Your Opinion: Avowed atheist remembered

Dear Editor:

On Dec. 15 Christopher Hitchens (depending on your metaphysics): 1. went to the judgment of an angry God or; 2. began the final physical disillusion into the dust to which all higher life forms are heir.

I met him in Chicago in 1982 where he participated in a dialogue with poet, Andrei Codrescu, part of the Lannan Literary Series. Then my dominant impression was of a more or less pompous, rather exasperating drunk. It was amazing the amount of lucidity that was able to survive undissolved in such quantities of Johnnie Walker Black label.

He was an unassailable opponent, delighting in contrarian views — a deft attacker of sacred cows like Henry Kissinger and Mother Teresa. I completely lost patience with him when he found himself the only intellectual on the left to support the Bush/Blair invasion of Iraq. I thought a preeminent Orwell scholar should have been able to see the heavy thumb of Big Brother on the scales.

I have grown to respect and admire Hitchens for his strong political stands and his attacks on monotheism. Thank God we are finally seeing atheist perspectives receiving the sort of popular attention and acceptance they long deserved. We are all in debt to the persuasive, articulate and unassailable logic of thinkers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

In spite of my earlier negative impression and his Iraq War position, my respect for Hitchens has grown. In his final days he remained true to his living code of atheism and the consequences of an unrepentant, sybaritic lifestyle.

His heroic confrontation with his own impending demise from esophageal cancer gave the lie to the adage that “there are no atheists in foxholes.”

Concerning his death he wrote,

“Redemption and supernatural deliverance appear even more hollow and artificial to me than they did before.”

“I personally want to ‘do’ death in the active and not the passive, and to be there to look it in the eye and be doing something when it comes for me.”

He lived and died consistent with his beliefs. In a culture being given over more and more to childish Christian fictions, science denial, an irrational fear of death and a cowardly hope for the survival of one’s personality in an afterlife, it is heartening to have a heroic example of courage and wit in facing that journey from which none have ever returned.

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