Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens
Christopher Hitchens
Born Christopher Eric Hitchens
April 13, 1949 (1949-04-13) (age 62)
Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, UK
Occupation Writer, journalist and pundit
Nationality American/British
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Subjects Atheism, biography, essays, journalism, literary criticism, and polemicism
Literary movement New Atheism
Notable work(s) God Is Not Great

Eleni Meleagrou (m. 1981–1989) «start: (1981)–end+1: (1990)»"Marriage: Eleni Meleagrou to Christopher Hitchens" Location: (linkback://

Carol Blue (m. 1989–present) «start: (1989)»"Marriage: Carol Blue to Christopher Hitchens" Location: (linkback://
Children Alexander, Sophia, Antonia
Relative(s) Peter Hitchens (brother)

Christopher Eric Hitchens (born 13 April 1949) is an Anglo-American[7] author and journalist[8] whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the Hoover Institution in September 2008.[9] He is a staple of talk shows and lecture circuits and in 2005 was voted the world's fifth top public intellectual in a Prospect/Foreign Policy poll.[10][11]

Hitchens is known for his admiration of George Orwell, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson and for his excoriating critiques of, among others, Mother Teresa,[12] Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Henry Kissinger. His confrontational style of debate has made him both a lauded and controversial figure. As a political observer, polemicist and self-defined radical, he rose to prominence as a fixture of the left-wing publications in his native Britain and in the United States. His departure from the established political left began in 1989 after what he called the "tepid reaction" of the Western left following Ayatollah Khomeini's issue of a fatwā calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie. The 11 September 2001 attacks strengthened his internationalist embrace of an interventionist foreign policy, and his vociferous criticism of what he called "fascism with an Islamic face." His numerous editorials in support of the Iraq War caused some to label him a neoconservative, although Hitchens insists he is not "a conservative of any kind."[13]

Identified as a champion of the "New Atheism" movement, Hitchens describes himself as an antitheist and a believer in the philosophical values of the Enlightenment. Hitchens says that a person "could be an atheist and wish that belief in god were correct," but that "an antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence for such an assertion."[14] He argues that the concept of god or a supreme being is a totalitarian belief that destroys individual freedom, and that free expression and scientific discovery should replace religion as a means of teaching ethics and defining human civilization. He wrote at length on atheism and the nature of religion in his 2007 book God Is Not Great.

Though Hitchens retained his British citizenship, he became a United States citizen on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial on 13 April 2007, his 58th birthday.[15] His memoir, Hitch-22, was published in June 2010.[16] Touring for the book was cut short later the same month so that he could begin treatment for newly diagnosed oesophageal cancer.[17]


Life and career

Early life and education

His mother, Yvonne Jean (née Hickman), and father, Eric Ernest Hitchens (1909–1987), met in Scotland while both were serving in the Royal Navy during World War II.[18] Yvonne was at the time a "Wren" (a member of the Women's Royal Naval Service),[19] and Eric a "purse-lipped and silent" commander, whose ship HMS Jamaica helped sink Nazi Germany's battleship Scharnhorst in the Battle of North Cape.[2] The father's naval career required the family to move and reside in bases throughout Britain and her dependencies, including in Malta, where Christopher's brother Peter was born in Sliema in 1951.

Because Yvonne argued that "if there is going to be an upper class in this country, then Christopher is going to be in it,"[20] he was educated at the independent Leys School, in Cambridge, and then later at Balliol College, Oxford. He was tutored there by Steven Lukes, and read philosophy, politics, and economics. Hitchens was "bowled over" in his adolescence by Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley, Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, R. H. Tawney's critique on Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, and the works of George Orwell.[19] In 1968, he took part in the TV quiz show University Challenge.[21]

Hitchens has written of his homosexual experiences when in boarding school in his memoir, Hitch-22.[22] These experiences continued in his college years when he allegedly had relationships with two men who eventually became a part of the Thatcher government.[23]

In the 1960s, Hitchens joined the political left, drawn by his anger over the Vietnam war, nuclear weapons, racism, and "oligarchy", including that of "the unaccountable corporation". He would express affinity to the politically charged countercultural and protest movements of the 1960s and 70s. However, he deplored the rife recreational drug use of the time, which he describes as hedonistic.[24]

He joined the Labour Party in 1965, but was expelled in 1967 along with the majority of the Labour students' organization, because of what Hitchens called "Prime Minister Harold Wilson's contemptible support for the war in Vietnam".[25][clarification needed] Under the influence of Peter Sedgwick, translator of Russian revolutionary and Soviet dissident Victor Serge, Hitchens forged an ideological interest in Trotskyist and anti-Stalinist socialism.[19] Shortly thereafter, he joined "a small but growing post-Trotskyist Luxemburgist sect".[26] Throughout his student days, he was on many occasions arrested and assaulted in the various political protests and activities in which he participated.

