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34 Christopher Hitchens quotes that everyone can agree on

Christopher Hitchens was nothing if not a polarizing figure. While he seemed to be genuinely interested in truth rather than conflict for conflict’s sake, he was also never one to run from an argument. Despite this, he was prolific enough and aware enough that it is not hard to find sentiments in his writings that almost everyone could get behind.

Of course, if he were to start expounding on many of these more agreeable points, paths would diverge again. In honor of his passing, however, instead of looking for points to fight about, here are almost 3 dozen quotes from Hitchens that very few of you will argue with or be offended by…

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Contrarianism

  1. The noble title of “dissident” must be earned rather than claimed; it connotes sacrifice and risk rather than mere disagreement …
  2. I became a journalist partly so that I wouldn’t ever have to rely on the press for my information.
  3. The finest fury is the most controlled.
  4. There can be no progress without head-on confrontation.
  5. Nonintervention does not mean that nothing happens. It means that something else happens.

Ethics

  1. To what faults do you feel most indulgent? To the ones that arise from urgent material needs.
  2. I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.
  3. Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer.
  4. Terrorism is the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint.
  5. The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.
  6. You have to choose your future regrets.

Reason

  1. I try to deny myself any illusions or delusions, and I think that this perhaps entitles me to try and deny the same to others, at least as long as they refuse to keep their fantasies to themselves.
  2. Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.
  3. What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.

Free Thinking

  1. Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.
  2. We do not rely solely upon science and reason, because these are necessary rather than sufficient factors, but we distrust anything that contradicts science or outrages reason. We may differ on many things, but what we respect is free inquiry, openmindedness, and the pursuit of ideas for their own sake.
  3. What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition.
  4. To be against rationalization is not the same as to be opposed to reasoning.
  5. The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.

Raising Daughters

  1. To be the father of growing daughters is to understand something of what Yeats evokes with his imperishable phrase ‘terrible beauty.’ Nothing can make one so happily exhilarated or so frightened: it’s a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else’s body.

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Alcohol

  1. Cheap booze is a false economy.
  2. Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing.

Language

  1. Flaubert was right when he said that our use of language is like a cracked kettle on which we bang out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we need to move the very stars to pity.
  2. “How ya doin’?” I always think, What kind of a question is that?, and I always reply, “A bit early to tell.”

Intellectuals

  1. I am sometimes asked about the concept or definition of a ‘public intellectual,’ and though I find the whole idea faintly silly, I believe it should ideally mean that the person so identified is self-sustaining and autonomously financed.
  2. Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.

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Setting Expectations

  1. Never ask while you are doing it if what you are doing is fun. Don’t introduce even your most reliably witty acquaintance as someone who will set the table on a roar.

Kindness

  1. “You should be nicer to him,” a schoolmate had once said to me of some awfully ill-favored boy. “He has no friends.” This, I realized with a pang of pity that I can still remember, was only true as long as everybody agreed to it.
  2. Beware what you wish for, unless you have the grace to hope that your luck can be shared.
  3. Hero­ism breaks its heart, and ide­al­ism its back, on the intran­si­gence of the cred­u­lous and the mediocre, manip­u­lated by the cyn­i­cal and the corrupt.

God, Faith, and Religion

  1. [O]wners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.
  2. My so-far uncancerous throat . . . is not at all the only organ with which I have blasphemed.
  3. Suppose there were groups of secularists at hospitals who went round the terminally ill and urged them to adopt atheism: “Don’t be a mug all your life. Make your last days the best ones.” People might suppose this was in poor taste.
  4. There either is a god or there is not; there is a ‘design’ or not.

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(Quotes mined from 4 secondary sources: The Guardian, Unreasonable Faith, Al Jazeera, and Good Reads. Visit these sites to see what book or article by Hitchens a specific quote is from.)

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19 comments for “34 Christopher Hitchens quotes that everyone can agree on

  1. John Vreeland
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I spoke with him just a day or two before he was officially diagnosed with cancer. His voice was getting very weak and I naively noted that traveling the world speaking to all these people must be wearing him out. “But I think it’s all worth it,” he said. “Don’t you?”

  2. Marci
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    LOL!

  3. Aaron
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Haha I love # 33, I might use that one day on my deathbed 🙂

  4. Mike de Fleuriot
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Who told you that?

  5. Pete
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Hitchens was a warmonger that advocated the genocide of the Iraqi people.The world is a better and safer place now that he’s dead.

  6. Chel
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Why the anger? Why resort to the tired and over-used tactics of the anti-theists by insulting my intelligence and by name calling, as if someone who disagrees with you couldn’t possibly have spent the last decade studying the classics, as well as traditional and current agnostic/atheistic philosophies, and current scientific evidences and disciplines? I could respond to each of your arguments point for point, but I don’t really care to interact with someone who makes unfounded assertions and resorts to ad hominem arguments.

