Christopher Hitchens, 1949 – 2011

By Phil Plait | December 16, 2011 10:21 am

Christopher Hitchens has died.

You’ve probably heard; the web is lighting up with obituaries and stories about him. I didn’t know him personally — having only met him on two occasions, both times at skeptic conferences — and I didn’t come into his writings until relatively recently, so nothing I can say here would add substantively to what already exists. Instead, many people have written eloquent thoughts upon his death, so you should read those:

At Noisy Astronomer, Nicole Gugliucci recounts watching Hitchens in a debate with a theist, a situation that occurred often.

Steve Novella of course sums things up with his usual insight and sharp aim.

Kevin Murphy simply put up an interesting video of Hitchens acerbically and artfully dissecting, and then rewriting, the Ten Commandments.

And, as usual, it’s impossible to beat the amazing ability of The Onion to distill away impurities and make me smile ruefully with one simple headline.

… though of course, Zach Weiner manages to do so pretty well in both a web comic as well as a short tribute and imploration for us to do more.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Religion, Skepticism

Comments (61)

  1. Michael Swanson

    There will never be another like him.

  2. amateur_scientician

    I feel like I’ve lost a dear friend. I’m just dreading the inevitable trolling and reports of deathbed conversions.

  3. Jim Atkins

    Even if I didn’t agree with him, I admired him utterly and totally. I suppose the best summation of Mr. Hitchens is the phrase “fierce dedication to truth”. The truth was his raison d’ etre, be-all and end-all, his life and his passion. Goodbye, sir. We are all greater for having known you, and the world is lesser without you. Unless of course, we all do more to carry on the torch of truth, verifiable, not always pretty, but the truth, unvarnished.

  4. Dave

    Today’s Cyanide & Happiness does a great job too.

  5. Jason

    His death has affected me more than the death of any other person I didn’t know personally. His books, speeches, and debates gave me the courage to be more open about my atheism. Before reading his works and listening to him speak I would hide behind stuff like, “Well…I’m not sure…I mean…” all the while being as sure there is no god as I am that the Earth orbits the sun. He had been living here in Houston for some time undergoing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center and I thought about trying to write him a letter or communicate with him in some way. I wanted to let him know what he has done for me. I never pulled the trigger on the idea, though. Something to add to the list of regrets I suppose. As someone else said, there will never be another like him.

  6. QuietDesperation

    I agreed and disagreed with the man on many fronts, but he was one of the few political commentators I felt was always stating his real thoughts on any topic.

    He was on Bill Maher’s show in the past year or so, and Mahar said something idiotic (which the audience loved, of course), and Hitchens called both him and his “trained seal audience” out on it. The audience booed, and Hitchens just turned around and flipped them the bird. :-) Twice. An intelligent and articulate man, but he gave the lower primates in the audience exactly the level of response they deserved.

    Hmm.. (googles) Here you go.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HECI4QK_mXA

  7. QuietDesperation

    Something to add to the list of regrets I suppose.

    Don’t worry. Now that he’s in a better place, I’m sure he knows tha- oh, wait… ;-)

    Hey! Settle down! I bet he would have totally laughed at that.

  8. The Librarian With No Name

    QuietDesperation, I’m sure he’s having a chuckle with Asimov, Vonnegut, and all the angels.

  9. Jeffersonian

    I’m surprised by my sadness. I’ve read the guy and seen him speak but beyond that I think we feel a societal loss when a rebel goes missing; a swaggering hero-type who stands up to the man with a drink-and-a-wink. I’d say “oh well, see you on the other side” but that, of course, has already occurred.

  10. Amber

    There totally was a deathbed conversion. By the time the priest left he was an atheist.

  11. Old Rockin' Dave

    Although there was much to admire about Hitchens, sadly, he had another side, of which I was not aware until someone shared this link with me:
    http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/module/2010/12/13/main-feature/1/christopher-hitchenss-jewish-problem
    If the link doesn’t come through, search for the title “Christopher Hitchens’s Jewish Problem”.

