Christopher Hitchens died Thursday of complications from esophageal cancer. He was 62.
“Christopher Hitchens was a gifted writer and polemicist, with razor-sharp wit and an acute intellect, who was also a steadfast champion for secularism,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). “We are deeply saddened by his death.”
Hitchens was prolific, writing on a number of topics through his varied career as an author and journalist. His works covered topics as diverse as the Elgin Marbles, Mother Teresa, and the equivocations of Bill Clinton.
Hitchens was an intellectual of broad interests who lists “disputation” among his hobbies, lectures copiously and writes for a number of periodicals as a pundit and critic.
Fortunately for those concerned about the influence of religion, Hitchens also turned his wide-ranging intellect to religion. His 2007 book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, became a best seller, and Hitchens became a well-known debater on the topic of religion. In the last several years, he was a fixture as a speaker for many secular organizations, including CFI and the Council for Secular Humanism.
Hitchens was a long-time columnist for Free Inquiry. One of the first pieces Christopher Hitchens wrote for Free Inquiry, published in the spring 1998 issue, was titled “Mother Teresa’s Life and Death in the Media.” He became a regular columnist in 2000. In his writing, he spared no one when his sense of moral outrage was triggered and thus defied being pigeonholed or categorized.
Hitchens’s commentaries were always witty and insightful. He visited the Center for Inquiry on occasion to speak, and his lectures were equally entertaining.
Christopher Hitchens was a pleasure to work with, and we at the Council and Free Inquiry will miss him, and will miss hearing what he might have had to say next.
Hitchens left us many words of wisdom. But perhaps one quote stands out. In God Is Not Great, Hitchens wrote, “Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.” In this concise, insightful observation, Hitchens captures all that needs to be said about the independence of morality from religion.
Hitchens has left humanists and atheists a rich legacy of logic, fearless advocacy, and wit. It’s up to us to make good use of it.