Journalistic career (1970–1981)

Hitchens began working as a correspondent for the magazine International Socialism,[27] published by the International Socialists, the forerunners of today's British Socialist Workers Party. This group was broadly Trotskyite, but differed from more orthodox Trotskyite groups in its refusal to defend communist states as "workers' states". Their slogan was "Neither Washington nor Moscow but International Socialism".

Hitchens left Oxford with a third class degree.[28] His first job was with the London Times Higher Education Supplement, where he served as social science editor. Hitchens admits that he hated the job and was later fired, recalling, "I sometimes think if I'd been any good at that job, I might still be doing it."[29] In the 1970s, he went on to work for the New Statesman, where he became friends with, among others, the authors Martin Amis and Ian McEwan. At the New Statesman, he acquired a reputation as a fierce left-winger, aggressively attacking targets such as Henry Kissinger, the Vietnam War, and the Roman Catholic Church.

In November 1973, Hitchens' mother committed suicide in Athens in a suicide pact with her lover, a former clergyman named Timothy Bryan.[19] They overdosed on sleeping pills in adjoining hotel rooms, and Bryan slashed his wrists in the bathtub. Hitchens flew alone to Athens to recover his mother's body. Hitchens said he thought his mother was pressured into suicide by fear that her husband would learn of her infidelity, as their marriage was strained and unhappy. Both her children were then independent adults. While in Greece, Hitchens reported on the constitutional crisis of the military junta. It became his first leading article for the New Statesman.[30]

American career (1981–present)

After emigrating to the United States in 1981, Hitchens wrote for The Nation where he penned vociferous critiques of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and American foreign policy in South and Central America.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37] He became a Contributing Editor of Vanity Fair in 1992,[38] writing ten columns a year. He left The Nation in 2002, after profoundly disagreeing with other contributors over the Iraq War. There is speculation that Hitchens was the inspiration for Tom Wolfe's character Peter Fallow in the 1987 novel The Bonfire of the Vanities,[33] but others — including Hitchens — believe it to be Spy Magazine's "Ironman Nightlife Decathlete" Anthony Haden-Guest.[39][40]

Hitchens spent part of his early career in journalism as a foreign correspondent in Cyprus.[41] Through his work there he met his first wife Eleni Meleagrou, a Greek Cypriot, with whom he has two children, Alexander and Sophia. His son, Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, born in 1984, has worked as a researcher for London think tanks the Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion. Hitchens has continued writing essay-style correspondence pieces from a variety of locales, including Chad, Uganda[42] and the Darfur region of Sudan.[43] His work has taken him to over 60 countries.[44]

In 1989 he met Carol Blue, a California writer, whom he later married and with whom he had a daughter, Antonia. In 1991 he received a Lannan Literary Award for Nonfiction.[45]

Prior to Hitchens' political shift, the American author and polemicist Gore Vidal was apt to speak of Hitchens as his "Dauphin" or "heir".[46][47][48] In 2010, Hitchens attacked Vidal in a Vanity Fair piece headlined "Vidal Loco," calling him a "crackpot" for his adoption of 9/11 conspiracy theories.[49][50] Also, on the back of his book Hitch-22, among the praise from notable writers and figures, a Vidal quote endorsing Hitchens as his successor is crossed out with a red 'X' and a message saying "NO C.H."