  12. I once went to a talk he gave at my school when I was in college, and he was a wonderfully eloquent speaker. Such a sharp wit.

    I’ll greatly miss reading his writing.

    Tonight, I’ll have a drink for him. A good scotch, as he would have liked.

  13. 10. Amber Says: “There totally was a deathbed conversion. By the time the priest left he was an atheist.”

    :-) – Jack

  14. Bernard

    Raising a glass of good scotch.

    To Christopher

    He has not gone to a better place, he’s dead, in a box, in Houston.

    He will be sorely missed.

  15. Always liked his pieces in Vanity Fair, but I simply cannot understand how someone dedicated to “truth” could have been so rapid a proponent of Bush’s war with Iraq.

  16. James Eder

    I will pray for him.

  17. CoffeeCupContrails

    Hitchens was a great personality; but it seems his most dramatic and vitriolic side seems to impress/interest most people.

    Here’s two of my favorite speakers (Hitchens and Shashi Tharoor) having a nice intelligent conversation; some would say debate. Hitchens seems impressed by Tharoor despite the latter having a different viewpoint. And he’s incredibly polite to that one audience member posing a tough question (while completely, painfully and very obviously ignoring another one)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is71zKEiMdk

    This is a 9 part youtube video; skip to the Q&A session in the last parts if you want to.

    Just thought I’d show a kinder side of Hitchens; I strive to be the personality I see in this video.

  18. Old Rockin’ Dave @ 12 wrote:

    … sadly, he had another side, of which I was not aware… search for the title “Christopher Hitchens’s Jewish Problem”.

    Horse puckey!

    Hitchens’ didn’t have a problem with Jews; his contempt was reserved for the absurd practices of Orthodox Judaism(and other relics of Bronze Age mythology). Don’t try to besmirch the good man’s image by presenting Israeli propaganda fact.

  19. feh

    There totally was a deathbed conversion. By the time the priest left he was an atheist.
    Gave me a chuckle. +100 internets for you. :)

  20. amateur_scientician

    @amber
    Thank you for making me smile.

  21. Amber absolutely won this.

    I too felt a very real pang of sadness and a sense of loss when I heard this. An incredible voice has been silenced forever. Humanity is all the lesser for it.

    I did go an download a couple more of his books on my Kindle though.

  22. Old Rockin' Dave

    @Solius #19:
    If you actually read the article you will see Hitchens’ own words repeating anti-Semitic stereotypes and strongly implying that to meet his standards, Jews have to give up Judaism and Jewish identity. As for labeling the article “Israeli propaganda, you show that you know *nothing* about Israel or Jews.

  23. Anchor

    His laser-like aim and exactitude of exposition appropriately ruffled the feathers of the deserving. Whether one agreed with him or not, no invective against his memory can scour that off of his character. Hitch was both adamantine and adorable in his ‘dickheadedness’. But at least that ‘dickhead’ could claim sincerity and integrity, virtues missing in too many who think themselves above the affliction by pointing it out in others.

  24. Daniel J. Andrews

    Hitch was both adamantine and adorable in his ‘dickheadedness’. But at least that ‘dickhead’ could claim sincerity and integrity, virtues missing in too many who think themselves above the affliction by pointing it out in others.

    oh, what the hell….

    …how is being vocally supportive of an invasion of a sovereign country and supporting torture methods for captured prisoners showing integrity? How does that equate to being ‘adorable’?

    None of his material that I’ve read shows any ability to see long-term consequences of current actions–perhaps that lack of foresight was mirrored in his smoking and drinking habit, which likely contributed, maybe caused, his untimely death?

    I’d rather read Harris or Dennett.

    (caveat: I’ve only read limited opinion pieces/articles by him–perhaps in his books he makes better arguments as he has more space to flesh them out and deal with nuances that are cut in short articles).

  25. Grizzly

    I shall miss the man. But I am dismayed at the deification that inevitably follows the death of an important figure.

    Christopher Hitchens was more than an atheist, he was a complex, sometimes infuriating, always intriguing individual. There was a great deal of nuance to the man, but people flocked to him like they would to any televangelist to see him “do his trick” in demolishing the evangelists.

