Christopher Hitchens, the famous writer and polemicist whose later years were known for his fierce arguments against religious belief, has died of cancer. His death is being mourned in the growing ranks of atheists, agnostics, humanists and freethinkers. ReligionLink has a comprehensive guide to groups and leaders in that community.
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Hitchens died Thursday, Dec. 15, at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston after battling esophageal cancer, which was diagnosed in 2010. He was 62 and was a leader in the New Atheist movement. His best-known book on unbelief is his 2007 work, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
Vanity Fair, where Hitchens had a regular column, has a brief tribute.
As Hitchens’ struggle with cancer progressed, he continued to write as profusely as ever; his reflections on his mortality in the face of illness lent a particular depth and poignancy to his essays.
In fact, his last column for Vanity Fair attacked the philosophy behind the adage, attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, that “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Hitchens’ tone in that column led one writer to speculate that Hitchens was preparing to embrace religious belief, something Hitchens expressly said he would not do at the end of his life, and a suggestion that was rejected by many believers and nonbelievers alike.
ReligionLink will maintain a roundup of links to those stories and more.
Hitchens and mortality
- Read “Trial of the Will,” Christopher Hitchens’ column in the January 2012 edition of Vanity Fair, in which he dissects the Nietzschean adage, “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”
- Read “Is Christopher Hitchens about to convert?,” a controversial column in The Daily Caller by Mark Judge.
- Read a post at First Things by Wesley Smith, “Error to Speculate Publicly About Hitchens Becoming Christian,” that criticizes Judge’s approach.
- At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher also wrote about suffering and conversion in response to Judge’s column.
- At The Daily Beast, Andrew Sullivan, a Catholic, wrote a post, “Pray for Hitch,” about his dying friend.
Tributes, responses from freethinker community
- Read a tribute from the American Humanist Association.
- The Center for Inquiry plans to hold a vigil outside Hitchens’ Washington, D.C., home starting at 5 p.m. Friday.
Reactions from others
- Peter Hitchens, who is a devout Anglican and apologist for Christianity, remembers his brother Christopher in this column and reflects on how their views on faith — and other matters — divided and united them.
- Read “Could Christopher Hitchens be in heaven?,” an essay by Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
- Read “An evangelical remembers his friend Hitchens,” a column at CNN.com by Larry Alex Taunton, a Christian apologist and head of the Fixed Point Foundation who frequently debated Hitchens on religion.
- At The Tablet, the online Jewish periodical, Marc Tracy explores how Hitchens’ late-in-life discovery of his Jewish roots affected his writing.
- Read “The Believer’s Atheist,” a column by New York Times op-ed writer Ross Douthat.
- At the Spiritual Politics blog, Mark Silk writes about Hitchens as “America’s favorite atheist” and about the affection so many people of faith had for him.
- Washington Post columnist and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson has a tribute, “Christopher Hitchens: A humanist at heart.”
- Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has a remembrance at The Forward.
- Douglas Wilson, who participated in a series of debates with Hitchens in 2007, reflected on the death with an essay posted by Christianity Today.
- The Call & Response blog at Duke Divinity School’s website has a roundup of reactions.
- At The Nation, the liberal periodical where Hitchens wrote before he broke with that camp, Katha Pollitt tempers some of the praise with critical recollections of Hitchens’ drinking, writing and approach to women.