Christopher Hitchens, the brilliant writer, speaker and thinker died Thursday at the age of 62 after a tough battle with esophageal cancer.
His final piece for Vanity Fair is as powerful as anything else he’s written.
If his death is a surprise, it may be because we harbored some secret hope that he’d find a way to beat cancer into submission. Or somehow argue it out of his body.
While I’ve seen him from a distance at a conference or two over the years, I had a chance to talk to him in person about five years ago, just before the release of God Is Not Great, when he showed up to a hotel room party at the Amazing Meeting 5, a celebration of skepticism.
Hitchens was blunt and hilarious as he mingled with guests. And, as you would expect, he managed to offend several people with a joke while making them laugh at the same time.
His response was short and to the point: “It’s better.”
And, indeed, it was the only one of the New Atheist books to hit #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.
Hitchens is not in a “better place.” He’s not in hell, either. And he won’t ever be looking down from above.
But we have something better than that: a legacy of Hitch that’s going to live on in perpetuity. Decades’ worth of books, collections of his articles, and videos of his lectures and interviews are everywhere.
He’s a man who will still influence people for years to come, giving them the arguments and confidence they need to finally leave their faith.
Raise a glass, everyone. Here’s to a man who did more to challenge faith and tip over sacred cows than just about anyone else.
* * *
Hemant Mehta of Chicago is the author is "I Sold My Soul on eBay" and a high school math teacher. He wrote this reflection for his blog, Friendly Atheist. Mehta has been involved nationally in helping to start Secular Student Alliances on college campuses. His essay is published here with his permission.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.