    At first this angered me as it seemed like both sides of the atheism / belief debate had set up straw men that they then debated.

    Then it became clear that this was all a part of a schtick, and I tired of the dance.

    I disagreed with his politics, I disagreed with much of his rhetoric, but I admired him for his determination and his “stand and deliver” approach that took no prisoners. I’d have loved to have shared a Johnny Walker Black with him and had a good conversation with him.

    Let’s remember him for more than the dog and pony show that was his debating world tour. A toast to a true iconoclast.

  26. A.

    Hitchens was a war mongerer and Islamophobe who called Dixie chicks “f*cking fat sluts” because they opposed the war in Iraq. He had some admirable traits, but the truth is, he was not an admirable man. The wave of praise that has been released after his death coupled with silence about his less-praiseworthy opinions is saddening.

  27. Blargh

    @ Old Rockin’ Dave

    strongly implying that to meet his standards, Jews have to give up Judaism

    You are aware of Hitchens’ views on religion, right?

  28. Muz

    I’ll miss his brilliant oratory and insightful commentary. Rest easy Christopher.

    High Country Weather

    Alone we are born
    And die alone
    Yet see the red-gold cirrus
    over snow-mountain shine.

    Upon the upland road
    Ride easy, stranger
    Surrender to the sky
    Your heart of anger.

    James K. Baxter

  29. Lonely Flower

    His support to Iraq’s invasion is unforgivable!

  30. @ 23 Old Rockin’ Dave wrote:

    As for labeling the article “Israeli propaganda, you show that you know *nothing* about Israel or Jews.

    Well, I suspect that I know a lot more than you think that I do… for instance, I am aware of active Israeli support of Phalangist’s massacres of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in Shatila and Sabra refugee camps. The Israelis lit the place up, and then stood by and let the killing proceed.

    I’ll let it stop there, for now, but don’t pretend to think that you know anything about me.

  31. Ian

    @ Old Rockin’ Dave:

    Do as you suggest and go read that article. Then go read the sources the article references. Seeing the actual context of the comments, come back and tell me you really think he was against the Jewish people, as opposed to Judaism as a religion.

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    Vale Christopher Hitchens one of the literary immortals who will be remembered fondly by so many as one of the greatest speakers and minds of this century.

    (Raises a beer in his honour – again.)

    Terrible if inevitable and hardly unexpected news.

    Hitch is gone but his words live on. He will not be forgotten and he will not go unread.

  33. Joseph G

    Wow. Obviously, I didn’t know him personally or anything, but to me, he was… complex. He’s that guy you know that just irks you no end… until he’s gone. Then you realize how unique he was and you curse yourself for not having appreciated him more when you had the chance.
    Basically, he was the Brian to my Stewie.

    Rest in peace, Mr. Hitchens. I won’t get any more religious than that, because I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to.

  34. Joseph G

    If I might just dip my toe into the teacup that Solius and ORDave are in; I think you both bring up valid points.
    On one hand, Christopher Hitchens was indeed against religion in general, and not just Christianity. He had quite a few choice words for Muslims, Jews, Hindus, even Buddhists. He didn’t condone using religion to justify anything, and I don’t think that’s a terribly radical position in a secular society. Hell, he even took on Mother Theresa, and when you look at his criticisms in context, he actually makes some very good points. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him criticizing Judaism as a religion, given his stance on religion.

    That being said, he did have an unfortunate tendency to use inflammatory language. For instance, in OMD’s link, there’s reference to a Hitchens piece invoking the image of the “Shabbos Goy”. This is textbook dog-whistle politics, because while those not terribly familiar with Jews will simply find it to be a bit of a cultural metaphor, those of us familiar with anti-Semitism see it in a very different historical context. That’s not to say that he’s actually an anti-Semite, not at all. But the language he uses evokes a lot of imagery that has been used by anti-Semites in the past: the Jew as shadowy puppet-master or wealthy (yet stingy) employer. The very custom of the “Shabbos Goy” (and indeed, the phrase itself, as opposed to, say, “Sabbath assistant,” is brought up much more often in conversation by anti-Semites making similar comparisons then it is in actual, every-day conversation, even by extremely orthodox Jews. It’s not a phrase that is inherently negative, but it has negative connotations provided by history.

