Christopher Hitchens, brilliant, acerbic columnist, has died

Christopher Hitchens, contributing editor of Vanity Fair magazine and best known for his unapologetic defense of atheism, died December 15th in Houston.

Hitchens, born in Great Britain in 1949, was a lightning rod for fury from both the left and the right. Conservative Christians were shocked by his 2007 bestseller, God Is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and his dissing of Mother Teresa in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (1995). The left howled in outrage over Hitchens' full-throated support for the US war in Iraq and for his skewering of President Clinton in No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton (1999).

Hitchens was drawn to political hotspots and wrote about these conflict for The Nation and England's The New Statesman.

A lifelong heavy drinker and smoker, Hitchens, who was 62, died of complications from esophageal cancer.