I hope you can see that I was smiling through tears in the headline as I typed it.
One of my favorite atheists has, after 18 months of battling with esophageal cancer, slipped the surly bonds of earth and mortality and the world is a poorer place because of it.
Yes, I’m going to miss the guy, a lot. One of the things I remember about him was that whenever I heard he’d written something new, I always hovered over the link for a moment, wondering if I’d be cheering or cussing him out in a few minutes. I always clicked, though, because I knew that, no matter what, I’d be in for a literary treat.
Witty and a fantastic writer, it was a pleasure to imagine our common enemies withering in the fire of his prose when I agreed with him, but it was also a pleasure to be on the receiving end, perverse as it may sound. I have never found it more pleasurable to disagree with somebody else because, even when I knew, deep in my soul, that he was wrong, wrong, utterly wrong, his argument was always instructive and, as a plus, written in a way that one could learn from.
Perhaps I also felt something of a kinship with him. After all, I had once been as convinced an atheist as he, and all of his arguments against there being a G-d were quite familiar to me from those days, although I could never hope to express them as well as he.
I don’t know why he didn’t believe but, thinking back and from what I know from his writings, I remember myself at that stage. I didn’t believe, not because I didn’t want to believe, but because I hadn’t yet found out why I ought to believe. I hadn’t been convinced yet. Too many people think that atheism is animated by animosity towards G-d, and it’s simply not true. There is that, to be sure, but I don’t call those people “atheists”, I call them by their real name: “Anti-theists.” They’re a loud, obnoxious, rather tedious minority who would benefit vastly from the instruction of the lash, applied liberally. Or perhaps just a good old-fashioned beating. But I digress. I never saw Hitchens as an “anti-theist”, he was always an atheist.
And atheism wasn’t “The Hitch’s” only shtick, after all. His intellect covered a huge swath of subjects and he was, for instance, one of our staunchest defenders when it came to Western Civ vs. the medieval, barbaric monster that is the Religion of “Peace.” Sure, he despised all religions equally, some might say, but he wasn’t slow to point out that, no matter how much he didn’t believe in the Christian G-d either, at least His followers didn’t run around lobbing people’s heads off when they said something blasphemous.
I hope, of course, and have prayed along with millions of my fellow Christians, that he saw the light before he passed. I hope this because I care about him and his eternal soul, but I’d be lying if I didn’t add that I also hope so because I should love bumping into him in Heaven and say “well I’ll be… Didn’t fancy running into you here, Hitch!”
Because that is how I roll. On a more serious note, Heaven will be a great deal less interesting if he’s not there.
Thanks for all the memories, Chris and, wherever you are, may you be in peace and may we meet on the other side.