You know, it’s not so easy being the world’s most famous atheist. I guess to get to the top, you have to go through hell.
Here, from a review of Hitchens’ autobiography, is a view into the tortured soul of C.H.:
Then, just when we would expect the author’s gaze to continue inward and pursue the vein he has opened, the text abruptly interrupts itself. There then follows a set piece with the cold heading: “A Coda on the Question of Self-Slaughter.” What comes next is an academic paper on the psychological and sociological theories of suicide. Hitchens tells us these thoughts represent a quest he pursued over “four decades,” and in this way uncovers without actually conceding it, the pain that did not go away.
…Of his children he writes mainly to concede his guilt over his absence as a father.
But such a night certainly took place, when he was climbing onto the wave of the future as a young man just out of college. The event was the suicide of his mother, Yvonne, then still a young woman, in a hotel room in Athens. She had ended her life in a pact with her clergyman lover. It was, Hitchens concedes, a “lacerating, howling moment in my life.” He was all of 24 years old.
He was very close to her, too.
Yvonne, [Hitchens’ mother] we know, was the power behind young Hitchens’s throne. “If there is a ruling class,” she vowed when he was young, “Christopher is going to be part of it.” Despite the constraints of their circumstances, she sent him to infiltrate England’s Protestant establishment, first at a posh private school the family could barely afford, and then to Oxford to join the upper crust. She was herself a secret agent, a displaced Polish Jew who, in marrying Hitchens’s father — an Anglican officer in the Royal Navy — had infiltrated an alien (and anti-Semitic) culture, hiding her true identity from her new family in order to provide herself and her children with opportunities that would otherwise have been denied them.
Sent away to boarding school at age nine or so; Mother commits suicide when you are 24; struggling with suicide all your life.
These are the things that make you the most famous atheist in the world.
In the end, neo-atheism is going to fail because no sane person would want to be like the neo-atheists.
But in the end, Hitchens is liked by virtually everone, despite all the ratty behavior. I suppose it is because he is irked by all the right things.