Friday, December 16, 2011

Farewell, Christopher Hitchens: A Catholic Thanks You

.:Christopher Hitchens: 1949-2011:.

How do you pray for the soul of a man who doesn't believe in a soul or in prayers? Simple. You don't. You celebrate his life.

To say that the name Christopher Hitchens has a lot of weight upon me would be the understatement of the year, knowing full well that his famed debate with Douglas Wilson was one of the key components of my Masters thesis. Of course, back then, I only knew Hitchens as a name, and generally sided with the notion that theistic morality takes a very direct and universal form that atheistic morality is simply incapable of doing.

It wasn't really easy trying to defend that position in light of Christopher's eloquence when it came to defending his side. Regardless, since then, any mention of his name elicited interest from me.

As recently as two weeks ago, I was contemplating buying his most recent book: a compilation of his essays sold for a trifle 640 pesos at Fully Booked. I didn't purchase it at the last minute because I considered getting the book from iBooks instead, but I sorta resolved to buy it sometime next week after finding out that he has passed. A digital copy is nice, but holding one of his last published works in my hands physically just seems right.

It's funny, really, because nobody could possibly say I'm an atheist, no matter how pluralistic I am. I still firmly identify as Roman Catholic, despite all my misgivings about the system and the people within it. I'm a firm believer in the notion that if your faith makes you a better person, or if a lack of faith would do it, then carry on in that way. By better person, I think the most basic of definitions would be: if your faith or lack of it makes you less of a dick to other people, then it's definitely making you a better person.

That being said, I can't eulogize so much about a man I have never met or spoken to, much less followed on Twitter, assuming he had an account. I liked his writing style, I liked his ability to tackle the sacred cows few people were willing to take on, such as Mother Teresa or Bill Clinton. Ultimately, I saw in him the ability to stand up for something he truly believed in, and never succumbing to outside pressure, opposition, or ridicule, because he believed he was right, and he made more than minor headway into proving his point without having to resort to boorishness or barbarism at worst. He was a gentleman of a contrarian, to put it succinctly.

Considering how brash most theists find the Hitchens or the Penn and Tellers of the world less because of how they say anything but more because of what they are saying, it's sad to realize that one of them is no longer with us. In a world where the heart is given undue primacy over the mind at far too great a price, it was good to know that he and his ilk were there to keep people in check. It was good to know he was willing to ask the questions nobody else was willing to ask. With him passing away, it's good to know that there are more than enough people who are willing to take up his cudgels and trudge on in the path he has helped blaze.

I have always believed one's faith or lack thereof is a personal matter, but there has always been room for non-fanatical evangelization, in my opinion. It may come as a surprise to theists, though, that this should also mean that atheists are just as entitled to "evangelize" every bit the theists are, no matter how much they think this offends them. Secularism is the great equalizer: ironically fulfilling the very words of the Judeo-Christian God when it was said that all are created equally and in His likeness. How much more equal can it be when both those with faith and without faith have the choice and have the ability to educate in the proper avenues?

I find it ironic and amusing that secularism is doing more to follow the core of Judeo-Christian values than fundamentalism and radicalism can ever hope to. It is with this knowledge that I raise my glass (With a predictably non-alcoholic drink in it.) to the late Christopher Hitchens and give him a wink and my gratitude for being a great human being, which is truly a great accomplishment in the kind of world we find ourselves mired in today.

He will most certainly be missed.

No comments: