Monday, August 13, 2012

Hitchens' irreligion

These consumer reviews at Amazon raise the question of whether Hitchens’ irreligion had an emotional source of origin in boyhood trauma and adolescent rebellion. 

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating life March 24, 2010
By CGScammell TOP 500 REVIEWER

It's really quite fascinating that Christopher Hitchens had as normal a life as he had considering all the events he experienced early in life. He starts his memoir with the suicide-homicide of his mother and her lover in the first chapter, then continues on with his commander dad. His parents alone were quite a contrasting couple that only stayed together because divorce carried such a stigma. Then he experienced boarding schools where bullying was quite common and where boys experimented with their sexuality.

Enjoyable and Enlightening Memoir by a Complex Man April 15, 2010
By A Central Illinoisian in Chicago VINE™ VOICE

What I found most enlightening about his memoir is his memories of boarding school. Many reviews and articles about Hitch 22 will focus on the Hitchens' statements about the high degree of homosexual activity that he says existed in the boarding schools he attended. His claims (which I have no logical reason to doubt) seem pretty stunning to me, a small town boy from the Midwest, but what I find most interesting how his perspective on religion seems to have been shaped by his schools.

Most Americans "get religion" through their families, and in my experience, see God and Church as something personal, rather than public. Hitchens on the other hand experienced religion as something that forbade the sexual experiences that he says were common in his schools (an oppressor of feeling and emotion), the presence of the State (Church of England) and "one more obligation" in his curriculum (compulsory attendance). The "hitch" however, was that while Hitchens HAD to go to Church services, his teachers could not force the students to worship or kneel. It seems intriguing that Hitchens chose to "resist" religion by not kneeling, in emulation of an older boy that he admired.

Now, I could be completely off base about this, but it seems as though Hitchens' antipathy to religion, was first established not on a mature consideration of faith and reason, but as the only available tactic for resisting the ever-present authority of the school and teachers that many of his readers will never face. Resisting religion ~may~ have been either the wellspring of what became a history of resisting authority and defying convention wisdom, or the first indication of that character he already had in him.


  1. I heard that Christopher said, that on his death bed if there is any remote sign of his crying out to god in faith, don't believe it, for it is the fact that his pain is causing this, not his true self. Or some sort of statement like this.
    Why was it that I liked this man, and yet he was such an enemy of the Cross?

  2. It sounds like Hitchens either got buggered, of did some buggering himself in boarding school...that would explain a lot.