Christopher Hitchens is Dead December 15, 2011

Christopher Hitchens is Dead

The brilliant writer, speaker, and thinker died tonight at the age of 62 after a tough battle with esophageal cancer. His final piece for Vanity Fair is as powerful as anything else he’s written.

If this is a surprise to anyone, it may be because we harbored some secret hope that he’d find a way to beat cancer into submission. Or somehow argue it out of his body.

While I’ve seen him from a distance at a conference or two over the years, I had a chance to talk to him in person about five years ago, just before the release of God Is Not Great, when he showed up to a hotel room party at The Amazing Meeting 5 and mingled with the guests. He was as blunt and hilarious as you would expect, managing to offend several people with a joke while making them laugh at the same time.

I remember asking him how his new book about religion would be any different from the ones by Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

His response was short and to the point: “It’s better.”

And, indeed, it was the only one of the New Atheist books to hit #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.

He’s not in a “better place.” He’s not in hell, either. And he won’t ever be looking down from above. But we have something better than that: a legacy of Hitch that’s going to live on in perpetuity. Decades’ worth of books, collections of his articles, and videos of his lectures and interviews are everywhere. Here’s a man who will still influence people for years to come, giving them the arguments and confidence they need to finally leave their faith.

Raise a glass, everyone. Here’s to a man who did more to challenge faith and tip over sacred cows than just about anyone else.

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  • mavity girl

    Such a loss. His writings, and Sagan’s, turned my life upside down in the most wonderful way. His voice will be missed.

  • Beadknitter

    Even though we never met, I love that man. His writing did so much good for my life. Rest in peace Mr. Hitchens. We will miss you.

  • Rguiteau

    RIP.  unlike anyone else Hitchens made me want to read more and to learn more, i will miss him and his wit very much

  • A great man is dead. His books will continue to be published, so his work will go on.

  • We have lost a mentor, adviser, a friend, a voice. He will be missed greatly.

  • Dead but not soon forgotten. He guided the thoughts of many and that, unlike some mystic sky place, is where he will live on.

  • Anonymous

    He lived a great, fulfilling life. His voice, ideas and principles will live on eternally; preserved forever and cherished, on the Internet and in print. His quotes will liven essays for ages to come. His works will be read and appreciated by the next generation of agnostics, freethinkers and closet atheists. His voice will give voice to our own.
    Excuse me, while I shed a tear for this great thinker and linguist.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve been reading Arguably. Now I have to make it last. Here’s to you, Hitch.

  • Charles Black

    He still lives as long as we remember his works, his ideas will live forever.

  • Anonymous

    His intellect was so sharp and acute, his rhetoric was so brilliant.  What a brilliant guy.  

  • I admired his honesty, wit and courage, and I still do. Whatever tiny ways I can emulate those qualities are a way to give tribute to him.

    I almost got to see him. I had bought the tickets to the speaking engagement in Los Angeles that was the one he had to suddenly cancel, apparently when he found out he had cancer.

    May his work lead many more to clarity and freedom.

  • The world is a better place for him being in it.  His writings will be enjoyed and his influence felt for generations to come.  Condolences to his family.

  • Dan W

    I never met him in person, but I feel compelled to go buy one of his books the next time I go to the bookstore. Hitchens will be remembered and missed by many.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    About six months ago I spilled almost a full can of beer over a hard copy of “god is not great” and you would not have a clue that I did.

    Yes, I did panic and went into O’shit mode when it happened but the book survived the great beer spill of 2011.

    As I said on my facebook page…

    I now have a sad 🙁

  • Anonymous

    He taught at my university during the first couple of terms that I was here, and I saw him once and had to run away to prevent myself from being terribly embarrassing.  I wish now that I had at least stepped into the elevator with him.  Anyway, he will be missed.  His work is incredibly moving and important, and I’m so thankful that he lived and wrote and spoke.

  • One less human being I feel akin to. The world just became a darker, lonelier place and I’m sick and tired with the ignorant masses who are intellectually closer to chimps than to me. How sad.

  • Keith

    Cheers to a great man who lived life to the fullest.

  • GaR

    bad times :<

  • Sarah

    This man has done so much for me. My heart hurts.

  • Anonymous

    You are truly lucky to have seen him at close quarters. Indeed a pity that you didn’t have a chat with him in the lift.

  • Ouch. This hurts… it was sooner than I expected, somehow. Time to buy a good bottle of scotch this evening and review God Is Not Great, and perhaps stream a few of his debates on the telly. It’s something I just need to do. 