    Here’s an imaginary scenario that illustrates a similar situation: Let’s say a bunch of people were pissed off at a black American politician, so they decide to hang him in effigy from a tree. Now, hanging politicians in effigy is a relatively common practice around the world, but in the United States, the combination of a noose and an African-American evokes some very ugly memories. Someone from the other side of the world might simply see a run-of-the-mill political protest, but any American who knows jack about history would have some serious misgivings about the group’s motivations, to say the least.

    Here’s the thing, though – Christopher Hitchens is very intelligent. I find it very difficult to believe that he would write such prose without being well aware of all possible interpretations.

    Do with that what you will. I think he quite enjoyed being known as controversial, and he was quite good at earning that reputation.

  35. @31. Solius : .. don’t pretend to think that you know anything about me.

    In fact, we can all tell from your off-topic Judaeophobic attempted thread hijack here that you are a despicable troll with an ignorant and totally one-sided anti-Semitic view of the world. Your own words and the irrelevant off-topic junk that you have raised in a column mourning the loss of a genuinely memorable and great person reveal you for what you are.

    I am aware of active Israeli support of Phalangist’s massacres … in Shatila and Sabra

    Are *you* aware of the Jihadist terrorist homicide-suicide bombings that killed nearly a thousand innocent Israeli civilians – educate yourself and take a long hard look at this wiki-list :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Palestinian_suicide_attacks

    and read and reflect on this one :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_political_violence

    Are *you* aware of these historical events :

    1. The 1929 Safed massacre where 18 Jews were murdered (some sources say 20) and 80 wounded by Arab rioters who looted and burned the main Jewish street in the then British ruled Mandate.

    2. The 1948 Hadassah medical convoy massacre when a convoy bringing medical and fortification supplies and personnel to Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus was ambushed by Arab forces. These Arab attackers killed 79 Jewish residents of the British Mandate of Palestine, mostly doctors and nurses.

    3. The Munich Olympics massacre of 1972.

    4. The 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro where wheelchair bound jewish man Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered by the Palestinian hijackers and thrown overboard,

    5.The 2000 Ramallah lynchings in which a Palestinian mob brutally lynched two Israeli Defense Forces reservists where one of the Palestinian murderers involved* – proudly waved his bloodstained hands to the mob to their applause

    6.The Kiryat Menachem bus bombing which occurred on November 21, 2002 in a public bus in the neighborhood of Kiryat Menachem in Jerusalem, Israel. Eleven people were killed in this Hamas homicide-suicide attack and over 50 were injured.

    7. The Maxim restaurant suicide bombing which occurred on October 4, 2003 in the beachfront “Maxim” restaurant in Haifa, Israel. Twenty-one people were killed in the attack and 51 were injured. Among the victims of this islamic Jihad Palestinian terrorist attack were two families and four children, including a two-month-old baby.

    8. The 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks where Palestinian terrorists murdered 88 individuals mostly Egyptian and wounded over 200 others.

    9. The 2007 Eilat bakery bombing where a Fatah- idslamic Jihad joint operated homicide suicde bomber saw a policeman approaching and so he entered a neighbourhood bakery and detonated his bomb, killing three Jewish employees.

    10. The 2008 Dimona homicide suicide attack which killed 73-year-old Lyubov Razdol’skaya – who formerly worked in the GSSR Academy of Sciences Institute of Physics and the physics department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev – and wounded nine other people one of them critically.

    No, you do NOT want to start arguing history and which side is guilty of appalling crimes wrong here with me, Solius. Israel may not be perfect and it may at times have done some bad things but it is ethically light-years ahead of its opponents in this long struggle for its survival and ability to live in peace.

