In Honor of Christopher Hitchens, Two Years Later

Two years after his death, Christopher Hitchens‘ legacy still looms large. With extreme faith linked to civil rights abuses around the world, his warning that “religion poisons everything” remains as true as ever.

If it’s upsetting to think he’s no longer with us, remember that there are still people out there picking up God is Not Great for the first time, who are only now stumbling across his speeches and debates on YouTube, and who can’t believe someone would go after Mother Teresa… until they hear his arguments and realize he was on to something. When I think about what he’s left us with, I can’t help but smile.

(Image via Bengie)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • jude2004

    And whenever I think of Christopher Hitchens, I think of a misogynistic jerk.

  • Anton

    As a Christian, I was impressed with the quality of Hitchens’s prose and the force of his arguments. Believers who have never read it would be surprised that compassion for religion’s victims forms the basis of his critique, and not smug superiority.

    Not that the guy had any qualms about being smug or superior. You’re missed, Hitch.

  • _7654_

    To The Hitch! we shall raise our cups today. Till the sun burns out.

  • jediofpool

    I miss the Hitch Slap.

  • johnnybgood

    Only my father has had more of a positive influence on my life intellectually, I raise my glass to you Mr. Hitchens…..gone but never forgotten, salud !

  • peter taylor

    Interesting Jude, care to enlighten us when exactly Hitchens was a misogynist? Was it when he made repeated pleas that the only way to free people from poverty was the empowerment of women or, was it when he rallied constantly for women to have control over their own wombs. Just curious.

  • momtarkle

    If anyone gives a puppy’s poop about jude2004′s labeling of CH, here’s a blog discussion on it:

  • WallofSleep

    The candle that burns twice as bright burns only half as long.

    “If it’s upsetting to think he’s no longer with us…”

    Nah. I’m just happy there was a guy like that alive and kicking in my lifetime.

  • WallofSleep

    That’s very flattering, but I only wish I possessed half the intellect that Hitch had. Wait, what…

  • WallofSleep

    So a group of people at a blog who are totally in the tank for a political candidate get hostile, nasty, and go on the attack when someone has the unmitigated gall to criticize or say unflattering things about their chosen race-horse? Color me surprised.

    Sounds like some of that “Christian Persecution Complex” rubbed off on them.

  • The Captain

    “care to enlighten us when exactly Hitchens was a misogynist?” well duh… he was a man! Don’t you know there’s a group of atheist on the internet for whom all men are misogynist rape apologist? I’m sure they are throwing around “cis white man” as if that’s an insult to him, but I really don’t care to read any of their crapy blogs today.

  • Watchtower&Awakening

    Johnny Walker Black at the ready.

    We’ll take it from here, Hitch.

    My reflection on The Hitch:

  • Watchtower&Awakening

    Then you didn’t understand the words he spoke or wrote. Move along.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Castilliano

    I know, precious, right?
    Opponent: “Random quote” supporting himself.

    Hitch: Corrects wording on quote, puts in context of where quoter was, and adds to both ends of quote to show how opponent was parsing, while original speaker actually had opposite opinion.
    Opponent: Well so & so is of this opinion.
    Hitch: If you see my interview with him (insert very specific date), you’ll see he retracted his words as foolish and went on to say…

    I can’t imagine what it’d be like to prepare to debate him, knowing any cool data you’ve uncovered is already countered in his repertoire.

    Love that guy too, warts & all,

  • jude2004

    Now there’s a reasoned attack.

  • Guest

    I am infinitely more intelligent than he was. Besides that, he was pedantic and boring.

  • WallofSleep

    “I am infinitely more intelligent…”

    Thanks for playing, come again.

  • These Atheist

    Ms Jude, are you trolling here ??

  • momtarkle

    Will you please show us even a tiny modicum of your infinite intelligence? You haven’t.

  • momtarkle

    Now I get to say it: DFTT.

  • momtarkle

    OMG! The sun is gonna burn out TODAY?

  • Terry Firma

    12:30, the exchange with the rabbi — a hitchslap of the highest order. Note how the audience is charmed and entertained by the rabbi’s question, already eating out of his hand. Somehow, Hitchens turns that around in seconds, and crushes the guy like a bug with an airtight argument, no less convincing for being brutally stated. A classic.

