Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

 I guess I knew this was inevitable, but I kept that knowledge far, far away.  He was brilliant and hilarious and an arrogant gasbag, and I’ll miss his writing, even the stuff I thought was shit.  I bitterly regret never having met the man.  I send my thoughts and — though he didn’t believe in them — prayers to his family & friends.

From the Vanity Fair website:

Christopher Hitchens—the incomparable critic, masterful rhetorician, fiery wit, and fearless bon vivant—died today at the age of 62. Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010, just after the publication of his memoir, Hitch-22, and began chemotherapy soon after. His matchless prose has appeared in Vanity Fair since 1992, when he was named contributing editor.

“Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frank, graceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.

“My chief consolation in this year of living dyingly has been the presence of friends,” he wrote in the June 2011 issue. He died in their presence, too, at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. May his 62 years of living, well, so livingly console the many of us who will miss him dearly.


21 comments to Christopher Hitchens, 1949-2011

  • Loyal Goatherd

    I just caught the movie “Collision”, he was in, last weekend. He was not the arrogant gasbag I expected he would be. His writing was crisp and methodical, he will be missed.

  • Dan Collins

    He was a man, take him for all in all,
    I shall not look upon his like again.
    “Hamlet”, Act 1 scene 2

  • I’ll miss his writing and intellect — his personality. I fear he may not RIP, but that is not and was not my bailiwick. Prayers to his family.

  • Douglas Wilson, the Idaho pastor who debated Hitch in a series of debates filmed for the documentary Collision wrote an obituary for Christianity Today here.

    Unbelievers can smell accommodation, and when someone like Christopher meets someone who actually believes all the articles in the Creed, including that part about Jesus coming back from the dead, it delights him. Here is someone actually willing to defend what is being attacked. Militant atheists are often exasperated with opponents whose strategy appears to be “surrender slowly.”

    G. K. Chesterton once pointed to the salutary effect that the great agnostics had on him—that effect being that of “arousing doubts deeper than their own.” Christopher was an heir of the Enlightenment tradition, and would have felt right at home in the 18th-century salons of Paris. He wanted to carry on the grand tradition of doubting what had been inherited from Christendom, and to take great delight in doubting it. This worked well, or appeared to, for a time. But skepticism is a universal solvent, and once applied, it does not stop just because Christendom is gone. “I think, therefore I am. I think.” We pulled out the stopper of faith, and the bathwater of reason appeared undisturbed for a time. But modernism slowly receded and now postmodernism is circling the drain. Our intelligentsia needs to figure out how to do more than sit in an empty tub and reminisce about the days when Voltaire knew how to keep the water hot.

    Christopher knew that faithful Christians believe that it is appointed to man once to die, and after that the Judgment. He knew that we believe what Jesus taught about the reality of damnation. He also knew that we believe—for I told him—that in this life, the door of repentance is always open. A wise Puritan once noted what we learn from the last-minute conversion of the thief on the cross—one, that no one might despair, but only one, that no one might presume. We have no indication that Christopher ever called on the Lord before he died, and if he did not, then Scriptures plainly teach that he is lost forever. But we do have every indication that Christ died for sinners, men and women just like Christopher. We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).

    Go read the whole thing…

  • Scott M.

    A boozing,chain smoking athiest….sounds like me!Hitch was a better writer,though.

  • Matt Helm

    RIP Hitch. It was always nice to agree or disagree with him. I’ll say a prayer and have a drink for him.

  • Scott M.

    Died in Texas without “benefit” of clergy…can’t beat that,Floyd!

    • Stephanie

      Scott let it go. OK? If I were you I wouldn’t get so cocky..Your attacks on faith are starting to get old. And I really wonder HAH how much an athiest he was at the end…. 😉

  • Tink in Cali

    I hadn’t heard any updates on his condition lately and had hoped he was doing better. Alas, it was not to be. A remarkable man who will be missed.

    Thanks for posting the second obituary also, Floyd. “We know that the Lord has more than once hired workers for his vineyard when the sun was almost down (Matt. 20:6).” Fantastic line.

  • Tracy,txmom2many

    I just keep thinking of the last thing you posted here by him, about his version of Heaven….brings me to tears wondering if that ever changed for him.

    • Stosh from da Sticks

      Precious – thanks for the link.

      Isn’t it amazing how folks who disagreed with him at the very core of their beliefs loved him so much and respected the hell out of him?

  • One of the last honest men. I respected his integrity, as God is now (I believe) respecting his choice.

  • Scott M.

    Stephanie,your shrill shrieking remarks about Newt Gingrich are getting old as well,so you don’t “cocky” either.

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