On December 15, 2011, Christopher Hitchens died of complications from cancer.
I had recently finished “The Water Thief” and had recently started studying atheism formally. I’d finished reading Dawkens and had only a peripheral understanding of who Hitch was.
Over the years it was Hitchens’ work that had the most influence on me. I do not have his style, and councle many against his level of combativeness–it’s not always conducive to getting people to listen. But we need many voices, and his was an important one. He was, too, amongst the smartest and most influential critical thinkers of his time.
He was, admitedly post mortem, my mentor, and the man who most influenced my work. I wouldn’t have done this if it wern’t for him.
I feel his loss terribly, and lament that I’ll never meet him.
I owe him everything I have when it comes to the work I do here.
More than a few people have noticed that on a number of images, our logo–the pheonix, has a clipped wing. The wing is clipped on every Hitchens Meme or quote. I clip it myself–there’s no stock image, and I cut it every time. I do this as a reminder of the loss, and out of respect.
There are theists who would, at this moment, point out that this is much like a religious ceremony, and that I “worship” Mr. Hitchens.
It is a ceremony, that is true enough, a ritual of sorts. We all have rituals, rights of passage. It’s not faith based… perhaps irrational, but in the context of religion, it would be strictly deistic. I impose it on no-one, and do it because it helps me cope with the loss.
As to worship–that’s a convenient casting of how I and others feel about Hitchens. I was quite vocal in my disagreements with him (especially over the Iraq war, on which he was dead wrong, his bullying which sometimes went over the top, his condescending nature, and his conception of heaven–which I thought lacked imagination). I wouldn’t call that worship–simply admiration. We all have mentors, and indeed hitchens stands second on the list of people I admire, just below Martian Luther King Jr.
But he was a force of nature, and had a singular insight into the machinations of politics and society. Now, in the era of Trump and alternative facts, I miss him.