    Boy, but I really liked that man…


  • Didn’t agree with Hitch on a lot of stuff, Iraq being the big example. But he stayed sharp to the end and he was dead-on about faith – and Hemant’s dead-on about afterlives. As someone else who, if given the choice between eternal burning torture and hanging around with a lot of smug pious pricks watching people be eternally burned and tortured, would take the fire…I’m gonna miss him.

  • Rich Wilson

    Damn I’m going to miss him

  • Kevin S.

    #GodIsNotGreat and Christopher Hitchens are the top two (non-promoted) trending topics on Twitter in the US right now.  Even a country as religiously-inundated as ours cares

  • Hitch, along with Dawkins, have taught me more than I often admit about who I am; to recognize that what I am is called an atheist, and to wear that proudly as a freethinker and proponent of reason.

  • Dawkins opened my eyes to atheism and showed me that it wasn’t a bunch of crazy people bent on bring down society. Hitchens made it fun to be an atheist. He was our rock star. One who thumbed his nose at the dogma of religion with a wit and unyielding personality. As I sit here writing this I am listening to a compilation of his Hitchslaps thinking that this man will be missed dearly.

  • Ashley Will

    I got home from work and realized one of my favorite people had died. My first atheism book I bought was God is Not great when I worked at a bookstore. although not probable, I was secretly hoping to meet him at the Reason Rally when I go in March. Sad day. I think I will remember him by rereading his works.

  • Ladycopper5

    So sad to hear the news I have been dreading so long.  Last year about this time I sent him a letter about my journey away from superstition and he sent back an extremely kind note that sustained me through some very hard times.  Just knowing someone I looked up to so much cared a little about my fumblings made things a lot easier as I came out to others.  He will be dreadfully missed by many, and I am so glad we live in an age of video.  My thoughts are with his family and friends and I hope they are comforted a little knowing what a powerful impact his life had.
    He was brilliant, had integrity, and knew how to be kind – no wonder we loved him.

  • A Portlander

    I already knew I didn’t believe. Hitch taught me the moral necessity of atheism, and the necessity of moral atheism. I’m just sorry he couldn’t have had the satisfaction of outliving Henry Kissinger.

  • Drew M.

    *Pours Johnny Walker Black. Wipes away a tear*


  • Dave Pacheco

    He’s with the angels now…

  • Goodbye Hitch, you will be missed.

  • Inkslinger

    Hitchens, you were a a brute, in the best sense of the word; full of humor, wisdom and caustic wit. You always told it like it was and unlike the vast majority of other pundits that babble on mindlessly…you told the truth, even in the face of death. Going to miss you man.

  • Hitchens , miss you allot !!

  • Anonymous

    I used to dislike Hitchens for his style and some of his opinions and they way he presented them. Then I started reading him, instead of just watching clips of him, and I was won over by the sheer force of his mind. He helped me grow by exemplifying a person who is multilayered, and making me realize that looking past style or presentation for the ideas underneath can yield a rich reward.

    If you haven’t, please read his (I think) final assay about facing death. A skeptic, enemy to “common wisdom” to the end:

  • Peter White

    A brilliant writer and speaker who will be missed and not easily forgotten. He leaves us a legacy not only in his writings and words but in our language as well. The aptly named Hitchslap has become part of our lexicon to describe the total annihilation of an opponent’s argument with a succinct reply.

  • Thank you Hemant for a fine eulogy. He’ll be sorely missed.

  • Respect

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    We knew it had to happen sooner or later but I think we were all hoping for later.  Goodbye Hitch.

  • “Beware the irrational, however seductive. Shun the ‘transcendent’ and
    all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself. Distrust
    compassion; prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to
    be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were
    mammals. Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out
    argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply
    plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses.
    Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for

    Christopher Hitchens

  • Hemant you should repost the tribute you had on here before.

  • Newavocation

    I almost wish there was a god now. Can you imagine what Hitchens would have to say when they met.

  • Demonhype

    My thoughts exactly!  Don’t have any Johnny Walker (unfortunately), but I might crack open that rum.

    He’ll definitely be missed.

  • randall.morrison90

    Hitchens was a drunk who supported the Bush Wars all the way.

    I won’t hide it…I’m glad he’s gone.

  • randall.morrison90

    The “moral necessity of atheism”?  Bahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

    Hitchens was a war mongering alcoholic.  There’s your “moral necessity”?

    He laughed whenever believes died.