  7. Ryan Mooney
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The Bible was written by men, and then re-written a thousand times over Reverand. I am not writing to rebutle, but merely to tell you that this story you hold so dear is a fallice of which was written and then controlled by a corrupt State that has sheltered some of the most viscious crimes toward humanity that can ever be described. You can believe in what you want to believe in, but do not stand on the shoulders of a church that is still telling people homosexuals do not belong in Heaven or that condoms cannot be used in Africa the most AID’s spread continent on the planet. I do not know how you can associtae yourslef with such a thing, certainly you cannot share these views!

  8. Jay
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18)

  9. Stephanie
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    the fact is that throughout the bible there are conflicting statements. To pretend otherwise is so ridiculous that I almost can’t believe it. But i have to remind myself that the same people who pretend the bible doesnt have these obvious and glaring failings are the ones who pretend it counts as proof of a divine being.what i’m saying is: atheists, although it is easy to get indignant over other peoples’ certainty in the face of their own glaring ignorance (at best) or idiocy (most often) or malignancy (at worst), it is never worth ittheists, if i went around insisting that Winston Churchill lived in a black and white world, because “I’ve seen the photographs, you can’t deny that!” you would call me an idiot, or crazy. If you took a step back and examined your own position, you might see why I say the same of you.

  10. Lawrence Antill
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    If someone today claimed to be the son of God on a mission it would be laughable and not believed by any of the “believers”. The current religions may consider the claim to be a hereasy?A dull book that is fairly incomprehensible with origins 2000 years ago aserts……

  11. Richard Marlow
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Exodus 4:11, 4:24-26, 7:9-12 and 7;22, 20:5, 20;17, 20:26. Timeless words?

  12. Chel
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Low-hanging fruit, especially when taken out of context and not viewed alongside the rest of Scripture.First, slavery in the Bible really was more like indentured servitude, meaning they were free to leave after they had paid their debt. However, many of them chose to stay, especially if their masters treated them well.Second, let’s not forget how masters were to treat their slaves. “And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.” (Eph. 6:9); “Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Colossians 4:1). Before you think that those requirements aren’t stringent enough, think about the culture they were living in at that time. What perspective were they coming from? Let me put it this way, name one other culture, apart from Judaism, that had ever required good treatment of slaves. There wasn’t one. Thus, these commands were “progressive” for their day.Third, you left out the rest of that passage which speaks of Christ enduring the same kind of suffering. Yes, even God did not withhold the worst kind of suffering for Himself when He would have been perfectly just to do so. “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:19-24).

  13. d
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Great selection. Thanks for compiling these. I was so sad to hear of his death. However much I disagreed with him I learned a lot from him and his critical mind and shrewd wit… i will miss the sounds of his voice.We should all read a PG Wodehouse story tonight in memoriamEverybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay. Brings a smile to my face.

  14. Daniel Roberts
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Oh, you mean the greater language that continues to be re-translated as language itself develops beyond it? Oooookaaaaay.

  15. Chel
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    “Take a step back and examine your own position.” You mean as in, for over a decade now, my husband and I have read the Bible from cover to cover twelve times between us (and continue to read it through repeatedly); my husband is able to read and translate the biblical Hebrew and biblical Greek languages; we have studied in depth the ancient Hebrew, Greek, and pagan cultures; studied their paradigms and sought to understand their peoples, their cultures, and simply “where they were coming from” all while making a sincere attempt to not allow our interpretations to be tainted by 21st-century paradigms; reading and studying the great Christian thinkers, including the writings of John Calvin, Martin Luther, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, including contemporaries, such as Vern Poythress, John Frame, Richard Pratt, R. C. Sproul, and his son, R. C. Sproul, Jr., to name a few. Lest you think we’re doing this studying on our own, note that my husband received a Master’s Degree in these studies – a degree which was so rigorous, it took five years to complete.Not only have we done these things, but we also have spent the last decade studying the ideas, writings, and/or science of Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, as well as other popular and not-so-popular self-proclaimed anti-theists, atheists, and scientists. (And lest you assume we are merely reading what others are saying about them, be sure that we are actually reading their own writings.) We keep up with current evidences and theories of evolutionary biology, paleontology, geology, archaeology, physics, metaphysics, etc., as well as my favorite (note sarcasm), anthropology. Unfortunately, we have yet to come across an evidential interpretation or metaphysical argument against Christianity that is consistent, does not require a great deal of faith to believe, and is not, in and of itself, tightly circular reasoning. Is that what you mean by “examining your own position”? If that is considered ignorant, idiotic, and malignant, well, I’m perfectly okay with that.There used to be a time, not so long ago, when people understood that just because someone disagreed with them, it did not necessarily mean they were ignorant or idiotic, but that it was possible they had done just as much studying of the same materials and had merely come to different, sometimes opposite, conclusions. That was a time when people could engage in debate without name-calling. But our glorious American colleges and universities have led students (who have not been taught how to think critically (you know, a good, old-fashioned, classical education, like that of Galileo, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Christopher Columbus, Isaac Newton, Martin Luther, etc.), but only to swallow what is fed to them), to believe that anyone who disagrees with politically liberal and/or atheistic ideology is an unthinking, idiotic, ignoramus. What’s worse, is that the products of this type of education don’t even know it is often they who are the ignorant ones, for generally speaking, they fail to study in depth the writings of great Christian thinkers. They merely listen to what their professors and other atheistic teachers tell them about what those great Christian thinkers wrote.For the record, I do not believe you to be an idiot, nor to be ignorant or unthinking. In fact, judging by what I have seen thus far, I imagine you may have done a great deal of studying, greater than most. I also accept that, as a result of studying many of the same materials and ideas I have, you have merely come to different conclusions… and that does not threaten me in the least. I’m sorry it threatens you.

