Christopher Hitchens, accidental Atheist

August 4, 2010

The new memoir by Christopher Hitchens titled "Hitch-22" is not about atheism. Not even remotely close. There is so little atheism in this book, that an New Atheist may feel disappointed. Other atheists, having a broader interest in the great social and political issues of the 20th century, would feel no let-down at all.

The spare pages that even mention atheism (and the most interesting page, the final page of the whole book), are more about other pressing matters. Taking the book for what it was trying to be, a narrative about Hitchen's abiding interests in social justice, human rights, and international politics, is taking the opportunity to put atheism in proper perspective.

Why must liberal socialism retain its high stature as a great worldview, complete with a principled ethics and outline sketch of "the good of humanity"? You can read why, in Hitchens own words. Why must this great worldview bravely fight against religion? Because religion, according to Hitchens, amounts to turning off the thinking mind, turning on the engines of fascism and totalitarianism, and turning out the modern world's lights. Being an atheist is just a symptomatic by-product of defending the basic rights of humanity and guarding any hopes for further progress for the world.

The accidental atheist, Christopher Hitchens. He didn't set out, like many self-proclaimed New Atheists, to make a fight against religion into the entire agenda or the center of a career. He is a New Atheist, only in this sense: when the urgent time came in the early 21st century to identify the most dangerous force disrupting the planet, he pointed the right way.

We need more "freedom fighters" in the intellectual world like Christopher Hitchens. The world is a complex place, with many mind-control powers all competing for control of this planet and its resources. Religion is one such power, and there are others (see any commercial on tv).

Hitchens is surely right about why people should be atheists. There can be no thoughtful compromise with people who hate the fact that you think.