    He is not laughing now.

  • We will miss you, Christopher Hitchens. Thanks for “god is not great,” “letters to a young contrarian,” and inspiring me to become a Humanist Chaplain.

    Thanks most of all for the memories, like this one, of you dismantling Tony Blair’s vacuous theism:

  • randall.morrison90

    You couldn’t kill Muslims fast enough to keep Hitchens happy.

    He supported the Bush Wars to the hilt.

    And he always laughed when Christians died.

    He would have killed them too if he had had the power…he was a former Trotskyist who never got over that part of Dialectical Materialism,

  • Dammit.  I hope someone got it on video, to quell the “deathbed conversion” rumours that are inevitably to follow.  ‘Bye Hitch.

  • EJC

    The man was the shit. Lived and drank like a rock star, was unapologetic and walked the walk.

    The man continues to be an inspiration even after his death!

  • Anonymous

    Awww, did the baddy mean man hurt your feefees?

  • Heidi

    He was a light in the darkness.  I miss him already.

  • ACN

    If you’re an atheist, God is Not Great is fun and interesting, but I’d recommend Hitch-22. I’m reading it now, and it’s fantastic.

    I’m planning on buying a bottle of Johnny Walker and finishing it tonight 🙂

  • I’m so glad he was here, and in my lifetime, no less.

  • Mairianna

    That AND all the “fundies” who will say his suffering and death was his punishment for his nontheistic ways.   Farewell to a truly great human being.

  • Anonymous

    A sad loss.  But as you said, we have his works to remember him by.  Great write up and nice to see the reprint in Minneapolis Star.

  • Rich Wilson

    I don’t drink, so raise one for me please.

  • Rich Wilson

    The best tribute you can give you Hitchens is to not hide the fact that you’re glad he’s gone.

  • ACN

    Will do! 🙂

  • Noodles2375

    The funniest bit is that I’m sure he’d be truly delighted to hear your gnashing of teeth.

    The man loved to stir the pot, and he stirred it well.

  • A Portlander

    He applauded the deaths of professional liars (a grand example being that doughy, disgusting bigot, Jerry Falwell), but he was amazingly gentle about the posthumous revelation of Mother Theresa’s faithlessness. Though he never walked back his criticisms of her hospices, he recognized, with deep empathy, that she was herself a victim of the Catholic Church’s bottomless hunger for adoration, control, and wealth. You should hope you live to ever be that large a soul (if my brothers and sisters will excuse the expression).

  • Anonymous

    Christopher Hitchens changed my life for the better.  I can’t imagine a higher honor than to have fellow humans avow such a think about oneself.

  • Rich Wilson
  • Rich Wilson

    From Peter Hitchens

  • Anonymous

    I loved the man’s ferocity. Brilliant writer and SO funny! It’s a loss. Especially for a world in which Henry Kissinger still lives.

  • Diannel_04

    Last year I went with a Conservative Jewish friend to see Christopher Hitchens debate Tony Blair on the subject “Religion is a Force for Good in the World”.  He didn’t change my friend’s mind but my friend did feel he won the debate.  He was an intelligent, articulate man and Vanity Fair magazine will not be the same without him.  Skol Christopher.

  • I just have too much to say for a comments section

  • I forgot to add to click through to my blog for my thoughts.

  • Sue Blue

    One of the brightest lights of reason has just gone out.  Not only did he burn brightly, he lit a fire under many of us who made the journey out of superstition and ignorance over the last couple of decades.  He knew his own mind and was never afraid to speak it.  There are just not enough like him, and he will be sorely missed.  

    At this time of year I light a candle in memory of my son, who was born on Christmas and who died in 2005.  Today I lit another in honor of a life that changed so many others.  

  • butthurt Christian is butthurt…

  • OJ

    Spoken like a true mindless bigot.

  • Rich Wilson

    We die so that someone else may have a turn.

  • No Ghost

    Oh, for crying out loud.  Christopher Hitchens was a neo-con racist and bigot who promoted the invasion of Iraq and the Bush II junta.   

    Alexander Cockburn sized him up best. 

  • Kaydenpat

    I loved his anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-homophobia, PRO-FREEDOM rhetoric.  He will be greatly missed.

  • Popquiz

    Good riddance Hitchens.  The pain and agony you are enduring right now is way overdue for the horrendous damage you left behind , and for teaching so many how to go into the pits of Hell where you are now.  You are now ashamed of yourself and I do not pity you, you bigoted atheist.

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