Three things I learned from Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (13 April 1949 – 15 December 2011)

I found the writings of Christopher Hitchens as I closed the door on my twenties. My mind was on fire. For the preceding months I had been consuming material on reason, science, and the argument for theism.

Hitchens was an intellect that was fresh and biting. He wielded his knowledge like a heavy club in debates with myriad charlatans. His vocabulary was robust and his perspective on religion logical and clear. Hitchens was a contrarian and empowered me as such. He did not run for office and therefore he did not seek the company of people he did not like. He told it like it was. I do not take this same path of offense but I do hold a high respect for those that push the boundaries of reason and science. For men like Christopher that took educating through debate and speech as a passion and enlightened many.

The main things I learned from him:

  1. Argue – To argue is not only to learn you opponents ideas but to crystalize your own ideas and check them against the world and the facts.
  2. Think – Don’t discount the power of your own thoughts. Don’t default to others that which you have the ability to think of yourself. Don’t allow those in power to scare you from the truth.  The essence of this can be found in his response to the question he got frequently when addressing a hot topic.  “Who do you think you are?” someone would say trying to intimidate him. “Who is asking?”  he would reply.
  3.  Question Everything- Anything and everything should be questioned. Nothing is off limits. If someone tells you not to worry about it or not to question it, then you most certainly must inquire further for inquiry and logical thought is the way to truth.

Today marks six years since Christopher died from throat cancer. I haven’t read him lately but I get a reverent feeling when I think of how he reshaped my mind in whatever small way… the ability to see less illusion and more substance. Less bull and more truth. And for that, I am grateful.

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