Yesterday was indeed a sad day. Christopher Hitchens died and it was reported that Etta James is terminally ill. In both cases, Cancer was the culprit. For Hitchens it was a long battle with esophageal cancer, for James, the final stages of leukemia. Both are being touted by their fans and friends as iconic and legendary in their respective fields. Both have been controversial figures who liked their alcohol. Both are known for an arrogant personality. So why is it that the public response to each has been so different?
Let’s begin with Ms. James, a wonderful singer with a soulful voice, a member of no less than three Halls of Fame, who has influenced the careers of numerous artists in her wake, but has had a rocky personal life. She has had a well publicized heroin addiction since the 1970′s and has been in and out of treatment facilities for decades. She has had her run ins with the law. She has suffered ill-health due to her addictions to heroin and various pain killers. When Beyoncé Knowles sang her most famous hit song at President Obama’s inauguration, Ms. James went on a very public jealous rant against, both Ms. Knowles and the President.
When it was announced yesterday that the blues and gospel singer is terminally ill, people immediately began asking for prayers (even her live in doctor asked for her fans to pray for her), calling her great, a legend, saying how much they will miss her, how sad they are at hearing the news etc. This is exactly how one would expect people to react to the impending death of a celebrity. The pedestal is at the ready and all is forgiven.
Moving on to Mr. Hitchens, a renowned atheist, intellectual and author, known for his outspoken nature and penchant for debate. His personal life was not quite as rocky. He was a drinker and a smoker, but, by no account, did he partake of anything harder than that on a regular basis. Admittedly, his alcohol intake was enough “to kill or stun the average mule”. He is also famous for his politics, or more specifically, his seemingly opposing political views. But it is his railing against religion that he is most known for and, likely, will be most remembered for. In his book, God is Not Great, he criticized every religion on the planet as “the main source of hatred in the world”.
When the news hit, there were quite a few people calling him great, a legend, saying how much they will miss him, how sad they were at hearing the news etc, but there was another layer to it. Religious people seemed to revel in the news that a man, famous for his atheistic views was gone and likely burning in hell.
I’d like to share some twitter messages on the news of Etta James being terminally ill.
Praying for Etta James…
Hang in there Etta James… There is no one else n music like you
have Ms. Etta James in my thoughts. Sad to hear she’s terminally ill. Thankful to have seen her sing live and fill hearts & minds with love.
OH NO! DOCTORS ARE ASKING FOR PRAYERS FOR TERMINALLY ILL ETTA JAMES!
My Prayers Go Out 2 Etta James
Etta James is terminally ill with cancer. Great lady, great voice.
Etta James In Leukemia’s Final Stages: Iconic singer is in a home with her husband by her side. (End of golden era of soul)
I think I’ll put some Etta James on. I hope her last days are peaceful.
In contrast, here are a mix of twitter messages in response to the death of Christopher Hitchens.
‘Farewell great voice against can’t, hypocrisy, obscurantism, pretension, against all tyrants including god
I am 100% certain that Christopher Hitchens is no longer an atheist.
Goodbye Christopher Hitchens. Your lance-like rhetoric introduced my hungry young mind to the intellectual battlefield that surrounds us.
Christopher Hitchens is in hell, in case you’re wondering
Noted atheist Christopher Hitchens has had plenty of time to re-evaluate while burning in Hell the past couple of days.
Then there are the reactions to his book title, God is Not Great as a trending topic.
WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK? Whoever started
#GodIsNotGreat needs the shit beat out of them!
whoever started that trending topic
#godisnotgreat needs 2 die a slow death
WHO EVA MADE THIS A TRENDIN TOPIC.ILL PERSONALLY KILL EM MYSELF.
And it just gets worse from there.
Honestly, I was never really a fan of Etta James, yes she had a lovely voice, but I’m more of a rock fan. I was never a fan of Christopher Hitchens either. I know this is tantamount to blasphemy from an atheist, but his smug arrogance rubbed me the wrong way.In a previous blog entitled, But what if you’re an asshole? I wrote “I get the impulse to celebrate someone’s life after they die, but let’s actually celebrate the WHOLE PERSON. Warts and all. After all, the sooner we can collectively embrace our humanity the better off we will be as a society. It’s easier to change something when you stop making excuses and see it for what it really is.”
It says so much about us as a society that an alcoholic atheist is demonized and a heroin addicted gospel singer is deified.
I’d like to leave you with this last message from a twitter user and close by saying, if religious people are going to claim to be better than the rest of us, you might want to act like it.
“Remember that time when atheists threatened to kill and burn all those christians over a twitter trend? Yeah, me neither. “