The New Atheists Weigh in on the Loss of Christopher Hitchens

Sam Harris offers his thoughts on Hitch:

I first met Hitch at a dinner at the end of April 2007, just before the release of his remarkable book god is not Great. After a long evening, my wife and I left him standing on the sidewalk in front of his hotel. His book tour was just beginning, and he was scheduled to debate on a panel the next morning. It was well after midnight, but it was evident from his demeanor that his clock had a few hours left to run. I had heard the stories about his ability to burn the candle at both ends, but staggering there alongside him in the glare of a street lamp, I made a mental note of what struck me as a fact of nature — tomorrow’s panel would be a disaster.

I rolled out of bed the following morning, feeling quite wrecked, to see Hitch holding forth on C-SPAN’s Book TV, dressed in the same suit he had been wearing the night before. Needless to say, he was effortlessly lucid and witty — and taking no prisoners. There should be a name for the peculiar cocktail of emotion I then enjoyed: one part astonishment, one part relief, two parts envy; stir. It would not be the last time I drank it in his honor.

..,.

Richard Dawkins also contributed a eulogy, this one to The Independent:

Every day of his declining life he demonstrated the falsehood of that most squalid of Christian lies: that there are no atheists in foxholes. Hitch was in a foxhole, and he dealt with it with a courage, an honesty and a dignity that any of us would be, and should be, proud to be able to muster. And in the process, he showed himself to be even more deserving of our admiration, respect, and love.

Farewell, great voice. Great voice of reason, of humanity, of humour. Great voice against cant, against hypocrisy, against obscurantism and pretension, against all tyrants including God.

Daniel Dennett explains a lesson he learned from Hitch at the Washington Post:

Of all the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” Hitchens was clearly the least gentle, the angriest, the one most likely to insult his interlocutor. But in my experience, he only did it when rudeness was well deserved — which is actually quite often when religion is the topic. Most spokespeople for religion expect to be treated not just with respect but with a special deference that is supposedly their due because the cause they champion is so righteous. Then they often abuse that privilege by using their time on the stage to misrepresent both their own institutions and the criticisms of them being offered.

The main point is this: Don’t let anybody play the God card in these discussions as if it were a “Get Out of Jail Free” card that excuses misrepresentation. Hitch would not hesitate to call out the pope, or Mother Teresa, or anybody else. Honor his memory by following his example.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Way off topic: I watched the Broncos-Patriots game. Tebow Time is over.

  • Mallorypuff

    Hmm, no comments from women. Tsk, tsk. Shoddy article.

    • fiddler

      The supposed “New Atheists” and “Four Horsemen” were all male writers. They were given the names, they didn’t choose them or exclude women…

      • Mallorypuff

        It was Hemant’s choice to focus on those males. Shoddy article. Period.

        • Hemant

          Which of the female horsemen should I have included…? 

          • fiddler

            Which is what I was trying to point out… I’m sorry Hemant, how terrible a person you must feel like, to choose only four men from a vast pool containing all of four men…


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