His strong advocacy of the war in Iraq had gained Hitchens a wider readership, and in September 2005 he was named one of the "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.[51] An online poll ranked the 100 intellectuals, but the magazines noted that the rankings of Hitchens (5), Noam Chomsky (1), and Abdolkarim Soroush (15) were partly due to supporters publicising the vote.[52]

In 2007 Hitchens' work for Vanity Fair won him the National Magazine Award in the category "Columns and Commentary".[53] He was a finalist once more in the same category in 2008 for some of his columns in Slate but lost out to Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone.[54] He won this award in 2011[55]

Hitchens also serves on the Advisory Board of Secular Coalition for America and offers advice to Coalition on the acceptance and inclusion of nontheism in American life.[56]

Literature reviews

Hitchens writes a monthly essay on books in The Atlantic[57] and contributes occasionally to other literary journals. One of his books, Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere, is a collection of such works, and Love, Poverty and War contains a section devoted to literary essays. In Why Orwell Matters, he defends Orwell's writings against modern critics as relevant today and progressive for his time. In the 2008 book Christopher Hitchens and His Critics: Terror, Iraq, and the Left, many literary critiques are included of essays and other books of writers, such as David Horowitz and Edward Said.

During a three-hour interview by Book TV,[2] he named authors who have had influence on his views, including Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, Evelyn Waugh, P G Wodehouse and Conor Cruise O'Brien.

Political views

The San Francisco Chronicle referred to Hitchens as a "gadfly with gusto".[58] In 2009, Hitchens was listed by Forbes magazine as one of the "25 most influential liberals in the U.S. media".[59] However, the same article noted that he would "likely be aghast to find himself on this list", since it reduces his self-styled radicalism to mere liberalism.


Hitchens became a socialist "largely [as] the outcome of a study of history, taking sides ... in the battles over industrialism and war and empire." In 2001, he told Rhys Southan of Reason magazine that he could no longer say "I am a socialist." Socialists, he claimed, had ceased to offer a positive alternative to the capitalist system. Capitalism had become the more revolutionary economic system, and he welcomed globalisation as "innovative and internationalist." He stated that he had a renewed interest in the freedom of the individual from the state, but that he still considered libertarianism "ahistorical" both on the world stage and in the work of creating a stable and functional society, adding that libertarians are "more worried about the over-mighty state than the unaccountable corporation" whereas "the present state of affairs ... combines the worst of bureaucracy with the worst of the insurance companies."[60]

In 2006, in a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania debating the Jewish Tradition with Martin Amis, Hitchens commented on his political philosophy by stating "I am no longer a socialist, but I still am a Marxist".[61] In a June 2010 interview with the New York Times, he stated that: "I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid. I consider myself a very conservative Marxist".[62] In 2009, in an article for The Atlantic entitled "The Revenge of Karl Marx", Hitchens frames the late-2000s recession in terms of Marx's economic analysis and notes how much Marx admired the capitalist system he was calling for the end of, but says that Marx ultimately failed to grasp how revolutionary capitalist innovation was.[63] Hitchens was an admirer of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, commenting that "[Che's] death meant a lot to me and countless like me at the time, he was a role model, albeit an impossible one for us bourgeois romantics insofar as he went and did what revolutionaries were meant to do — fought and died for his beliefs."[64] In a 1997 essay, however, he distanced himself somewhat from some of Che's actions.[65]

He continues to regard both Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky as great men,[66][67] and the October Revolution as a necessary event in the modernization of Russia.[26][33] In 2005, Hitchens praised Lenin's creation of "secular Russia" and his discreditation of the Russian Orthodox Church, describing it as "an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition".[26]

Iraq War and the war on terror

The years after the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie saw Hitchens looking for allies and friends. In the United States he became increasingly critical of what he called "excuse making" on the left. At the same time, he was attracted to the foreign policy ideas of some on the Republican-right that promoted pro-liberalism intervention, especially the neoconservative group that included Paul Wolfowitz.[68] Around this time, he befriended the Iraqi dissident and businessman Ahmed Chalabi.[69] In 2004, Hitchens stated that neoconservative support for US intervention in Iraq convinced him that he was "on the same side as the neo-conservatives" when it came to contemporary foreign policy issues.[70] He has also been known to refer to his association with "temporary neocon allies".[71]

Following the 11 September attacks, Hitchens and Noam Chomsky debated the nature of radical Islam and the proper response to it. In October 2001, Hitchens wrote criticisms of Chomsky in The Nation.[72][73] Chomsky responded[74] and Hitchens issued a rebuttal to Chomsky[75] to which Chomsky again responded.[76] Approximately a year after the 11 September attacks and his exchanges with Chomsky, Hitchens left The Nation, claiming that its editors, readers and contributors considered John Ashcroft a bigger threat than Osama bin Laden,[77] and that they were making excuses on behalf of Islamist terrorism; in the following months he wrote articles increasingly at odds with his colleagues. This highly charged exchange of letters involved Katha Pollitt and Alexander Cockburn, as well as Hitchens and Chomsky.[citation needed]