  • Speedwell

    If we keep raising our cups, there’s going to be some sort of blackout, I guarantee it. :D

  • chicago dyke

    i’m one degree of Kevin Bacon from Hitch; my PhD advisor was a personal friend of his. both my advisor, and myself, were intensely disappointed in Hitch’s support for the US (and our allies in the UK) attacks on the Middle East after 911.

    Hitch had the brain power to see all the potential for wrongness, waste, murder, death, and failure in those endeavors. and indeed, the factual proof that those wars are failures is all around us today.

    HItch went on the offensive along with the rest of the Right Wing (his otherwise enemies), and let himself be used as cover, for immoral wars of choice and their supporters. who mostly turned out to be in it for the oil and mineral resources of the two nations we attacked. which, again, was entirely predictable to anyone with an intellect, even one lesser than his. Yes, i’m an atheist and i think Islam is a horrible religion in many ways. No, i didn’t believe, and I still don’t, that a military effort led by the likes of GWBush is the best way to combat Islam’s influence over people.

    Other than that, I am grateful for his many efforts to bring sanity, compassion and reality to more people’s lives. i hope that people who are discovering him today can remember that all men, even great men, have flaws. in the name of reason, it’s important to remember that, even as we celebrate what made him a great man.

  • Speedwell

    I think he wouldn’t have minded that I prefer The Dalmore Cromartie to Johnnie Walker Black Label though… :) Here’s to you, with great respect as a fellow human with all that entails (good and otherwise), Mr. Hitchens.

  • Carmelita Spats

    Boring? The man had a wicked sense of humor plus a love of the absurd, “If you gave [Jerry] Falwell an enema he could be buried in a matchbox.” Sarah Palin, “She’s got no charisma of any kind [but] I can imagine her being mildly useful to a low-rank porn director.” He had the cojonesto call Mother Teresa a bitchwhen I was chastised in Catholic school for merely calling her a “malevolent dwarf”. I disagreed with him on many issues and he had a quirky view of the lady comedians but other than that, he tickled my funny bone. When he verbally slapped his opponent, I was constantly reminded of what one of our church ladies said after being reprimanded for a careless discharge of weapons at the Baptist Men’s Annual Barbecue and Shoot Off, “that sucker shoulda ducked.”

  • Rando

    I loved the Hitchslap too. You could always tell right when he was about to deliver it. He would lower his head, and get a look on his face, like he was about to tear into someone’s argument like a great white shark about to rip into a defenseless baby harp seal. Fun times…

  • peter taylor

    Hey Jude, ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger?

  • Guest

    Any time I say something that is the opposite of what the majority thinks in the world of atheism, I am accused of being a troll. I am a female; I can tell a misogynist when I hear one talk. You don’t care what I think, so you label me a troll, as though I state my opinion just to make others angry. That is not the case. The “atheist movement” is as opposed to free speech as any “movement” on the planet–if you have a dissenting opinion, you are labeled an idiot.

  • Guest

    Hey Peter, ever heard of not labeling someone that you don’t know anything about?

  • Feminerd

    That I disagree with. Hitchens was sexist, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he was also funny, witty, and very intelligent. I love watching Youtube videos of the famous “Hitchslaps”, and his longer lectures are both fascinating and amusing. I don’t let how he saw women, nor his later slide into neo-conservatism, detract from his abilities and accomplishments in other areas. Hitchens was a person, like all people, and had strengths and weaknesses and flaws. I was sad to see him die, even if there were things I didn’t like about him at all.

  • Rich Wilson

    On the misogyny scale, Hitchens strikes this male as fairly mild. He had his moments, but shit, if that’s the major thing to remember him for, then we may as well dismiss most of the male members of the ‘famous atheist’ community, and a good few of the women as well.

  • momtarkle

    OK, jude, first you label Hitchens a misogynistic jerk, then you tell us that you are infinitely more intelligent than he was and that he was pedantic and boring. Now you say that we readers of this don’t care what you think and that you do not state your opinion just to make others angry and that the “atheist movement” is as opposed to free speech as any “movement” on the planet. (Thank God for cut-and-paste.)

    And you’re upset that we don’t seem to like you?

    I’ll grant you that in my not infinitely intelligent opinion Hitchens did, indeed, sometimes, exhibit misogynistic behavior, but he was so much more than that.

    Your posts seem designed to incite negative reactions. Are you really surprised when they do? And doesn’t that show that we do care what you think? Did you expect our universal agreement with what you said?

    Do you really think that most of what you read on this blog shows opposition to free speech? I think that it’s quite the opposite.

