Christopher Hitchens died yesterday. Mostly he is known as an irascible atheist, puncturing the faithful; but sometimes people forget he was also an irascible liberal, puncturing those faithful too. He was pretty much a puncturer.
The best things he ever did were provide a contrasting voice on the Iraq war and Mother Teresa. I happen to agree with him on both those counts; but even people who disagree must surely appreciate the value of his dissent. He did not just throw barbed quips (though he threw plenty of those); he also deployed logical and consistent arguments backed by evidence. This is the kind of dissent a free society requires to maintain its freedom: principled, evidential, and too sharp to ignore.
He will go down in history as one of the Four Horsemen; the gang who put atheism in the spotlight by the simple act of writing best-selling books about atheism. Dawkins, Dennet, Harris and Hitch; now down by one.
Since all of them are old white men, they won't last too much longer. Maybe we should recruit some young women to take their place, a Spice Girls of atheism. But then, Hitch was already working on it.