Christopher Hitchens argued the case for the Iraq War in a 2003 collection of essays entitled A Long Short War: The Postponed Liberation of Iraq, and he has held numerous public debates on the topic with everyone from George Galloway[78] to Scott Ritter.[79] Though he admits to the numerous failures of the war, and its high civilian casualties, he sticks to the position that deposing Saddam Hussein was a long-overdue responsibility of the United States, after decades of poor policy, and that holding free elections in Iraq has been a success not to be scoffed at. He argues that a continued fight in Iraq against insurgents, whether they be former Saddam loyalists or Islamic extremists, is a fight worth having, and that those insurgents, not American forces, should be the ones taking the brunt of the blame for a slow reconstruction and high civilian casualties.

An updated summary of his views on Iraq and the war on terror can be found in his memoirs Hitch 22.

Criticism of George W. Bush

Prior to 11 September 2001, and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, Hitchens was highly critical of Bush's "non-interventionist" foreign policy. He has also criticized Bush's support of intelligent design[80] and capital punishment.[81][81]

Although Hitchens defends Bush’s post-11 September foreign policy, he has criticized the actions and alleged killings of Iraqis by U.S. troops in Abu Ghraib and Haditha, and the U.S. government's use of waterboarding, which he unhesitatingly deemed as torture after being invited by Vanity Fair to voluntarily undergo it.[82][83] In January 2006, Hitchens joined with four other individuals and four organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Greenpeace, as plaintiffs in a lawsuit, ACLU v. NSA, challenging Bush's warrantless domestic spying program; the lawsuit was filed by the ACLU.[84][85][86]

Presidential endorsements

Hitchens would elaborate on his political views and ideological shift in a discussion with Eric Alterman on In this discussion Hitchens revealed himself as a supporter of Ralph Nader in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, who was disenchanted with the candidacy of both George W. Bush and Al Gore.[87]

Hitchens speaking at a September 2000 third party protest at the headquarters of the Commission on Presidential Debates

Hitchens made a brief return to The Nation just before the 2004 U.S. presidential election and wrote that he was "slightly" for Bush; shortly afterwards, Slate polled its staff on their positions on the candidates and mistakenly printed Hitchens' vote as pro-John Kerry. Hitchens shifted his opinion to "neutral", saying: "It's absurd for liberals to talk as if Kristallnacht is impending with Bush, and it's unwise and indecent for Republicans to equate Kerry with capitulation. There's no one to whom he can surrender, is there? I think that the nature of the jihadist enemy will decide things in the end".[88]

In the 2008 presidential election, Hitchens in an article for Slate would state, "I used to call myself a single-issue voter on the essential question of defending civilization against its terrorist enemies and their totalitarian protectors, and on that "issue" I hope I can continue to expose and oppose any ambiguity." He was critical of both main party candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain. Hitchens would go on to support Obama, calling McCain "senile", and his choice of running mate Sarah Palin "absurd", calling Palin a "pathological liar" and a "national disgrace".[89]

Blumenthal–Hitchens feud

Hitchens and Carol Blue chose to submit an affidavit to the trial managers of the Republican Party in the trial of impeachment of Bill Clinton. In the affidavit, Blue and Hitchens swore that their then-friend, Sidney Blumenthal, had described Monica Lewinsky as a stalker. This allegation contradicted Blumenthal's own sworn deposition in the trial,[90] and it resulted in a hostile exchange of opinion in the public sphere between Hitchens and Blumenthal. Following the publication of Blumenthal's The Clinton Wars, Hitchens wrote several pieces in which he accused Blumenthal of manipulating the facts.[90][91]


Hitchens has said of himself

I am an Anti-Zionist. I'm one of those people of Jewish descent who believes that Zionism would be a mistake even if there were no Palestinians.[92]

A review of his autobiography, Hitch-22, in the Jewish Daily Forward, refers to Hitchens as "a prominent anti-Zionist" and says that he views Zionism "as an injustice against the Palestinians".[93] Others have commented on his anti-Zionism as well[94] suggesting that his memoir was "marred by the occasional eruption of [his] anti-Zionism"[95] The Jewish Daily Forward quotes him saying of Israel's prospects for the future, “I have never been able to banish the queasy inner suspicion that Israel just did not look, or feel, either permanent or sustainable.”[93]

