RIP Hitch

Most of us have heard by now that Christopher Hitchens has died.  If there is a heaven, he’s up there kicking god’s ass, so at least that hasn’t changed.  If there is a hell, he is undoubtedly giving Lucifer lessons on how to sin with class.

But neither of those places exist, and Hitch died knowing it.  There was no deathbed conversion.  When the theists ask, as they always do, how we atheists deal with the inevitability of our own demise, we can now give them greatest retort ever, courtesy of Mr. Hitchens.  However we may presently stare our loss of consciousness in the face, we can always point to the last year in the life of Christopher Hitchens and say, “That.  That is how I wish to grapple with death.”  Most of us won’t manage it.  Then again, if exceptional displays of courage were easy, everybody would make them.

And, like believers, we cry.  Hell, most of us will cry more than Hitch probably did.

As for how we cope with the death of a loved one, we continue to live – and every day we nurture the way that our loved one changed us so they can remain, in some semblance, present in the way conduct ourselves.  In the unique case of Christopher Hitchens, as we continue to fight irrationality and its religions, we go to battle armed with many of the tools Hitch gave us: his words, his arguments, his interminable strength.

The world is a better place and our movement several orders of magnitude stronger because of this man.  We are his legacy.  Every student who read his works and said, “Yes, religion is dangerous and we need to push back;” every activist out busting their ass for a different, saner world – these are what is left in the wake of his life.  Even as his muscles evaporated over the last year, and even as the last of his opulence of fortitude finally vanished, Christopher Hitchens made the rest of us strong.

I was asked recently who my writing influences were.  I answered that they were PZ Myers, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Chicago columnist Mike Royko.  Following the death of John Belushi, Royko wrote that life was unfair, but it should never cheat this bad.  Thirteen years later, and life still plays dishonorably.  We can spite her by living like Hitch.

Hitchens created controversy following the death of Jerry Falwell for delighting in Falwell’s death.  Similarly, there will be religious people who say, “good riddance” at Hitchens’ exit.  That’s fine, and who could honestly blame them after watching Hitchens romp their best and brightest for so many years?  But consider the differences for a moment.  Hitchens was unflinching in pointing out that Falwell had risen to prominence through preaching inequality and telling us that we godless are at fault for 9/11 and other disasters (and a long list of other gripes).  For anybody celebrating Hitchens’ death, they cannot say that anybody was ever less equal on account of his life (in fact, atheists and gays are unarguably more equal for it) or that anybody was ever harmed or oppressed on account of Hitchens in any way.  The worst they can say of him is that he was incredibly eloquent in dismantling their cherished beliefs, often in defense of those marginalized by the religious.  That’s a great life.  It’s an admirable life.

Sean Hannity, who said waterboarding was not torture, declined a sizable charitable donation to be waterboarded.  Hitchens, to answer the question to his satisfaction (and presumably for ours), allowed himself to be tortured for free.

I could go on forever about all the great things Christopher did and of all the ways he was a badass.  Other writers will undoubtedly do just that.

Just…fuck.  He was great.  And we’re all going to miss him.  The man never stopped going, he never stopped fighting, and he never stopped living to the fullest extent he could conceive.  Frankly, he was due for a break.  I’m glad he’s finally getting it.

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”  ~ Christopher Hitchens

  • Loud

    Great eulogy for Christopher Hitchens. Atheism, and the world in general, will be a poorer place without him.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Poorer for his loss, but exponentially more affluent for his life.


  • http://limerickfun.blogspot.com/ Rich Stage

    He raised all our IQs a notch.
    Idiocy fell on his watch.
    We all know that Hitch
    was nobody’s bitch,
    so let’s thank him by raising a scotch.

  • http://war-on-error.xanga.com/ Ben

    Christians have had a surprising number of nice things to say about him. I’m disappointed.

  • http://goneapostate@blogspot.com Brian Wallace

    This is my favorite tribute yet. Thank you.

  • http://templeofthefuture.net James Croft

    Thanks JT. That was beautiful.

  • John Eberhard


  • RhubarbTheBear

    He seemed embarrassed when people compared him to George Orwell. I’d wager that history will eventually slot Hitch in higher than Orwell, if for no other reason that Orwell got too many things wrong.

  • kaorunegisa

    This was incredibly well said. I found out last night when I couldn’t sleep and have been waiting for your post on the topic. Even wrote my own on my blog which I won’t be crass enough to post here. Regarding this to what I wrote, I must quote Hitch in his answer to why his book was different from Dawkins’s and Harris’s treatments of the subject: it’s better. Thank you for that.

    While I can’t say I agreed with everything he wrote (his rather paranoid fantasies about Muslim “soft conquest” were nothing but speculation based on population statistics, equally the idea of “one-way multinationalism”, unless I read those articles wrong, which is possible), Hitch was a great inspiration and finally pushed me to embrace atheism. We are poorer for his loss, but richer for his life.

    • kaorunegisa

      And I realize I missed a reply where you said the same thing. Damnit! Going to go back to lurking now.

      • John Morales

        Please don’t!

        You’re an independent voice, and your reiteration is meaningful.

  • Daemonowner

    One of the best Hitchens quotes ever:

    “I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet, that I haven’t understood enough, that I can’t know enough, that I’m always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
    – Christopher Hitchens

  • Paddy

    Here’s to Hitch.

    I’m taken aback at how deeply I’m feeling this loss.

    I’m grateful that so many are eulogizing him, and that we are honest enough to point out his faults, as well as his incredible strengths.

    That’s the true sign of rational thinking.

    We are really gonna miss him, but thankfully we can continue to draw inspiration from him.

  • http://throwthisbookatme.com H.D. Lynn

    I read Greta’s eulogy, and I agree with her statements a bit more because she does temper her praise with the fact that Hitchens held some small-minded opinions about women. Acknowledging someone’s flaws doesn’t make their best ideas worthless, and it only means even the best thinkers can be prone to bias and privilege. I think that’s something we should acknowledge about this death. Even our best thinkers are flawed, but they can still be great.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani Sharmin

    When the theists ask, as they always do, how we atheists deal with the inevitability of our own demise, we can now give them greatest retort ever, courtesy of Mr. Hitchens. However we may presently stare our loss of consciousness in the face, we can always point to the last year in the life of Christopher Hitchens and say, “That. That is how I wish to grapple with death.”

    This, definitely.

    I didn’t always agree with Hitchens. Sometimes, he inspired me and sometimes he infuriated me, but one of the things about his writing that inspired me was that it helped me deal with my fear of death.

  • Janis Mattox

    Bravo, JT – beautifully put. I think of Hitchens as a comet from the Age of Enlightenment, shooting by with his brilliant and piercing light just at that critical moment in time when darkness beckons the collective consciousness.

  • http://joswun.posterous.com Jo Wun

    Good post. But I’m not sure Hitch would have appreciated the title.
    “RIP”? Is that supposed to be a joke? To plagiarise Monty Python: “He’s not resting, he’s fucking dead!”