We were saddened to hear of the passing of Christopher Hitchens at age 62, after a long and hard battle with cancer. Hitchens was a first-rate intellectual, a terrific writer and an effective provocateur. Perhaps his most admirable quality was his willingness to be independent. For instance, he defended the Iraq War against his left wing friends, and the cogency of the pro-life cause against the fury of left wing feminists. He also defended moral absolutes, despite the difficulty of accounting for them in an atheistic and materialistic framework.
Of course, the part of his work most relevant to us here at ENV was his “New Atheism,” to which his hostility to intelligent design was related. I had the privilege of debating him on the subject before a live (and live broadcast) audience at Stanford University in 2008, and recall the experience fondly. We had cordial conversations before and afterwards, with a big public argument in the middle. He offered me some Perrier and whisky before we went on stage. I’m a lightweight when it comes to hard liquor, so I declined. I did take him up on the offer after the debate, however.
I do not think Hitchens’s New Atheism showed him at his best. His famous book God Is Not Great has far too much vitriol, false generalization, and equivocation, and far too little valid argument. In that book and related writings, his hostility to God and religion seemed to override his command of logic. Nevertheless, I think (speaking as a Christian) that the person who is infuriated with God is much closer to a state of grace than the person who is merely indifferent.