In Slate, Hitchens ponders the notion that, instead of curing anti-Semitism through the creation of a Jewish state, "Zionism has only replaced and repositioned"[96] it, saying: "there are three groups of 6 million Jews. The first 6 million live in what the Zionist movement used to call Palestine. The second 6 million live in the United States. The third 6 million are distributed mainly among Russia, France, Britain, and Argentina. Only the first group lives daily in range of missiles that can be (and are) launched by people who hate Jews." Hitchens argues that instead of supporting Zionism, Jews should help "secularize and reform their own societies", believing that unless one is religious, "what the hell are you doing in the greater Jerusalem area in the first place?"

During a town hall function in Pennsylvania with Martin Amis, Hitchens stated that "one must not insult or degrade or humiliate people"[97] and that he "would be opposed to this maltreatment of the Palestinians if it took place on a remote island with no geopolitical implications". Hitchens described Zionism as "an ethno-nationalist quasi-religious ideology" and stated his desire that if possible, he would "re-wind the tape [to] stop Hertzl from telling the initial demagogic lie (actually two lies) that a land without a people needs a people without a land".

He continues to say that Zionism "nonetheless has founded a sort of democratic state which isn’t any worse in its practice than many others with equally dubious origins." He stated that settlement in order to achieve security for Israel is "doomed to fail in the worst possible way", and the cessation of this "appallingly racist and messianic delusion" would "confront the internal clerical and chauvinist forces which want to instate a theocracy for Jews". However, Hitchens contends that the "solution of withdrawal would not satisfy the jihadists" and wonders "What did they imagine would be the response of the followers of the Prophet?" Hitchens bemoans the transference into religious terrorism of Arab secularism as a means of democratization: "the most depressing and wretched spectacle of the past decade, for all those who care about democracy and secularism, has been the degeneration of Palestinian Arab nationalism into the theocratic and thanatocratic hell of Hamas and Islamic Jihad".[96] Hitchens maintains that the Israel-Palestine conflict is a "trivial squabble" that has become "so dangerous to all of us" because of "the faith-based element."[97]

Hitchens collaborated on this issue with prominent Palestinian advocate Edward Said, in 1988 publishing Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question.

Domestic policy

Hitchens actively supports drug policy reform and has called for the abolition of the "War on Drugs" which he described as an "authoritarian war" during a debate with William F. Buckley.[24] He has supported the legalization of cannabis for both medical and recreational purposes, citing it as a cure for glaucoma and as treatment for numerous side-effects induced by chemotherapy, including severe nausea, describing the prohibition of the drug as "sadistic".[98] On the issue of abortion, Hitchens prioritizes in affirming that he believes a fetus should be regarded as an "unborn child", but opposes the overturning of Roe v. Wade and supports the development of medical abortion techniques, and fundamentally believes in access to contraceptives and reproductive rights as "the only thing that is known to cure poverty", and in order to prevent surgical abortion altogether.[99][100]


Other issues Hitchens has written on include his support for the reunification of Ireland,[101][102] abolition of the British monarchy,[103] and his condemnation of the war crimes of Slobodan Milošević[104] and Franjo Tuđman[105] in Yugoslavia, and the Bosnian War.[106]

Specific individuals

Over the years, Hitchens has become famous for his scathing critiques of public figures. Three figures — Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, and Mother Teresa — were the targets of three separate full length texts, No One Left to Lie To: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice. Hitchens has also written book-length biographical essays about Thomas Jefferson (Thomas Jefferson: Author of America), George Orwell (Why Orwell Matters), and Thomas Paine (Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man": A Biography).

However, the majority of Hitchens's critiques take the form of short opinion pieces, some of the more notable being his critiques of: Jerry Falwell,[107] George Galloway,[108] Mel Gibson,[109] Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama,[110] Michael Moore,[111] Daniel Pipes,[112] Ronald Reagan,[113] Jesse Helms,[114] and Cindy Sheehan.[26][115][116][117][118][119][120]


Hitchens and John Lennox at the "Is God Great?" debate in Alabama

Hitchens often speaks out against the Abrahamic religions, or what he calls "the three great monotheisms" (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). He said: "The real axis of evil is Christianity, Judaism, and Islam". In his book, God Is Not Great, Hitchens expanded his criticism to include all religions, including those rarely criticized by Western secularists such as Hinduism and neo-paganism. His book had mixed reactions, from praise in The New York Times for his "logical flourishes and conundrums"[121] to accusations of "intellectual and moral shabbiness" in The Financial Times.[122] God Is Not Great was nominated for a National Book Award on 10 October 2007.[123][124]

