Christopher Hitchens was a hero of mine. There really aren’t many people that I unquestioningly admired. If I had to name some, Winston Churchill comes to mind as does Dwight Eisenhower. Going back a little further in history, I have a lot of admiration for George Washington as well as Thomas Jefferson.
At first glance Jefferson and Washington were almost godlike to those of us in the 21st century. Of course if we read a few biographies of our founding fathers, we find that Jefferson had an on-going sexual relationship with one of his slaves. So, he was unfaithful to his wife. How was the affair being carried on? As two equals? Probably not. Washington probably acted like a human as well. Does this disqualify them from being heroes? No, they weren’t gods. They didn’t walk on water. They put on their pants one leg at a time — just as you and me. They were humans.
As time progressed to the 20th century with the advent of photography and news broadcasting, we saw Dwight Eisenhower leading the allied troops — and we also saw the affair that he was having with his female military driver. He was a human being.
Now, with blogging, 24-hour newscasting, etc., we find that Christopher Hitchens was very much a human being. No one will deny that he was a great writer. He had strong opinions and, pity you if you were on the wrong side. He was always a British gentleman, but orally he would politely tear you to pieces!
Those who knew him – or followed him —knew that he drank too much. Sometimes he even showed up for debates with a distinct slur. He often used vulgar language. His words, however, could still rip us mortals to shreds.
I consider that I have a reasonable command of the English language but, from time to time, I still had to refer to the dictionary when reading his articles in Vanity Fair, or other magazines for which he wrote.
In his younger years, as a writer, he was very much of a leftist. But by the time of the invasion of Iraq he had changed many of his views and did support George Bush, and the invasion.
Toward the end of his life, he wrote a number of books arguing against religion and debated the subject with theologians and others. Most of his debates are on YouTube and well worth watching. I pity those who debated him. They came out of it somewhat diminished. His most famous book is “God is Not Great – how religion spoils everything”. It is well worth reading!
So, Christopher Hitchens is dead. He is not in “a better place” but he is certainly in an appropriate place, he is in a coffin. As the world renown biologist, and atheist, Richard Dawkins, has said:
We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of the Sahara. Certainly these unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, and scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness that are here — we privileged few who won the lottery of birth against all odds.