.

We lost a real advocate for reason and rational thought when he died. Luckily for us, there is YouTube and many of his lectures to be enjoyed there.

We still have Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Neil Degrasse Tyson, and Carolyn Porco, among many others, to carry on Hitchens' life's work: to embrace reality and reason and reject superstition and religion.

Here's NPR in a tribute to him:

"Our chief consolation is Hitchens' saucy, pugnacious, ever-bright prose. There's really no getting around the tragic fact of the snuffing of what Graydon Carter, his Vanity Fair editor, refers to in this book's foreword as Hitchens' "great turbine of a mind." But reading Mortality and Hitch-22, and then going back to his earlier work, including his irresistible doorstopper of essays, Arguably, can provide at least some measure of solace."

13 April, 2013 08:56  
Blogger Kay Dennison said...

His legacy will live on to thinking people everywhere.

13 April, 2013 10:21  
Anonymous wjbill49 said...

He was a very reasoned person and an advocate for non believers. I was always disappointed by his embrace of Bush's war.

13 April, 2013 10:38  
Blogger Shaw Kenawe said...

I forgot to link to THIS for you.

13 April, 2013 16:04  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Shaw: Thanks for the link -- that's a good one. The idea that drinking or smoking helped elucidate his arguments is a new one to me -- well, everyone feels more eloquent when they're drunk, but reviewing the results when sober usually puts paid to that notion. I suspect even highly-intelligent people come up with rationalizations to go on yielding to their addictions because they're so damnably hard to overcome.

Kay: So it will, and we all must carry on the fight.

Wjbill49: True, but nobody can be right about everything.

14 April, 2013 08:29  

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