Hitchens contends that organized religion is "the main source of hatred in the world",[125] "[v]iolent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children", and that accordingly it "ought to have a great deal on its conscience". In God Is Not Great, Hitchens contends that:

above all, we are in need of a renewed Enlightenment, which will base itself on the proposition that the proper study of mankind is man and woman [referencing Alexander Pope]. This Enlightenment will not need to depend, like its predecessors, on the heroic breakthroughs of a few gifted and exceptionally courageous people. It is within the compass of the average person. The study of literature and poetry, both for its own sake and for the eternal ethical questions with which it deals, can now easily depose the scrutiny of sacred texts that have been found to be corrupt and confected. The pursuit of unfettered scientific inquiry, and the availability of new findings to masses of people by electronic means, will revolutionize our concepts of research and development. Very importantly, the divorce between the sexual life and fear, and the sexual life and disease, and the sexual life and tyranny, can now at last be attempted, on the sole condition that we banish all religions from the discourse. And all this and more is, for the first time in our history, within the reach if not the grasp of everyone.[126]

His book made him one of the four major advocates of the "new atheism", and an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society,[127] Hitchens said he would accept an invitation from any religious leader who wished to debate with him. He also serves on the advisory board of the Secular Coalition for America,[128] a lobbying group for atheists and humanists in Washington, DC. In 2007, Hitchens began a series of written debates on the question "Is Christianity Good for the World?" with Christian theologian and pastor, Douglas Wilson, published in Christianity Today magazine.[129] This exchange eventually became a book by the same title in 2008. During their book tour to promote the book, film producer Darren Doane sent a film crew to accompany them. Doane produced the film Collision: "Is Christianity GOOD for the World?" which was released on 27 October 2009.

On 26 November 2010 Hitchens appeared in Toronto, Canada at the Munk Debates, where he debated religion with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Roman Catholic convert. Blair argued religion is a force for good, while Hitchens was against it. Preliminary results on the Munk website said 56 per cent of the votes backed the proposition (Hitchens' position) before hearing the debate, with 22 per cent against (Blair's position), and 21 per cent undecided, with the undecided voters leaning toward Hitchens, giving him a 68 per cent to 32 per cent victory over Blair, after the debate.[130][131]

In February 2006, Hitchens helped organize a pro-Denmark rally outside the Danish Embassy in Washington, DC in response to the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy.[132]

Hitchens has been accused by William A. Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Liberties of being particularly anti-Catholic. Hitchens responded, "when religion is attacked in this country [...] the Catholic Church comes in for a little more than its fair share".[133] Hitchens has also been accused of anti-Catholic bigotry by others, including Brent Bozell, Tom Piatak in The American Conservative, and UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge.[134][135] In an interview with Radar in 2007, Hitchens said that if the Christian right's agenda were implemented in the United States "It wouldn't last very long and would, I hope, lead to civil war, which they will lose, but for which it would be a great pleasure to take part."[136] When Joe Scarborough on 12 March 2004 asked Hitchens whether he was "consumed with hatred for conservative Catholics", Hitchens responded that he was not and that he just thinks that "all religious belief is sinister and infantile".[137] Piatak claimed that "A straightforward description of all Hitchens’s anti-Catholic outbursts would fill every page in this magazine", noting particularly Hitchens' assertion that U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts should not be confirmed because of his faith.[135]

Hitchens was raised nominally Christian, and went to Christian boarding schools but from an early age declined to participate in communal prayers. Later in life, Hitchens discovered that he was of partially Jewish ancestry. According to Hitchens, when his brother Peter took his fiancée to meet their maternal grandmother, Dodo, who was then in her 90s, Dodo said, "She's Jewish, isn't she?" and then announced: "Well, I've got something to tell you. So are you." She said that her real surname was Levin, not Lynn, and that some of her ancestors had the family name Blumenthal, and were from Poland.[138] His great-great-grandfather was Nathan Blumenthal of Kempen, Prussia, who emigrated to Leicester. In Hitch-22, Hitchens detailed his Jewish ancestry: his matrilineal great-great-grandmother had converted to Judaism before marrying Nathan Blumenthal. According to Hitchens, in 1893, his maternal grandmother's parents were married in England “according to the rites of the German and Polish Jews. My mother’s mother, whose birth name was Dorothy Levin, was born three years later, in 1896.”[139] Hitchens' maternal grandfather converted to Judaism before marrying Dorothy Levin.[140]

