As has been widely reported, Christopher Hitchens has passed away from oesophageal cancer at the age of 62. For something far more informed about this brilliant individual, I recommend the Guardian’s obituary.
A few years ago, after doing a paper in the philosophy of religion at uni, my father gave me two great gifts for Christmas. One was Hitchens’ God is not Great (the other was Michael Onfray’s Atheist Manifesto, which I also recommend).
Hitchens’ book really struck a nerve with me. I had already read plenty of Dawkins and was a devout disbeliever. Hitchens was different though. He convinced me that it wasn’t good enough to just sit by and watch something you don’t agree with. You have to be brave enough to put your head above the parapet and call it how it is. The same principle applies to politics, and it’s the reason I joined the Labour Party. After years of moaning about politics, and having my fair share of complaints about virtually every party in parliament, I decided to get involved and actually try to make things better.
As you will have guessed, my dad takes this cause very seriously. He is as much of a fan-boy of Hitchens or Dawkins as you’d ever find. Earlier this year my dad was also diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. As these things always are, it was an incredibly tough time for us all, but particularly for him. Dad followed Hitchens’ career closely, and was well aware that his hero’s case was probably terminal. I spoke with him about it, and the impact it had on him emotionally was so very strong, and understandably so.
I’m not going to go into an existential rant; but my suggestion as to how to remember Christopher Hitchens would be to do some reading, challenge your own thoughts and beliefs, and talk to your friends and family. Tell them you love them, but don’t leave them at that. Make sure you are having proper conversations; explore new ideas, challenge old ones, and speak up when you hear something that just isn’t right. It’s what Hitchens would have wanted.
In a weeks time I’m off on my summer holiday. I’m going to re-read God is not Great, and I’m going to give my dad the biggest hug.