    I don’t label you a troll, and I don’t label you an idiot. Actually, I try to not label at all. But, if I did, I’d label you a cute and funny little misandrist. (Yeah, I had to look that up.)

    Keep on postin’. But don’t expect readers to send you boxes of chocolates in response.

  • Feminerd

    Oh, I don’t think that’s the major thing we should remember him for! But I do think it’s important to acknowledge it- not in tributes, obviously, but generally. The last thing we want to do is create a new “Founding Fathers” effect, whereby the Hitch transforms into something perfect in our collective memory. He wasn’t. He was a brilliant, funny man who did a lot to advance the cause and acceptance of atheism, but he was also an arrogant asshole who was sexist.

    And yeah, on a global scale his misogyny wasn’t that bad, but it hurt more coming from him. He was someone a lot of atheist women looked up to; coming from him, it seemed far worse, because we expected far better.

  • Rich Wilson

    Kind of responding to the thread in general, and although I was addressing you, it wasn’t meant to be directed at you in particular, especially as any kind of accusation.

  • Feminerd

    Ah, fair enough.

  • Randay

    Even Richard Dawkins said he would not want to be on the other end of a debate with Hitchens.

  • Randay

    Maybe you are not an idiot, but you are completely ignorant about Hitchens.

  • Randay

    Do you even know what “infinite” means?

  • Randay

    Actually, I prefer Jamesons 12 years. Bottoms up.

  • Hitchslappage

    5:50 – fritzel hitchslap.. you can’t say anything to that.

  • abb3w

    A quick whack with Google does turn up a Vanity Fair piece (“Why Women Aren’t Funny”), and allusions to another piece on abortion (not readily available in full on-line) but that’s the extent of what turned up which can be used to particularize the claim of misogyny. It seems far more plausible that any tendency he had to misogyny was merely expressing his more general misanthropy. (The “jerk” part seems almost certainly to have been a fair cop.)

    In particular, I suspect what you’re hearing is actually the tone associated to someone with a high Social Dominance Orientation. (You might look into the work of Sidanius and of Duckett, as well as Altemeyer’s overview.) While high-SDO is commonly correlated with misogyny, neither is a necessary nor sufficient condition for the other. I also suspect high-SDO is the underpinning of the so-called “MRA” types considered a plague in “the world of atheism”. While atheists measurably tend low on the RWA (authoritarian follower) scale, SDO has minimal correlation on religiosity; and while relative SDO levels in atheist groups have not been directly measured (that I can find with Google scholar) there are other high-SDO correlated traits (most blatantly, gender) that have been measured in atheist/skeptic groups, supporting the conjecture.

    Nohow, it’s not merely a dissenting opinion that gets someone labeled as an idiot in atheist circles; it’s the dissenting opinion presented without ability to back it with an evidence-based epistemic warrant. (Combined with the laziness of the audience, who prefer the low effort of generic source derrogation to the high effort of detailing the lack of warrant.) Which lines up suggestively with some of Duckett’s research; while the high-RWA tend intolerant against groups considered dangerous, and the high-SDO tend intolerant against groups considered derogated, both tend intolerant against the dissenting.

  • Rich Wilson

    He mostly stayed out of abortion, but he did once say something along the lines of:

    If we learn that a woman has been kicked in the stomach, we should feel bad. If we then learn that she was pregnant and lost the baby, we should feel more bad.

    He was also a strong advocate of giving women control over their own reproduction.

    The only other one I can think of is an exchange with an interviewer in which she pushed him on his stand that he felt it was his obligation to care for his family financially. His wife didn’t need to work (using work as synonym for ‘paid occupation’). Can if she wants to, no complaint, but he felt that as the man it was his obligation to make sure she didn’t need to.

    I guess you can label my wife as misogynistic then, because she’s quite certain that it’s my responsibility to make sure the bills are paid.

  • momtarkle

    Yeah! What you said!

  • momtarkle

    Looks like you’ve crawled back under your rock, jude. But, you left me with these two amazing zingers I made up in response to your statement. I can’t hold back!

    1. You probably meant to say, “I am infinitely more intelligent than he IS.” That may be mathematically true, even if your IQ is about 75.

    2. You are infinitely intelligent. God is omniscient. Therefore, you are God. I’m sorry if I offended you. PLEASE, PLEASE, OH PLEASE, DON’T KEEP ME OUT OF HEAVEN!

    Thanks, I’m better now.