In an article in the The Guardian on 14 April 2002, Hitchens stated that he could be considered Jewish because Jewish descent is matrilineal.[138]

In February 2010 he was named to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Honorary Board of distinguished achievers.[141]

Personal life

Hitchens after a talk at The College of New Jersey in March 2009

Marriage and children

Hitchens married Eleni Meleagrou, a Greek Cypriot, in 1981. They have two children, Alexander and Sophia. In 1989 Hitchens left Meleagrou for Carol Blue, an American writer.[32] They have one daughter, Antonia.

Relationship with younger brother

Hitchens' younger brother by two-and-a-half years, Peter Hitchens, is a Christian and socially conservative journalist in London. The brothers had a protracted falling-out after Peter wrote that Christopher had once joked that he "didn't care if the Red Army watered its horses at Hendon" (a suburb of London).[142] Christopher denied having said this and broke off contact with his brother. He then referred to his brother as "an idiot" in a letter to Commentary, and the dispute spilled into other publications as well. Christopher eventually expressed a willingness to reconcile and to meet his new nephew; shortly thereafter the brothers gave several interviews together in which they said their personal disagreements had been resolved. They appeared together on 21 June 2007 edition of BBC current affairs discussion show Question Time. The pair engaged in a formal televised debate for the first time on 3 April 2008, at Grand Valley State University,[143] and at the Pew Forum on October 12, 2010.[144]

Health and lifestyle

Smoking and drinking

A June 2006 profile on Hitchens by NPR stated: "Hitchens is known for his love of cigarettes and alcohol — and his prodigious literary output."[35] However, in early 2008 he gave up smoking, undergoing an epiphany in Madison, Wisconsin.[145] His brother Peter later wrote of his surprise at this decision.[146] It was while writing his memoir Hitch-22 that he resumed smoking cigarettes and continued until his cancer diagnosis. Hitchens admits to drinking heavily; in 2003 he wrote that his daily intake of alcohol was enough "to kill or stun the average mule", noting that many great writers "did some of their finest work when blotto, smashed, polluted, shitfaced, squiffy, whiffled, and three sheets to the wind."[147]

Anti-war British politician George Galloway, on his way to testify in front of a United States Senate sub-committee investigating the scandals in the U.N. Oil for Food program, called Hitchens a "drink-sodden ex-Trotskyist popinjay",[148] to which Hitchens quickly replied, "only some of which is true".[149] Later, in a column for Slate promoting his debate with Galloway which was to take place on 14 September 2005, he elaborated on his prior response: "He says that I am an ex-Trotskyist (true), a 'popinjay' (true enough, since the word's original Webster's definition is a target for arrows and shots), and that I cannot hold a drink (here I must protest)."[150]

Oliver Burkeman writes, "Since the parting of ways on Iraq [...] Hitchens claims to have detected a new, personalised nastiness in the attacks on him, especially over his fabled consumption of alcohol. He welcomes being attacked as a drinker 'because I always think it's a sign of victory when they move on to the ad hominem.' He drinks, he says, 'because it makes other people less boring. I have a great terror of being bored. But I can work with or without it. It takes quite a lot to get me to slur.'"[151]

In the question and answer session following a speech Hitchens gave to the Commonwealth Club of California on 9 July 2009, one audience member asked what was Hitchens' favorite whisky. Hitchens replied that "the best blended scotch in the history of the world" is Johnnie Walker Black Label. He also playfully indicated that it was the favorite whisky of, among others, the Iraqi Baath Party, the Palestinian Authority, the Libyan dictatorship, and "large branches of the Saudi Arabian Royal Family". He concluded his answer by calling it the "breakfast of champions" and exhorted the audience to "accept no substitute".[152]

