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Scott VanDenPlas, an atheist from Chicago, recently heard Christopher Hitchens say the following in an interview:

“I’ve had an amazing number of letters from people, I still get them. Hand written ones to my house, as well as emails to my office in New York. Saying really, the nicest things, most of them… not all. And trying to assure me that, in their minds, my life hasn’t been a waste of time, even if it ends prematurely. I’m 62 in April, if I make it that far. And believe me, that’s been encouraging.

I’ve learned something from it, which is of course, like most of the things one knows that are important, already known to me, but I really know it now. Never put off writing a letter to one who is in distress. It is always very much appreciated. I’m not asking for more people to write to me, but if they have someone in mind, or someone known to them, and they haven’t quite gotten around to it yet… I’d urge them to do it.

It has been a terrific help to me, I must say. And I’m not a particularly vulnerable person in that way, not that easily stirred. But this has been very moving for me, very confirming.”

In an effort to honor Hitchens for everything he’s done, Scott is encouraging people to submit their own letters to him.

The project is called Dear Christopher.

A few excerpts from letters are below:

I had no idea who you were. I didn’t know what you looked like, what you sounded like. But your writing, brilliant as your writing tends to be, spoke to me. It made statements I couldn’t deny and revealed other facts that made me more comfortable in being an atheist. You hear stories of people who are afraid to mention their atheism, but I feel that after reading your book, I never had any such qualms.

In his book, Letters to a Young Contrarian, I felt as if I was being addressed directly. The book came at a pivotal moment, inspiring me to dedicate my life to the annihilation of the “mind-forg’d manacles” and the institutions of their construction.

Hitchens showed me that theocracy was the great human evil; that men with a weapon in one hand and a Holy book in the other encompass much of what is debased in thought and action. And he managed it with charm and wit I had never expected to find in theological debate.

Your writings, lectures, your leadership, and personal actions have proven to me that the human mind, through the tools of thought and logic, can allow us to break free of our animalistic behaviors, fears and superstitions. Through your teachings, I now have the knowledge that humanity can be more than what it has been and that we need nothing divine to explain art, music or love.

If you’d like to contribute your letter, you can get all the information you need here.