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In which I regret having praised Hitchens

I haven’t been able to post anything further about Hitchens because of my Internet access problems, but I’ve been reading the comments as closely as I can manage. The person who posted of Hitchens praising the Soviets because they crushed the Orthodox Church really did make me rethink my qualified esteem of the man. To me, there is scant difference between that and praising the Holocaust for taking care of the Jewish “problem.” The man was obviously as deformed by his hatred of religion as any anti-Semitic fanatic is by his hatred of the Jews. Here is what Hitchens said in a PBS interview:

One of Lenin’s great achievements, in my opinion, is to create a secular Russia. The power of the Russian Orthodox Church, which was an absolute warren of backwardness and evil and superstition, is probably never going to recover from what he did to it.

This gives more detail about what Hitchens praised. Barbaric. Evil. Let me be clear: I don’t begrudge Hitchens his rejection of religion, and I don’t have the reaction I will detail now because I am a Christian, or an Orthodox Christian. My jaw hits the ground because Hitchens here is justifying the mass torture, imprisonment, and state-sponsored execution of tens of thousands, probably even more, Orthodox believers, because their faith-because the outcome was a secular Russia. That is an evil that I cannot get past, and he reveals himself to be a hypocrite, inasmuch as he (correctly) denounced the evil done to leftists by the military regime in Argentina, which was trying to get rid of communism and socialism in Argentina. So, for Hitchens, terror and state murder was good when the goal is the eradication of religion, but bad when the goal was the eradication of socialism. Evil, this is.

Even though I do believe there was good in him, and that he had admirable qualities — qualities that do not cease to exist because he had despicable ones — I nevertheless regret now having written anything in his posthumous favor. Had I known this about him, I would not have been able to listen to his memoir. It’s simply beyond my human capacity to forgive. That’s the difference between God and me, I guess.

Katha Pollitt, the left-wing journalist who knew him, wrote this in remembrance. Excerpt:

That was the bad side of Christopher—the moral bully and black-and-white thinker posing as daring truth-teller. It was the side that reveled in 9/11, because now everyone would see how evil the jihadis were, and that rejoiced in the thought that the Korans of Muslim fighters would not protect them from American bullets. Some eulogists have praised him for moral consistency, but I don’t see that…

Pollitt, characteristically, seems to think that Hitchens’s worst sin was to be against abortion. Still, she’s right that he did not suffer from a lack of self-confidence, and this blinded him.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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