Christopher Hitchens' Letter to the American Atheist Convention - 4/22/2011

Dear fellow-unbelievers,

Nothing would have kept me from joining you except the loss of my voice (at least my speaking voice) which in turn is due to a long argument I am currently having with the specter of death. Nobody ever wins this argument, though there are some solid points to be made while the discussion goes on. I have found, as the enemy becomes more familiar, that all the special pleading for salvation, redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before. I hope to help defend and pass on the lessons of this for many years to come, but for now I have found my trust better placed in two things: the skill and principle of advanced medical science, and the comradeship of innumerable friends and family, all of them immune to the false consolations of religion. It is these forces among others which will speed the day when humanity emancipates itself from the mind-forged manacles of servility and superstition. It is our innate solidarity, and not some despotism of the sky, which is the source of our morality and our sense of decency.

That essential sense of decency is outraged every day. Our theocratic enemy is in plain view. Protean in form, it extends from the overt menace of nuclear-armed mullahs to the insidious campaigns to have stultifying pseudo-science taught in American schools. But in the past few years, there have been heartening signs of a genuine and spontaneous resistance to this sinister nonsense: a resistance which repudiates the right of bullies and tyrants to make the absurd claim that they have god on their side. To have had a small part in this resistance has been the greatest honor of my lifetime: the pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry. The cheap name for this lethal delusion is religion, and we must learn new ways of combating it in the public sphere, just as we have learned to free ourselves of it in private.

Our weapons are the ironic mind against the literal: the open mind against the credulous; the courageous pursuit of truth against the fearful and abject forces who would set limits to investigation (and who stupidly claim that we already have all the truth we need). Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.

As the heirs of a secular revolution, American atheists have a special responsibility to defend and uphold the Constitution that patrols the boundary between Church and State. This, too, is an honor and a privilege. Believe me when I say that I am present with you, even if not corporeally (and only metaphorically in spirit...) Resolve to build up Mr Jefferson's wall of separation. And don't keep the faith.


Christopher Hitchens

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Comment by Norma Lee on July 19, 2011 at 6:09pm
I love you Christopher Hitchens. We must not think that what happens to us is gods plan, We must focus on behavior that damages our body and kills us. We can't get off this planet alive but if our ventures kill us that is a chance we take and must own. What a privilage to live on this planet at this time. Humans and earth evolved together so we belong to this time. Over population and our over use and waste is bringing us down. We must be able to say the words, over population and own it. Open your eyes and your heart and your head.
Comment by Gecko, of Richie! on April 28, 2011 at 9:42pm

It seems to be a rare occurrence in ones lifetime (certainly in mine) where a brilliant call to arms is issued. Where our passion and desire to bring about change is given such perfect and up lifting rhetoric. Loren said it!

Comment by matt warren on April 27, 2011 at 12:56am
just occurred to me that this is a statement of a man that realizes he has not long to go.
I read on "pharyngula" that some one said "...he's written his own eulogy...."
Comment by matt warren on April 27, 2011 at 12:48am

Mr. Hitchens will be a loss but his spirit will live on through his written words.

getting near the end has a way of concentrating ones views.

Comment by Loren Miller on April 24, 2011 at 5:39pm

The pattern and original of all dictatorship is the surrender of reason to absolutism and the abandonment of critical, objective inquiry.

Wow ... just plain WOW.  Anyone care to try to sum this business up any better?



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