Like his hero, Orwell, Christopher prized bravery above all other qualities--and in particular the bravery required for unflinching honesty. And as was true of the work of Orwell, the former colonial policeman, this devotion paradoxically lent a certain military coloring to Christopher's intellectual, literary, and political pursuits. This most intellectual of men valued intelligence, but valued courage far more--or rather, he believed that true intellect was inseparable from courage.
So writes Atlantic editor Benjamin Schwartz in his obituary for the celebrated essayist Christopher Hitchens.
We want to comment on what Schwartz observes in the quotation above, from the standpoint of Hitchens' celebrated-and-scorned atheism, and his "last word" on the subject of death in Vanity Fair, in which he stood down from much of the bravado about death that he had expressed in word and deed in former days.
We think that this contrast--between holding courage sacred and experiencing mortality as dissolution of oneself--contains the essence Hitchens' inability to find faith. It is this: weakness, not courage, is the basis on which one turns to God.
Hitchens sought, lived and revered courage. In the end he could not escape weakness. No one does.
But to act on weakness, one must abandon courage: "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"