  16. Kyle
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    Saying the Bible says all people are equal is absurd and, to put it bluntly, idiotic. The tenth commandment alone refers to women and slaves as property, to be put in the same list as a man’s house and ox. And that is one of the ten commandments, which the religious frequently point to in order to try to say the bible is somehow a moral document.I wasn’t a part of the American school system as you put it, I was in fact part of a very Catholic school. So I have plenty of a grasp on what the bible says and the time and place in which it was written. The best way to become an atheist is to read the bible, trust me. Kindly don’t assume your opponent’s background on the subject.To say “it’s okay because the times the bible were written in were different from today” is an incredibly weak argument. You don’t even bother trying to defend your creator for promoting violence and people-ownership, you simply say “Oh, the standards were different when he wrote his book, so he’s in the clear.” A slave, according to the bible, and no matter how you define slavery in those times, were the property of a man. A woman was a man’s property, in the bible. A man can sell his daughter. If a rapist rapes a woman, his punishment is that he has to marry her without hopes of divorce. This is sickening, and the fact that the bible mentions it in such passing is disgusting.It is tautology because you are trying so desperately to define slavery as something different in order to clear god from not simply telling us “no, people are not property, there is no need for this.” If your answer is ‘Times were different,’ why one earth should we follow a word the bible says, then? According to your own admission, it is outdated. No matter how you try to define slavery 2000 years ago, there are passages upon passages in the bible describing them as property.Ownership of people is not morally sound, end of story. If an all-knowing creator endorses it, in ANY form, then there is absolutely no reason to follow any word he may say. It should end there for any thinking person.

  17. Kyle
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    The simple fact that the Bible does not say “Human beings are equal and slavery is wrong” is sufficient. The fact that you’re trying to justify it with tautology is frankly sickening.

  18. Chel
    November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I love it that I can’t reply to Kyle. How fun. So, I’ll reply here, and I’m assuming it will be out of order.If you think that I’m justifying slavery in the sense that Americans understand slavery, you don’t understand what I’m saying. And you clearly don’t understand what tautology is if that is what you call my explanation.Biblical slavery was not one race of people being allowed to own another race of people. The Jews’ “slaves” were most often other Jews, for crying out loud. The reason they became “slaves” was because they owed a debt they couldn’t pay. What was the easiest way to pack back that debt? It was to live with the one to whom they owed the debt and work for them for free. However, that person had to provide housing, clothing, and food for their servant until their debt was paid. And because Jews understood that ALL people were created in the image of God (in other words, the Bible teaches that all human beings are equal), they were not permitted to treat them as less than human beings, to abuse them, etc. The fact that you are incapable of understanding slavery in the biblical sense shows how blinded you have been by the American education system. It is very narrow-minded to think that there is only one type of slavery that can occur. The type of slavery that occurred in America was a completely different issue from the type of indentured servitude that is found in Scripture and was entirely wrong. If you understood the whole of the Bible in the way God intends for us to understand it, you would know that it clearly teaches this.We have our own form of slavery today. There are people who have a debt they owe society. They are provided housing, clothing, and food, and they are not allowed to leave the address where they live under the watchful eye of their masters until they have payed their debt. We just call these people prisoners, not slaves, but this is the same thing as biblical slavery.

  19. November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    We would be grateful if the Rev Peter Radcliff would be so kind as to provide us with some of those timeless words.

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