In his 2010 memoir Hitch-22, Hitchens wrote: "There was a time when I could reckon to outperform all but the most hardened imbibers, but I now drink relatively carefully." He described his current drinking routine on working-days as follows: "At about half past midday, a decent slug of Mr. Walker's amber restorative, cut with Perrier water (an ideal delivery system) and no ice. At luncheon, perhaps half a bottle of red wine: not always more but never less. Then back to the desk, and ready to repeat the treatment at the evening meal. No 'after dinner drinks' — ​most especially nothing sweet and never, ever any brandy. 'Nightcaps' depend on how well the day went, but always the mixture as before. No mixing: no messing around with a gin here and a vodka there."[153]

Reflecting on the lifestyle that supported his career as a writer he said:

"I always knew there was a risk in the bohemian lifestyle... I decided to take it because it helped my concentration, it stopped me being bored – it stopped other people being boring. It would make me want to prolong the conversation and enhance the moment. If you ask: would I do it again? I would probably say yes. But I would have quit earlier hoping to get away with the whole thing. I decided all of life is a wager and I'm going to wager on this bit... In a strange way I don't regret it. It's just impossible for me to picture life without wine, and other things, fueling the company, keeping me reading, energising me. It worked for me. It really did."[154]

Cancer treatment

Hitchens during his cancer treatment in 2010

In June 2010, Hitchens postponed his book tour for Hitch-22 to undergo treatment for oesophageal cancer.[155] He announced that he is undergoing treatment in a Vanity Fair piece entitled "Topic of Cancer".[156] Hitchens said that he recognises the long-term prognosis is far from positive, and that he would be a "very lucky person to live another five years".[157] In November 2010, Hitchens cancelled [158]a scheduled appearance in New York, where he was to debate religion writers David Hazony and Stephen Prothero on the subject of the Ten Commandments. Earlier that year, he published a piece in Vanity Fair on the subject,[159] and is working on a book about the Ten Commandments as well.[160]

In April 2011, Hitchens was forced to cancel a scheduled appearance at the American Atheist Convention, and instead sent a letter that stated, "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." He closed with "And don't keep the faith."[161] The letter also dismissed the notion of a possible deathbed conversion, in which he claimed that "redemption and supernatural deliverance appears even more hollow and artificial to me than it did before."[161] In June 2011, he spoke to a University of Waterloo audience via a home video link.[162]

In October 2011, Hitchens made a public appearance at the Texas Freethought Convention in Houston, TX. Atheist Alliance of America was also a participant in the joint convention.[163]

Film and television appearances

As referenced from the Internet Movie Database, Hitchens Web or Charlie Rose.[164][165][166]

Year Film
1984 Opinions: "Greece to their Rome"
1988 Frontiers
1993 Everything You Need to Know
1994 Tracking Down Maggie: The Unofficial Biography of Margaret Thatcher
1994 Hell's Angel
1996 Where's Elvis This Week?
1996–2010 Charlie Rose (13 episodes)
1998 Princess Diana: The Mourning After
1999–2002 Dennis Miller Live (4 episodes)
2002 The Trials of Henry Kissinger
2003 Hidden in Plain Sight
2003–2009 Real Time with Bill Maher (6 episodes)
2004 Mel Gibson: God's Lethal Weapon
2004–2006 Newsnight (3 episodes)
2004–2010 The Daily Show (4 episodes)
2005 Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (1 episode, s03e05)
2005 The Al Franken Show (1 episode)
2005 Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope
2005 Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
2005–2008 Hardball with Chris Matthews (3 episodes)
2006 American Zeitgeist
2006 Blog Wars
2007 Manufacturing Dissent
2007 Question Time (1 episode)
2007 Your Mommy Kills Animals
2007 Personal Che
2007 Heckler
2007 In Pot We Trust
2008 Discussions with Richard Dawkins: Episode 1: "The Four Horsemen"
2008 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
2009 Holy Hell
2009 Presidency
2009 Collision: "Is Christianity GOOD for the World?"
2010 Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune



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  67. ^ "Great Lives – Leon Trotsky", BBC Radio 4, 8 August 2006
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  72. ^ Of Sin, the Left & Islamic Fascism The Nation, 8 October 2001
  73. ^ Blaming bin Laden First The Nation, 22 October 2001
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  75. ^ A Rejoinder to Noam Chomsky The Nation, 15 October 2001
  76. ^ Reply to Hitchens's Rejoinder The Nation, 15 October 2001
  77. ^ Taking Sides The Nation, 26 September 2002
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  83. ^ On the Waterboard Vanity Fair, 2 July 2008
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  166. ^ "Charlie Rose". Retrieved 17 August 2010. 

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