I was just shocked and incredibly saddened to learn that Christopher Hitchens has died today.
The Hitch was a personally hero of mine. I grew up a Preacher's Kid in the south U.S. My father was one of the good and honest pastors, but eventually (to make a very long story short) the ministry destroyed his life and mine as well. I graduated from a seminary just in time to realize that I didn't want anything to do with it. I was tired of the political back stabbing and self righteous bullshit. My life was one of constant confusion. Am I hearing the voice of God right now? What about now? Is he listening to my prayers, because it doesn't look that way. Etc. Etc.
It took many years even after leaving church to begin the process of leaving Christianity. Christopher Hitchens' book "God Is Not Great" was like a cleansing blast of cold water in the face. It set me down the path. There was much that I learned from this book, but the single biggest idea was that not believing in God was even possible. The thought hadn't even occurred to me in all my years of struggling with the questions of my faith. I finally realized that maybe the problem wasn't me, but maybe the problem was the belief system I was trying to follow. I'm not a bad person because I can't prophecy and heal people with prayer. I'm just human being. No one can do these things.
I can clearly remember the moment when it happened. At the same time I had been listening to "God Is Not Great" in my car, I had also been reading Dan Barker's book "Godless". I was laying the couch reading Dan Barker's book when everything hit me at once. I sat up and thought, "I don't believe anymore." The feeling of relief, the feeling of stress leaving me was palpable, like a rock being taken off of my shoulders. It changed my life. My mind was finally my own.
I know I am not the only one that has been similarly helped with Hitchens' work. His writing was smart but worded so that anyone could understand it. This is a mark of a true teacher, taking the complicated and making it simple. He was an incredible speaker and his humor and wit was razor sharp, making him the greatest debater I've ever seen.
I can't stress enough how much I will miss this great man. Here he is from a debate already suffering from the cancer and treatment that eventually killed him:
Edit: Mods, I did a search for "Christopher Hitchens" in the forums and got nothing before I posted this. I've long suspected that the search function in the forums is busted. I have just seen a thread posted before mine on this topic. But hey, lock that dudes thread. Mine is much better. ;)