As I am sure everyone has already heard, Christopher Hitchens passed away on December 16th. Richard Dawkins has a wonderful eulogy at (1). I discovered Hitchens rather late in life. The first time I ever saw him speak was on a Penn & Teller Bullshit! episode, where I wondered “just who is this guy downing scotch and cigarettes like there’s no tomorrow.”
My respect for him has certainly grown over the years, and I think he was one of our movement’s best speakers. He embodied the idea of a skeptic so well…he always had his own opinions, and one was hard-pressed to infer his opinion on any given subject until he spoke on it. Never the crowd-follower, he showed us all that we should always question groupthink, in all of its forms.
After his diagnosis, he showed us even more what it means to be a skeptic and a humanist. I am still in awe at how he handled his inevitability with such grace and aplomb. His courage in the face of death is truly an inspiration to us all. More than anything, he showed us through his actions that religion is not necessary for dealing with death.
Hitches was truly a great human being, that rare one-of-a-kind who was both passionate and measured. The skeptic community, and indeed the world at large is poorer for his loss. We shall miss him.
(1) Dawkins, Richard. “Illness made Hitchens a symbol of the honesty and dignity of atheism.” The Independent. 17th December, 2011. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/richard-dawkins-illness-made-hitchens-a-symbol-of-the-honesty-and-dignity-of-atheism-6278298.html