Five Years Without a Hitch
On this day 5 years ago, author, orator, and journalist Christopher Hitchens passed away, far too soon for my taste. I am extremely sad that I never got the chance to see him in person. In an interview during the last stages of his life, he said that he had always enjoyed living a fast-paced and stressful life, that he had burned the candle at both ends and it created a beautiful light.
What a beautiful light it was, and it it lives on in the minds of millions of people, thanks to his many written works and filmed debates, lectures, and interviews, discussing politics, religion, economics, and more.
Here is just one video of some of the greatest moments of Hitchens - often dismantling religious claims of piety and pointing out hypocrisy from those whom claim to be morally superior because of their faith.
Whether you agree or disagree with his claims and rhetoric, one can't deny that he has inspired at least one generation of thinkers to consider alternative points of view, and to think critically about morality.
His politics were as interesting as his rhetoric surrounding religion - a conservative later in life, Hitchens spent a great deal of time as a self described communist and Post-Trotskyist. He was in support of the war in Iraq, and was glad that the USA had overthrown a tyrant like Saddam Hussein, a stance for which he was criticized, and he has always thought that the United States had a unique history as being among the first successful secular nations to exist and persist into modernity. His heroes were Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and his fellow "Four Horsemen of atheism" included Dr. Richard Dawkins, Dr. Daniel Dennett, and Dr. Sam Harris.
His more popular works include "god is Not Great," "Thomas Jefferson: Author of America," "Letters to a Young Contrarian," and "The Portable Atheist." He was taken into the rhetoric of religious discussion and modern philosophy upon the 9/11 attacks in the United States, and became an advocate for what he termed "anti-theism," or the active dismantling of organized religion by debating it's uses, veracity, and more, to convince others of what he perceived to be the collective problems and atrocities of organized religion.
His spirit of contrarianism and passionate debate live on in the minds of many that have read his works and heard his public appearances.
On a more personal note, the ways in which Christopher Hitchens has influenced my life are numerous. He helped cultivate a love of philosophy in me, helped me see the flaws and moral problems in many religions - including the one I used to follow - and he encouraged debate and passionate discussion for their own sake. He has said that "that's offensive" is not an argument, and what he meant was of course that an appeal to emotion is a logical fallacy, but he quipped it with such eloquence that it has stayed with me for quite a long time.
He has in reality influenced me to study philosophy, history and politics in ways and in depth that I never thought I would, and I credit him posthumously with helping me expand my mind so much more than I thought possible. Christopher Hitchens truly changed my life, and I'll be forever saddened that I never got the chance to meet this great man in person - but forever thankful that his light lives on in the minds of all of us, and in the internet that harbors many of his public interactions.
Rest in peace, Hitch, and thanks for the incredible work you've done.
Feel free to let us know in the comments what Christopher Hitchens meant, or means, to you, and how he's influenced you today, if at all.