    Never mind milking one unfortunate episode that happened thirty years ago in a long, horrendous war that has been waged for wellover a hundred years you may want to consider what is happening and what you’re contributing to now as this list covering just the last couple of years illustrates :

    http://www.wiesenthal.com/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=lsKWLbPJLnF&b=4441467&ct=11549495

    * Aziz Salha, who was since released from jail by the Israelis in order to save kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Click on my name for wiki-link.

    Are *you* aware of the Hamas charter, th

  36. Joseph G

    @27 A: Do you have a link for that? Not that I don’t believe you, but I’d like to see it…

  37. Messier Tidy Upper

    @35. Joseph G : Well said.

    If I might just dip my toe into the teacup that Solius and ORDave are in; I think you both bring up valid points.

    I think that whilst Old Rockin’ Dave (#23) made a good & valid point, Solius (#19 & 31) was simply trolling and did not raise anything valid.

    That being said, he [Christiopher Hitchens – ed.] did have an unfortunate tendency to use inflammatory language. For instance, in OMD’s link, there’s reference to a Hitchens piece invoking the image of the “Shabbos Goy”. This is textbook dog-whistle politics, because while those not terribly familiar with Jews will simply find it to be a bit of a cultural metaphor, those of us familiar with anti-Semitism see it in a very different historical context. That’s not to say that he’s actually an anti-Semite, not at all. But the language he uses evokes a lot of imagery that has been used by anti-Semites in the past: the Jew as shadowy puppet-master or wealthy (yet stingy) employer. The very custom of the “Shabbos Goy” (and indeed, the phrase itself, as opposed to, say, “Sabbath assistant,” is brought up much more often in conversation by anti-Semites making similar comparisons then it is in actual, every-day conversation, even by extremely orthodox Jews. It’s not a phrase that is inherently negative, but it has negative connotations provided by history.

    ^ This. Seconded by me. Given the history of anti-Semitism – and, sadly, its recent re-appearence in the thinly veiled disguise of supposed “anti-Zionist” Israel hating – I think we need to be very careful how we use langauge and sensitive to how such past “dog-whistles” to pogroms have worked. Anyone who knows anything much at all about Jewish history – which #31 Solius
    is clearly entirely ignorant of – will understand why anti-Semitic lines are and need to be taken seriously.

    I think he [Hitchens-ed.] quite enjoyed being known as controversial, and he was quite good at earning that reputation.</i.

    Yep. I have absolutely no doubt about that and agree 100 percent there. :-)

    @30. Lonely Flower :“His support to Iraq’s invasion is unforgivable!”

    But.. Hitchens NEVER supported Iraq’s 1991 invasion of Kuwait far as I know! ;-)

    Oh, you mean the war that late and unlamented Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein caused by monstrously bluffing that he had WMD’s when he didn’t and refusing to flee into exile when he was given that option?

    Well its true that the 2003 Iraq war in hindsight has ended up badly for everyone – but I think its a lot more complicated than many on the political Left over-simplistrically think. Hitch made some valid points and a good case on that issue as on many more. Saddam was a murderous dangerous tyrant and we shouldn’t apologuise for liberating his country from him. The Iraqi people and Saddam Hussein must get at least half the blame for what happened there.

    Unforgiveable? I don’t think so.

    @27. A. :

    Hitchens was a war mongerer and Islamophobe who called Dixie chicks “f*cking fat sluts” because they opposed the war in Iraq. He had some admirable traits, but the truth is, he was not an admirable man. The wave of praise that has been released after his death coupled with silence about his less-praiseworthy opinions is saddening.

    Kicking a man when he’s dead is something I find pretty saddening and what I think you are doing there.

    I totally disagree with the “war-monger” bit – see above for why – and as for “Islamophobic” I’ll let the man’s own words answer that :

    “This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be “phobic”. A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.”

    – Christopher Hitchens (Slate 8/23/10)

    Thankyou, Don Quijote (#124. 16 December 2011 at 4:56 am) on the Vile Islam Pharyngula blog thread for that.

    I agree with Hitchens quote there. A phobia is defined as an irrational fear. When one group of extremists eg. Jihadist Muslims really *are* out to get you (to get us all actually) then it isn’t a phobia any more than it is a “phobia” to fear a rabid dog.

