Christopher Hitchens (1949 – 2011)

Christopher was a beacon of knowledge and light in a world that constantly threatens to extinguish both.

He had the courage to accept the world for just what it is and not what he wanted it to be. That's the highest praise, I believe, one can give to any intellect. He understood that the universe doesn't care about our existence or welfare and he epitomized the realization that our lives have meaning only to the extent that we give them meaning.

- Lawrence Krauss, theoretical physicist and friend of Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Eric Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011) was an Anglo-American author, orator, journalist, and essayist, as well as a religious, social and literary critic. He was the author, co-author or editor of over 30 books. He became a leading and controversial figure in public discourse by virtue of his clear and brutal wit and his extraordinary facility with written and spoken English. Many of the topics he chose to write and speak about were controversial, as were many of his views. Publications for which he contributed essays and articles include Vanity Fair, The Nation, The Altantic, Slate, The Weekly Standard, New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement, Free Inquiry, and London Review of Books.

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, to Eric and Yvonne Hitchens, both of whom served in the Royal Navy. Hs parents’ naval career took the family to a number of bases throughout Britain and its dependencies. Christopher’s younger brother Peter was born in during one such assignment in Malta (1951).

Hitchens called himself an antitheist, stating, “I’m more of an antitheist than an atheist. In other words my view is not just that there is no reason to believe that there is a deity, but that It’s a good thing that’s not the case. If you want to have power over other human beings, the most potent way, the most effective way, of claiming and exerting power over fellow humans is to say that you are doing it in God’s name, that you’re God’s appointed. They can’t challenge that”.

He believed that the concept of a supreme being was totalitarian and existed in opposition to individual freedom. He further believed that humans should define their moral codes based on scientific understanding and the free exchange of ideas. He was a free speech absolutist who argued that any limitation on speech was detrimental to civilized society.

Hitchens wrote book-length biographical essays about Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and George Orwell, but is perhaps better known for criticizing several public figures in book-length form. Those include former president Bill Clinton (No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton), former secretary of state and former national security advisor Henry Kissinger (The Trial of Henry Kissinger) and Mother Teresa (The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice). Many of his critiques of public figures took the form of opinion pieces or lectures. Subjects of his criticism included the 14th Dalai Lama, Jerry Falwell, Michael Moore and Ronald Reagan.

He described himself politically as a socialist and Marxist, but broke with progressives over the war in Iraq, opposition to NATO intervention in Bosnia, and what he considered the “tepid reaction” of the Western political left over the Satanic Verses controversy.

Diagnosed with esophageal cancer in June of 2010, Christopher Hitchens died on December 11 of 2011.

Books by Christopher Hitchens