Ed Brayton posted a letter from Christopher Hitchens to the American Atheist Convention. Ed described the letter as "brilliant."
I'm a bit puzzled by the effusive praise because I wouldn't characterize the letter as anything even remotely close to brilliant. It's an eloquent tongue-lashing of believers, incorporating ideas that are familiar to anyone who has given this subject much thought. It isn't quite a pedestrian offering, but it's nowhere near the sublime.
Perhaps the letter is appropriate for the audience and the setting, but more than anything else, it's cheerleading leavened with self-flattery and the reassurance that contempt confers upon the contemptuous.
Perhaps above all, we affirm life over the cults of death and human sacrifice and are afraid, not of inevitable death, but rather of a human life that is cramped and distorted by the pathetic need to offer mindless adulation, or the dismal belief that the laws of nature respond to wailings and incantations.
Really? Not afraid of inevitable death?
Coincidentally, a psychologist who does volunteer hospice work told me this week that he had expected that grave illness would impel people to look more deeply into themselves and into the larger questions of life. Instead he finds that people tend to go out the way they've lived. I'm not sure that I can completely buy that, but I don't have the kind of experience he has had. I see enormous transformative opportunity in facing death, but maybe that's just an expression of wishful folk theory to soften the stark reality of mortality.