  38. Old Rockin' Dave

    @Solius, #31,
    You know nothing about Sabra and Shatila. I know people who were there and I will take their accounts over the simplistic and often biased accounts in the mass media.
    That said, I don’t think we need to hash out the history of the Middle East here. Few will care to read any dispute we might have, and this is not the format to go deeply into the details of that history.
    As for Hitchens, his relationship to Jews and his Jewish ancestry was a very complex matter and he was all over the map with his published opinions about both Jews and Israel. If you google the search terms Hitchens and Jews you will find some of his opinions, and also remembrances from Jews who knew him, including rabbis, who crossed swords with him and still counted him a friend. I said he had another side that was less than admirable, and I don’t think anyone would deny it. He could be harsh, even cruel, and reverse himself the next day. He could go off on people who disagreed with him, or even perfectly harmless people who happened to annoy him. I think he would have been horrified and/or amused at the idea that anyone would idealize him and I suspect he never had a more severe critic than himself. You recognize their worst, you take inspiration from their best, and you move on from there. He was a human being, not some kind of demigod, and it is perfectly okay to recognize that even our greatest heroes were people who were not admirable every single minute of their lives.

  39. Joseph G

    @36 MTU: Bra-freaking-vo. I admire a person who reads up on their history.
    Anyone who has a brief and glib view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is obviously not paying attention.
    Also kudos for calling out the threadjacker. I admit I fell right into the trap. I feel like I need to be punished. I mean I walked right freaking into it.

  40. Joseph G

    @38 MTU: I think that whilst Old Rockin’ Dave (#23) made a good & valid point, Solius (#19 & 31) was simply trolling and did not raise anything valid.

    Like I said, I walked into it. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but you may well be right. As someone from a Jewish background (who hails from the sort of leftist activist town that is quite fun to live in but also has quite a few people who simply put “White colonialism” markers on Israel and “poor oppressed indigenous people being slaughtered” tags on any non-Jewish folks from the mideast) I have to be very aware of under or over-reacting :-P

  41. Joseph G

    @39 Old Rockin’ Dave: If you google the search terms Hitchens and Jews you will find some of his opinions, and also remembrances from Jews who knew him, including rabbis, who crossed swords with him and still counted him a friend. I said he had another side that was less than admirable, and I don’t think anyone would deny it. He could be harsh, even cruel, and reverse himself the next day. He could go off on people who disagreed with him, or even perfectly harmless people who happened to annoy him. I think he would have been horrified and/or amused at the idea that anyone would idealize him and I suspect he never had a more severe critic than himself. You recognize their worst, you take inspiration from their best, and you move on from there. He was a human being, not some kind of demigod, and it is perfectly okay to recognize that even our greatest heroes were people who were not admirable every single minute of their lives.

    Very well put. Show me a perfectly consistent person and I’ll show you one that doesn’t exist. I think he’d agree with everything you just said. I’m pretty sure that one of the many things he loathed about religion was the (literal) hero worship that often comes with it.
    Again, I apologize for going off-topic there.

  42. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^ Joseph G. Well said again – & no apologies needed. Given that the thread’s topic is Christopher Hitchens I don’t think you’ve actually gone far off it at all. :-)

    @40. Joseph G :

    @36 MTU: Bra-freaking-vo. I admire a person who reads up on their history.Anyone who has a brief and glib view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is obviously not paying attention. Also kudos for calling out the threadjacker. I admit I fell right into the trap. I feel like I need to be punished. I mean I walked right freaking into it.

    Thanks & no worries – or punishment needed methinks. :-)

    I guess I walked into the troll’s trap in a way too by responding to it – but then I wasn’t going to let that rot stand either. Sadly, there’s a lot of simplistic & ignorant .. humbug (in the Penn & Teller sense of the word) .. that does seem to go unchallenged about Israel and the Palestinian conflict these days and the political “narrative” / weltzsung (spelling?) / zeitgiest (if that’s the right word) can often get really ugly with some very nasty undertones sometimes (esp. online) discussing that & related issues. :-(

  43. Elmar_M

    On a related note, I am quite surprised that the ever so outspoken Bad Astronomer has not commented on the indefinite detention law that the president signed into law a couple of days ago. Is he scared to talk about it like so many others are? Affraid to end up on a list somewhere?

