This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Christopher Hitchens: my hero of 2010

alt text
Christopher Hitchens: 'A lesser man would have seized the excuse of a mortal illness to duck responsibility and take it easy.'

I'm not much given to straight, irony-free hero-worship. The last time I did a "heroes and villains" piece I chose Pope John Paul II as hero, on the grounds that he was doing everything possible to discredit the appalling institution of which he was head. Fatuously, the newspaper (not this one) ruined the joke by titling it not "Richard Dawkins chooses the pope as his hero" but "Richard Dawkins on the dubious heroism of the pope" (like those Victorian Punch cartoons whose captions drove the joke into the ground by painstakingly explaining it).

Unlike his predecessor, who mixed in some saintly qualities, Benedict XVI is an authentic villain, and even better qualified than John Paul II to bring down the second most evil religion in the world. But this time I'd rather dispense with irony and villainy and go wholeheartedly for an unambiguous, middle-stump hero. And in 2010, who could it be but that doughty nemesis of popes and faiths of all kinds, Christopher Hitchens?

Eloquent, witty, literate, intelligent, knowledgeable, brave, erudite, hard-working, honest (who could forget his clean-through skewering of Mother Teresa's hypocrisy?), arguably the most formidable debater alive today yet at the same time the most gentlemanly, Christopher Hitchens is a giant of the mind and a model of courage. A lesser man would have seized the excuse of a mortal illness to duck responsibility and take it easy. Not this soldier. He will not go gentle into that good night; but instead of a futile raging against the dying of the light he rages, with redoubled energy (and concentrated power in his vibrant, Richard Burton tones) against the same obscurantist, vicious or just plain silly targets as have long engaged him. But he never rants. His is a controlled, disciplined rage, and don't get on the wrong side of it.

Read on

TAGGED: CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, RICHARD DAWKINS


RELATED CONTENT

Does this set a record for smug...

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net Comments

Does this set a record for smug nastiness?

Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins

Chip Rowe - Playboy Comments

Playboy Interview with Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins gets it right. Sarah...

Eric MacDonald - Choice in Dying Comments

Richard Dawkins gets it right. Sarah Wollaston misunderstands.

[update to a previous article] Richard...

Hamish MacDonnell - The Independent Comments

Some church groups have expressed disappointment at the decision to invite leading atheist Richard Dawkins to speak at an island book festival.

Rats Manipulated to be Attracted to Cats

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net Comments

Rats Manipulated to be Attracted to Cats

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 25 - 26...

- - Ancestors Trail Walk Comments

WALK DARWIN’S TREE OF LIFE ~ 26 AUGUST 2012 - event begins on Saturday 25 August

MORE

MORE BY RICHARD DAWKINS

Rats Manipulated to be Attracted to Cats

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net Comments

Rats Manipulated to be Attracted to Cats

No Precedent? Then Set One!

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net Comments

No Precedent? Then Set One?

Why I won't take part in debate with...

Richard Dawkins - for the Press and... Comments

I was invited several months ago to speak at the Faclan Book Festival in Stornoway and I was delighted to accept, as I have a great affection for the Highlands and Islands but have never visited Lewis and have heard such good things about its beauty and about the friendliness of the islanders.

It's What Moral Philosophers Do

Richard Dawkins - RichardDawkins.net Comments

It's What Moral Philosophers Do

You don’t need God to be good . . . or...

Richard Dawkins - - Comments

Freethinkers, atheists, agnostics, secular humanists – whatever name non-believers go under, they are not America’s most popular minority.

The Descent of Edward Wilson (with...

Richard Dawkins - Prospect 188 Comments

Richard Dawkins's review of The Social Conquest of Earth, by Edward O Wilson (WW Norton, £18.99, May) - (with Polish translation)

MORE

Comments

Comment RSS Feed

Please sign in or register to comment