Honoring Christopher Hitchens January 26, 2011

Honoring Christopher Hitchens

Scott VanDenPlas, an atheist from Chicago, recently heard Christopher Hitchens say the following in an interview:

“I’ve had an amazing number of letters from people, I still get them. Hand written ones to my house, as well as emails to my office in New York. Saying really, the nicest things, most of them… not all. And trying to assure me that, in their minds, my life hasn’t been a waste of time, even if it ends prematurely. I’m 62 in April, if I make it that far. And believe me, that’s been encouraging.

I’ve learned something from it, which is of course, like most of the things one knows that are important, already known to me, but I really know it now. Never put off writing a letter to one who is in distress. It is always very much appreciated. I’m not asking for more people to write to me, but if they have someone in mind, or someone known to them, and they haven’t quite gotten around to it yet… I’d urge them to do it.

It has been a terrific help to me, I must say. And I’m not a particularly vulnerable person in that way, not that easily stirred. But this has been very moving for me, very confirming.”

In an effort to honor Hitchens for everything he’s done, Scott is encouraging people to submit their own letters to him.

The project is called Dear Christopher.

A few excerpts from letters are below:

I had no idea who you were. I didn’t know what you looked like, what you sounded like. But your writing, brilliant as your writing tends to be, spoke to me. It made statements I couldn’t deny and revealed other facts that made me more comfortable in being an atheist. You hear stories of people who are afraid to mention their atheism, but I feel that after reading your book, I never had any such qualms.

In his book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, I felt as if I was being addressed directly. The book came at a pivotal moment, inspiring me to dedicate my life to the annihilation of the “mind-forg’d manacles” and the institutions of their construction.

Hitchens showed me that theocracy was the great human evil; that men with a weapon in one hand and a Holy book in the other encompass much of what is debased in thought and action. And he managed it with charm and wit I had never expected to find in theological debate.

Your writings, lectures, your leadership, and personal actions have proven to me that the human mind, through the tools of thought and logic, can allow us to break free of our animalistic behaviors, fears and superstitions. Through your teachings, I now have the knowledge that humanity can be more than what it has been and that we need nothing divine to explain art, music or love.

If you’d like to contribute your letter, you can get all the information you need here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Dude, I first read the title and though Hitchens had died. For sure I’ll be writing to him.

  • Kerrie

    No kidding! I swear my heart STOPPED for a few seconds.

    I watched that interview last night and when he talked about the letters, I decided to finally write him. Amazingly, he makes no secret of his home address and he’s in the D.C. phone book.

  • liz

    I for sure *gasp*ed when i read the title. don’t scare us like that, Hemant!

  • Nope, Hemant, you did just the right thing, what Mr. Hitchens would want. (He’s still with us..perhaps we could just ask him, but I’ll bet he would concur.) After all, why not honor an atheist while he can still appreciate it, because, after he’s dead, he won’t have the foggiest idea; in fact, he won’t have any more ideas. Believers think their praise of the deceased is BEING HEARD BY the deceased and we know, of course, that that kind of thinking is just hooey. I thought the same thing but, thankfully, Christopher is still with us. However, the headline is perfect.

  • You can watch the entire 53 minute interview that he gave about a week ago on youtube. He doesn’t look well. My grandfather died of the same ailment last year at the age of 89. I hope Hitchens cancer goes into remission like my grandfathers did. He lived 2-1/2 years after his first diagnosis and was not as strong or young as Hitchens.

    I’ll be writing him too.

  • Danielle

    Yea, my heart stopped for a second there. Hahah. Misleading title.

  • plublesnork

    I’m a bit torn on this.

    It kinda seems to undercut what Hitchens was actually saying.

    Instead, how about you try and think of someone other than Hitchens to write a letter to, write it, and then write to Hitchens, say all the things you’d normally say, and also thank him for making you realise that there are other people in need who’d appreciate your kind words, many of whom I dare say aren’t celebrities who likely already receive more encouraging email in a week than most people could hope for in a lifetime.

    And on that note, I’m going to go phone my grandmother and see how she’s doing.

  • People don’t write thank you letters enough… especially not me.

    The only person I’ve ever sent a thank you letter to is Tim Minchin, for exposing ridiculous superstitious theories in such an intelligent way through his comedy.

  • Hi Friends,

    Thanks for all of your help with Dear Christopher, it has been a really emotional project to moderate.

    Keep sending the letters, and I will keep posting them.



  • K Patterson

    Thank you Hemant for alerting me to this and to Scott for hosting the project. I just submitted a letter for Hitch.

    I missed an opportunity to phone or send a letter to someone I once loved and it will haunt me forever so for the rest of you – please do so while you have the chance!

  • Chris Curnutt

    What happened to the website?

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