On December 15th, I will turn 29. Sadly, my birthday will mark the one year anniversary of Christopher Hitchens' death.
I will never be Christopher Hitchens, no one will, but he is a hero of mine. Hitchens had a massive intellect, and his writing skills were exemplary. His work had many admirers including myself. His writing, courage, and hard work is something I hope to emulate.
This is a guy who never worried about labels or titles when he criticized a person he thought was immoral, or of little character. That man once wrote, "(Mother Theresa) was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction."
Mother Theresa is the most unjustifiably well-loved historical figures in our history. Criticizing her is like condemning the lives of Gandhi, and MLK. Her Home For the Dying committed health practices no western hospital would be allowed to do. Hitchens knew this and never let her reputation get in the way of speaking out against Mother Teresa supposed holiness. No one escaped his wrath, not even a woman who will one day be a saint.
Hitchens had a "quick wit and a keen appetite for combat," which makes the true essayist and journalist shine. Hitchens sought out the truth, and did not care who he offended. He reached out to our common decency, and our distaste for acts of hate, by attacking institutions that have brainwashed us into accepting evil. Hitchens' fearlessness made him a legend. His wit, and intellect made his arguments that much stronger. Debating Hitchens might have been fun for some, but intimidating for others. His knowledge of history, politics, and religion was at a level, not matched by many.
Not only was Hitchens a journalistic God to me, (please pardon the pun), his Atheism was also inspiring. Back in high school, I realized that the existence of God was, at best; speculative. I turned my back on Christianity, and I haven't turned back. I really didn't have a strong reason for turning to Atheism, besides the fact that I was raised on the belief that God is love, and the world was full of tragedy. At that time, I didn't know what to believe. I considered myself an Atheist when I had absolutely no idea what it meant.
Then I read, God is Not Great, and I finally had backup. Even in the late nineties, being an Atheist was something you hid. When Hitchens released his masterpiece he put ammunition into my rifle. He eloquently, and intellectually argued against religion. He wrote against the existence and the praise of God. He took on various sects, religions, and followers to passionately describe how "religion poisons everything." God is Not Great was an instant classic, and a must read for anyone who doubts the existence of God.
Although I knew that I was an Atheist, I really didn't understand it. Atheism isn't just denying the existence of God, as Hitchens wrote in God Is Not Great, "Our belief is not a belief. Our principles are not a faith - We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake." My lack of religious belief was now explained by a genius.
Atheists know that the Bible was written before we knew what a germ was, and before we knew how to split an atom, therefore any claims that a God exists is against all plausibility. We know religion, "comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs)."
He skewered the act of prayer by saying those who pray think "-god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right." Prayer is an extremely selfish, and egotistical act. If you pray that a lost hat gets returned to you, you think that God does not have more pressing issues, like poverty, famine, and war. And you are in turn, dictating to God that he must concentrate his powers on your plight while ignoring others. Or you are adding a task to a busy day, by hoping for some return on something that may be trivial. If God has a divine plan, which the Bible states, you are telling God that he is wrong.
Because of Hitchens, I can write that without fear. In fact, I am perfectly fine with debating my lack of belief with a friend who believes in a God. When Hitchens, along with Dawkins, and Harris released books that condemned religion, and revealed their lack of belief, atheists were no longer in the closet. Hitchens, "encouraged people to think rationally," and his velocity pushed through every religious argument, and blew it away. I am no longer afraid to mention how our societal ills have been produced and expanded because of religion. Without religion, women wouldn't be thought of as sub human. We wouldn't be executing or denying rights to homosexuals, and every single one of us would be free to explore our minds, bodies, and lives.
Although I never met Hitchens, he is a man of great reverence, a man whose work I greatly admire. He taught me that the truth isn't always beautiful, but it must be told without reservation. I learned through him, that no title, or job should excuse anyone from criticism. He taught me, as a journalist, you must seek the truth, and hold none of it back.