A True Writer Shuffles Off His Mortal Coil

With a heavy heart I report that Christopher Hitchens passed away early today at the age of 62 from esophageal cancer. In all brutal fairness – a fairness I’m sure Hitchens as empiricist would appreciate – he was a borderline alcoholic and heavy smoker; in this respect and in a universe devoid of a living and personal God, he ultimately reaped what he sowed. But I do not believe this is a Godless universe and my dendrites dance when I speculate how that final encounter between the Creator and the creature transpired.

As a journalist, war correspondent and literary critic, Hitchens carved out a reputation for barbed repartee, scathing critiques of public figures and a fierce intelligence.

In his 2007 book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,” Hitchens took on major religions with his trenchant atheism. He argued that religion was the source of all tyranny and that many of the world’s evils have been done in the name of religion.

The son of a British naval officer, Hitchens studied at Oxford University and worked as literary critic for the New Statesman magazine in London before moving to New York to work as a journalist in 1981. He settled in Washington the following year, initially as correspondent for the left-wing magazine The Nation. He retained his British citizenship when he became an American citizen in 2007.

Hitchens was not one to mince words. In his book on Bill Clinton “No one left to lie to”, he called the former U.S. president a “rapist” and a “con man.” He once referred to Mother Teresa of Calcutta as a “fanatical Albanian dwarf.”

The author of 25 books – including works on Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and George Orwell – and countless articles and columns, Hitchens never lost his biting humor.

“I’m a member of a cancer elite. I rather look down on people with lesser cancers,” Hitchens said in an interview with CBS “60 Minutes” aired on March 6, 2011.

In a 2010 interview with Reuters, Hitchens dismissed criticism that he moved from left to right and helped former U.S. President George W. Bush sell the 2003 war with Iraq to the American public with what turned out to be bad intelligence about weapons of mass destruction.

“Saddam was an enemy of the civilized world and he should have been taken out a long time before,” Hitchens said of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. “I have no regrets about that at all.”

The 2001 attacks on the United States by Islamic fundamentalists in hijacked passenger planes made Hitchens ever more critical of the role of religion in the world, and led him to appreciate the merits of American democracy.

“I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organized religion,” he wrote.

Hitchens said things that more often than not made me pitch a fit – but he said them with a style and an aplomb that rendered me a masochist begging for more. He was a writer’s writer and I read what he wrote with the same stunned, slack-jawed amazement that Salieri read Mozart’s first drafts in the motion picture “Amadeus.”

When it came to wordcraft, Hitchens was a genius – twisted and damaged in many respects, but a genius nevertheless. Words and sentences to him were like marble to Buonarotti, pigments to Rembrandt – or musical notes to Mozart.

He leaves behind a metaphorical pen that no one will ever be able to wield and a literary legacy I shall always envy. Farewell, Mr. Hitchens…you will be sorely missed.

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4 Responses to A True Writer Shuffles Off His Mortal Coil

  1. Dana Pearson says:

    I will miss Christopher Hitchens and his writing. Few writers had the courage to expose the “demagogue and obscurantist” Mother Teresa. Hitchens video “Hell’s Angel, Mother Teresa” helped expose her Calcutta convent for what it was — and if you don’t know what it was, see the video, especially the part about the 15-year old boy left to die there of a totally curable kidney condition, or about the tragically unsanitary reuse of unsterilized needles there.

    Hitchens was absolutely correct in knowing that God could not be proved and that so many of the problems of this world are due to cults and organized religion. Unfortunately, it seems as though Hitchens never developed the unprovable belief in the Truth.

  2. dloosend says:

    More company for Ted Kennedy and Gerry Ferraro at Satan’s table—no loss.

    • Gene Hoyas says:

      Spoken like one who is assured on his own salvation. I’ll bet you don’t even attend church on Sundays. After all, why bother? You are among the Elect…the chosen few granted a dispensation by the Divine Trinity to pass final judgment on us fallen mortals.

      I can only hope and pray that God is more merciful and forgiving of my sins than you would likely be.

      • Dana Pearson says:

        I can’t speak for dloosend, but I love this subject. The first epistle of John notes:

        But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

        It is possible to have full assurance of salvation. It is also possible to have false assurance. It is also possible to have salvation and not be assured of it.

        I can’t look into the mind of another and know if he or she is trusting in Christ alone for salvation. Certainly, I am the worst of sinners and deserve God’s wrath as much or more than Ted Kennedy. However, I do have assurance – only because of what Jesus did for me, His perfect life and propitiatory sacrifice. It is humbling to know that God did elect me in eternity past and chose to have his Son bear the horrible burden of my sin, something He did for some but not all.

        Coming to a belief in God’s wrath is just a beginning, a start that Hitchens, for all his talents and perspicuity, did not seem to attain. Hitchens read far more than most men. He certainly read the Bible, but how thoroughly? It seems as though the Holy Ghost never granted Hitchens the ability to believe God’s words.