(This piece was heavily edited on 8th of May, 2013)
When I woke after a major surgery on my stomach-cancer in the middle of December of 2011 the first piece of news that I heard in Facebook was that Christopher Hitchens had died of cancer earlier on that same day.
This was one of the reasons why I created a Facebook-page to celebrate his birthday on the 13th of April. However, I had by then already admired this strange man for many years on the basis of this books and other writings. Most of all I did like his magnificent abilities as a debater in so many great videos in YouTube.
I still admire him also as one a few of the true moralists of our day. He generally judged ideas on the basis of general good they can give for the human kind. He did not judge them just on their usefulness in achieving certain limited goals or furthering an ideology.
I had already followed his struggle with incurable cancer for a long time, when I was diagnosed with cancer in stomach in the middle November in 2011. It turned out that the cancer had already spread to my liver and lungs, and it was past the stage that it would ever be cured totally. This situation made me naturally relate rather strongly with Christopher Hitchens, who had then in a quite similar situation.
This strong mental bond did survive his death. It did also survive a later happy turn of events. It turned later out that I could benefit greatly from chemotherapy, even if the different type of cancer that Chris had could not be kept helped with it.
When I was recuperating from my heavy surgery, I did also listen to Christopher Hitchens latest collection of essays and reviews called Arguably. I did listen to it as an audiobook in Audible-format. He did read most of the essays himself, with his raspy voice which strongly hinted of his illness.
There were many essays that were very American for a Finn like me or rather too literary in their subject matter. However, the strongest and most powerful essays did really bring tears in my ears. His strong writing and his strong voice really carried home his indignation on the moral depravity of many of the religious extremist and proponents of an open greed.
Happily, my chemotherapy did slow considerably the growth of the cancer in my liver. This was a startling turn of event. Before the therapy could be started I was already classed as a goner for a while, with just a few days to live. Sadly, Chris could not enjoy such a turn of events. In fact, even I will never be really cured, but the rather heavy and demanding treatment did give me at least an additional year and half.
We did also share a strong love for history with Chris. From his books and appearances it is easy to see the results of his never-ending quest to deepen his knowledge on human history. I for my part have read history for over 40 years. My voracious appetite for books concerning history manifested itself already when I was well under ten years old. In fact, I have never recovered from it, but I can never claim such a depth of knowledge that Chris did posses on so many issues.
Christopher Hitchens has always been a very controversial figure even among the atheists. His extremely outspoken style, and argumentative reasoning are not to the liking of all. Most of all his original approval of the war with Iraq has caused much consternation among the people of the left.
They have simply never understood his motives for supporting the toppling of one of the bloodiest and ruthless dictators of the last decades. I have written in this blog this about him earlier. However, I think the things that I wrote a few years ago do still well stand:
“The greatest problem for many is that it was a hard thing to pinpoint Christopher Hitchens on the political map in the latter part of his life. On the other hand, he was maybe the fiercest critic of the religions alive, but on the other hand he did, for example, give his public support to the war in Iraq when that war was being waged by the hated right-wing Bush administration.
The key to this dilemma just might lie in the fact that Christopher Hitchens is a former Trotskyist who did slide into a peculiar position on the political field when he did broke his old ties to the left. I fear that this public breaking of the bonds with the old friends on the left did turn his thinking to the right in many areas. This process was undoubtedly intensified when he was hounded and pestered by his old comrades on countless occasions. Such attacks do normally only strengthen one's will to break as clean away as possible.
For me, Christopher Hitchens was a classical example of a man who did believe that telling the truth is the only thing that really matters. The problem in this often is that this belief in the sanctity of the truth at times prevented him from time to time from seeing that there not always is a single grand truth available, but many different ideas can be true in different ways, even simultaneously.
The traditional religions are of course also the traditional breeding grounds for the believers of Only Truths. However, in the political left there has always been a quite similar tendency towards a love of a single unmovable truth.
A belief that only one grand explanation is needed is the hard core of communism and Marxism also. I have a feeling that even if Christopher Hitchens did shake off the ideological shackles of the Trotskyism, it still left him with a legacy of longing for a single grand truth.”
I would like to make this celebration of the legacy of Christopher Hitchens a yearly event. See http://www.facebook.com/ChristopherHitchensDayApril13
Christopher Hitchens Closing Remarks in Dembski Debate