  44. Undeniable

    Sad news indeed. I read “God Is Not Great” a couple of years ago, along with Richard Dawkins’s “The God Delusion” and while expecting it to be scholarly and thoughtful, I was not expecting it to be quite so laugh-out-loud funny, especially in it’s treatment of the Old Testament. I recommend it unreservedly.

  45. Old Rockin' Dave

    I don’t think it’s unfair to post the link to this piece on PZ Myers’ Pharyngula blog. Myers was one who defended, quoted, and otherwise supported Hitchens, but still had this to say:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/16/the-dark-side-of-hitchens/

  46. @46 ORD: Hehe. Somehow, I feel like he’d enjoy learning that his obituaries themselves spurred heated debates. Again, it seems like the kind of guy he was.
    He sort of reminds me of my dad and grandfather, in a way – they’d often flat-out tell you that you’re wrong just to get you arguing with them. It’s still a sport my father enjoys :-P

  47. @43 MTU: Sadly, there’s a lot of simplistic & ignorant .. humbug (in the Penn & Teller sense of the word) .. that does seem to go unchallenged about Israel and the Palestinian conflict these days and the political “narrative” / weltzsung (spelling?) / zeitgiest (if that’s the right word) can often get really ugly with some very nasty undertones sometimes (esp. online) discussing that & related issues.

    That’s true. I’ve excluded myself from some forums altogether, because I was spending all my time arguing with kneejerk “Anti-Zionists”. Particularly in cases where it becomes evident that it’s a lost cause; for instance I’ve had discussions where the “pro-Palestinian” debater seemed quite civil and intellectually honest at first, but as time went on the facade slowly came down, and immediately before storming out, said person would say something about how the “Nazis should have finished the job” or some such heinous thing. Of course, that’s not to say that legit criticisms of Israeli policy anti-Semitic, but at the same time, anti-Semitism is quite palpably alive and well on the intertubes, and it feels a kind of hopeless and pointless to argue with bigots.
    At the same time, I feel a bit guilty for not “stepping up” as much as I could. It all depends: some people are simply misinformed, while others willfully misinform themselves.
    In a way, that’s pretty familiar territory for us Bad Astronomoteers regarding antiscience. Some people see the evidence and realize they’ve been misled, while others just dig their heels in deeper.

  48. @ 36 MTU wrote:

    In fact, we can all tell from your off-topic Judaeophobic attempted thread hijack here that you are a despicable troll with an ignorant and totally one-sided anti-Semitic view of the world. Your own words and the irrelevant off-topic junk that you have raised in a column mourning the loss of a genuinely memorable and great person reveal you for what you are.

    Wow! A poster accuses Hitch of being and anti-semite, and me of ignorance of Israel, and that is where you go when I respond that I do something about Israel and that he wasn’t as depicted??? OK.

    I find it curious how you dismiss the Israeli facilitation of the massacre of civilians in Lebanon in the 80s.

    And, your reactionary response is telling.

  49. @ 36 MTU wrote:

    In fact, we can all tell from your off-topic Judaeophobic attempted thread hijack here that you are a despicable troll with an ignorant and totally one-sided anti-Semitic view of the world. Your own words and the irrelevant off-topic junk that you have raised in a column mourning the loss of a genuinely memorable and great person reveal you for what you are.

    Wow! A poster accuses Hitch of being an anti-semite, and me of ignorance of Israel, and that is where you go when I respond that I do know *something* about Israel and that he wasn’t as depicted??? OK.

    I find it curious how you dismiss the Israeli facilitation of the massacre of civilians in Lebanon in the 80s.

    And, your reactionary response is telling.

  50. ADDENDUM: I support oppressed peoples, everywhere. Be they in the prisons of the USA, or the jungles of SE Asia.

  51. … or the dogma of Bronze Aged mythos

  52. The Onion headline just rules!

  53. MarkW

    It does seem strange that people can defend Hitch from accusations of Islamophobia on the one hand while accusing him of anti-Semitism on the other. Just sayin’.

    IMO, some of his opinions were anti-Semitic, and some of his opinions were Islamophobic.

    OTOH not all criticism of the actions of the Israeli state are motivated by anti-Semitism, and not all criticism of the Palestinians are motivated by Islamophobia.

    The best summation of Hitch: “even when he was wrong, he was brilliant.”

  54. Spit.

    Christopher Hitchens was one of the most ardent cheerleaders for US butchery in Iraq, and a leading proponent of Islamophobia. He made a career out of smearing, ridiculing, and generally stomping all over anyone who dared criticize US foreign policy over the course of the past decade. I’m sure as hell not missing the bastard.

    I see where Zach Weiner is mourning over at SMBC as well. Zach may be totally with it about science and religion, but he shows us once again that he has all the political savvy of Little Orphan Annie. Zach needs to stick to science and dick jokes.

    Good riddance, Hitchens.
    Spit.

  55. dave chamberlin

    Christopher Hitchens

    He could teach critical thinking by good example. And he could teach how to be stubborn, proud, and never admit when you are wrong by bad example. He tarnished his considerable intellectual legacy by remaining mule headed about US foreign policy in the middle east long after it was known as a complete and utter FUBAR. It amazes me how often brilliant people are incapable of simply admitting when they are wrong.

  56. ^^^ Can someone explain how something subjective has become objective???

  57. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 51. Solius :

    ADDENDUM: I support oppressed peoples, everywhere. Be they in the prisons of the USA, or the jungles of SE Asia.

    So you support and consider “oppressed” the likes of Bernie Madoff, Rob Blagoyovitch and intermittently Lindsy Lohan then? :roll:

    Along with serial killers, rapists and armed robbers? People are in prison in the US because they have committed crimes.

    You keep showing us with every comment you haven’t got a clue.


    I find it curious how you dismiss the Israeli facilitation of the massacre of civilians in Lebanon in the 80s. And, your reactionary response is telling.

    Why do you raise one incident in a long, complex conflict that’s totally off-topic and irrelevant – I find that telling as is your ignoring everything I posted in response

  58. Hugo Schmidt

    I find it proof positive of the Hitch’s character that the nutcase left and the revolting right are both lining up to attack him for refusing to cuddle up to fascists.

    Mike is a case in point.

  59. Sic transit gloria Hitch Slap. :-(

  60. @ 58 MTU wrote:

    So you support and consider “oppressed” the likes of Bernie Madoff, Rob Blagoyovitch and intermittently Lindsy Lohan then? :roll:

    You really are clueless, aren’t you(though, I guess it could be disingenuous rhetoric).

    The US has about 5% of the worlds population, but our jails hold 20% of all prisoners on the planet. IIRC, A black man born in the US has a 50% chance of finding himself in the criminal justice system sometime during his life..

    Really off topic: some stats–
    Incarceration rates by race in the US:
    Whites: 409 per 100,000
    Latinos: 1,038 per 100,000
    Blacks: 2,468 per 100,000

    males 25 to 29 years old incarceration rates:
    For White males ages 25-29: 1,685 per 100,000.
    For Latino males ages 25-29: 3,912 per 100,000.
    For Black males ages 25-29: 11,695 per 100,000.
    (That’s 11.7% of Black men in their late 20s.)

    –prisonsucks.com
    –en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incarceration_in_the_United_States
    –nytimes.com/2008/04/23/world/americas/23iht-23prison.12253738.html?pagewanted=all

    And, the disgusting reality that the US has become a police state, especially if your skin ain’t white, bears truth.

    So yes, my friend, I support the oppressed that are the result of the prison industrial complex.

    Re your posting of Palestinian attacks: I didn’t think that these posts should become a pissing match of who has the larger body count…. which I am sure you would, readily admit, who has killed more.

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