It's been a few days since Christopher Hitchens died and I really didn't want to immediately write something just to write something. I didn't know what to say and pretty much all I could muster on Twitter was “god is not great. Christopher Hitchens is."
After watching and re-watching several old and new videos over the course of the past few days I have felt a mix of emotions. Obviously, I didn't know the man. I admired him, I respected him, and to some extent this site wouldn't exist without him. I was already long an atheist when a friend lent me 'god is Not Great' so it isn't like he "de-converted" me. Many have said in, one way or another, over the past few days that "Christopher Hitchens didn't tell me what to think, but he taught me how to think." To an extent, this applies to me. What I think Hitchens' greatest contribution to me personally was to illustrate the passion in which it was OK to attack religion. Others have done it before, but very few—if any—did it as well. He was quick. He was brilliant. He was logical. He was precise. He was brutal. I do not have that talent, but there is no doubt that my better moments (if any) of "rapier wit" are influenced more from Hitchens than any of the other "Four Horsemen" or other atheists I have read and conversed with. I didn't always agree with everything he said or even how he said it, but I respected his ability to make it extraordinarily difficult to say why I disagreed. That is a superintellect. That is why his enemies respected him. Not many, if any, won an argument against him.
Hitchens allowed me to step up and openly discuss, debate, and mock that which I find odious. He, above all others, helped me shed that cowardice of silence. We can speak up and so we must! We must say these things that make other people uncomfortable, angry, and perhaps unsurprisingly; threatened. We must be iconoclasts. Not for the sake of being iconoclastic, but to tear down the walls of false respect and sacredness. The falsity is right there in the open. The light is already on it. Just say it! People suffer because of religion. People are bilked out of money in the name of religion. People contract diseases that are preventable in the name of religion. People are kept in ignorance in the name of religion. People are beaten in the name of religion. People are oppressed in the name of religion. People are raped in the name of religion. People are murdered in the name of religion. The vast majority of the religious, no matter how "liberal" they claim to be, do not speak up to tear down the basis of this danger because they cannot. That would require kicking the ladder out from under them.
Faith deserves no respect. It does not even require opponents to discredit it. It is already, by definition, an admittance of a lack of any reasonable basis to believe. There is no basis for a faithful belief other than a desire to believe it. That is not worthy of our time. Why bother refuting something that is irrefutable? Why bother arguing over something which is inarguable? Is this a Catch-22 for the antitheist? No. It is worthy of our time because it inevitably and invariably begins to adversely affect others. When the religious belief, as unsubstantiated as it is—and it is unsubstantiated— manifests itself as a force for discrimination, hate, dehumanization, oppression, death, etc. it is now an enemy of humanity.
As others have said: "Thanks Hitch. We'll take it from here."