The Death of an Atheist

Christopher Hitchens, great thinker and all-around decent human being, died of cancer a few months ago. Hitchens was an avowed atheist, and reached his greatest fame here in the States after publication of his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which was a lighthearted romp.

Now the Daily Mail has published an article about the last days of his life. It can be read here. The money quote:

Hitchens knew he was dying but saw the funny side of all the glowing praise for his literary work. ‘Now so many tributes that it also seems that rumours of my LIFE have also been greatly exaggerated.
‘Lived to see most of what’s going to be written about me: this too is exhilarating, but hits diminishing returns when I realise how soon it, too will be “background.”‘


Hitchens Talks North Korea and God

Well, this seems fitting.

Sic Transit Christopher Hitchens, 1949 – 2011

This is an obituary I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to write for a very long time. But here we are. One of the great magazine/internet writers in history has died. Christopher Hitchens has succumbed to the ravages of cancer at the age of 62.

I never got to meet Hitch, but he was still a great influence to me. He helped inspire me as a writer and helped to influence my views on any number of subjects. Even when I read things of his where I disagreed with his central point, as with his views on Iraq, I still could at least understand what he thought on the issue and why he thought it. That’s not as typical as you might think.

Of course it’s also worth mentioning what a great impact he had on me and my atheism. I read God is Not Great right after I read Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Dawkins’ book is much more of a purely intellectual exercise, while Hitch’s is both intellect and emotion, mixing the two to make for a really fascinating read. It’s safe to say that had I not read his book, I likely wouldn’t approach my lack of belief in the same way I do now.

I haven’t much more to say about the man that hasn’t already been said. Particularly touching is Andrew Sullivan’s blog article on the topic, which I recommend. Also, for those who’d like to read my favorite Hitch article, check out this one, and then watch this delightful video of Hitch and Stephen Fry taking to task a couple conservative religious types on the subject of religion. It’s a great example of Hitch at his best.

Back in the Saddle

For those of you who wonder, it does seem that quality leads to quantity. My per-day hit average has been in the 450’s over the last few months. Not bad. This last week, though, I saw a drop every single day, culminating in a hit count of only 253 yesterday. Why?

Because I was essentially on vacation and lazing it up at home. I did the bare minimum with the blog, and my hit totals show that the bare minimum of readers paid it any attention. This is, without a doubt, proof that quality begats quantity.

But I’m back to working/blogging like normal now. And I guess I’ll touch a bit on things I’ve largely ignored this week.

First, Ann Coulter, constant bitch, has published a truly vile piece about gays and “girls” in the military and how neither belong, but especially the gays! She’s always struck me as the kind of woman who wouldn’t have led Anne Frank’s family into the gas chambers, but would’ve been happy to tell the SS where they were hiding.

Second, let’s all boycott the Salvation Army. Yes, they do a lot of good work, and once helped pay my rent, but they have a really weird Christian fundamentalist agenda that discriminates against gays, as well as wizards and vampires.

Third, and for those who love a little cynicism with their blog reading, there’s an article on Salon talking about the end of the “American century” and how our “empire” will fall. While none of the scenarios listed are impossible, all seem implausible to greater or lesser degrees and make several assumptions that are not necessarily likely (ie: I don’t see China bothering to launch a massive cyber-attack to destroy the US military might, and I strongly doubt the various Arab Gulf states will ally themselves extensively with the Persian state of Iran). While we will likely slink into second place over the next few decades, I doubt it’s going to be as bad as all that, and if in the end we wind up more like Western Europe is today, well, I can think of worse things.

Fourth, Terry Pratchett has written a wonderful and touching article about Alzheimer’s, which he has. There’s not really much more that I can say about it, except that you should read it.

Finally, over at Vanity Fair, the always-entertaining Hitch has a few choice words about the Tea Party. They’re about as pleasant and friendly as you’d expect.

So I’ve neglected a few things this week, but I’m back now. Brace for quality, which will hopefully result in an increase in quantity. 🙂

Wither Hitchens?

Christopher Hitchens is currently battling a rather nasty form of cancer. As is his way, he’s handling it by writing about it.

The new land [of cancer] is quite welcoming in its way. Everybody smiles encouragingly and there appears to be absolutely no racism. A generally egalitarian spirit prevails, and those who run the place have obviously got where they are on merit and hard work. As against that, the humor is a touch feeble and repetitive, there seems to be almost no talk of sex, and the cuisine is the worst of any destination I have ever visited. The country has a language of its own—a lingua franca that manages to be both dull and difficult and that contains names like ondansetron, for anti-nausea medication—as well as some unsettling gestures that require a bit of getting used to. For example, an official met for the first time may abruptly sink his fingers into your neck. That’s how I discovered that my cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, and that one of these deformed beauties—located on my right clavicle, or collarbone—was big enough to be seen and felt.

I do hope he gets better. He’s a hell of a writer, and the world without him would be worse than the world with him.

Punishment From God

Christopher Hitchens has a fascinating article on about certain people trying to blame natural disasters on the behavior of the local populous; making it seem like God is trying to punish wrongdoers.

Without mentioning any names, a certain jackass man of God went onto TV the other day to strongly imply that the Haitians got what they deserved in their recent earthquake and that it was punishment from God due to them having made a deal with Satan a couple hundred years back. Needless to say there was a great hue and cry from many, not least of which were the ones from Christians who said that God doesn’t do things like that.

God punishing everyone for the crimes of some.

What? Have you people ever actually read the Bible? Mass punishments are exactly what God does. He murdered untold thousands of people in Egypt, flooded the entire world, killing many innocent babies and children, because of the sinful behavior of adults, he had Jericho leveled and everyone in it killed because they worshiped the wrong god (ie: not him), and the list goes on and on. Mass punishments on entire communities are what God does, at least according to the Bible.

Of course those of us who don’t believe and understand basic geology know that basically things happen. It’s not God, it’s just tectonics. It sucks, but that’s life.

Chattin’ With Hitch

There’s a lucky bastard in Oregon who got to sit down and interview Christopher Hitchens, a man at the top of my list of people I’d most like to sit down and have dinner with (other guests include Terry Pratchett, Salmon Rushdie and Stephen Fry). Hitch is a fascinating man and always entertaining and thought-provoking, even on those things I don’t completely agree with him.

Anyhow, in this interview he mainly focuses on the Muslim world’s reaction to various recent events and on Europe’s reaction to the same, and how often those reactions dovetail even if the actions taken in response to them differ. It’s a good interview and worth reading.

Also, if Mr Hitchens happens to read this article, like if he’s drunk and just stumbling around on random WordPress sites, hey, how about an interview with me? 😉