You know how some of us have imaginary friends in our childhood? There’s the lonely boy who invents a friend to talk to; the bullied child who has a pretend friend who protects him; and the clumsy boy who has an imaginary friend who can make him fly?


Christopher Hitchens was my imaginary friend.

When you move from one country to another and English is not your first language, one (me, actually!) always feels at a disadvantage about communication skills. Unlike me, Christopher Hitchens had absolutely no apparent problem communicating. On the contrary, he used language in ways that made me feel awestruck.

Take for example statements such as:

“This year of living dyingly”, or; “we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” Or, “This kind of modesty is too arrogant for me” and “The finest fury is the most controlled.”

These are statements that convey not only language skills, but depth and brilliance. I wish I could express myself like that – and with a British accent to boot!

Except for his opinion on the war in Iraq, he said little I disagreed with. I mostly thought he was as vibrant as life should be – he was courageous, and someone who lived life on his terms.   In other words, I admired him and envied him. 

It was always hard for me just to be who I am and not want to fill in the gaps – to be smarter, more eloquent, less afraid, more witty, erudite and extremely well read.  He was all of that and so much more.

He traveled all over the world, and I traveled a little. His book knowledge was overwhelming, while I just read from time to time. He never seemed to hesitate about expressing his views and opinions, and- even though it doesn’t seem so, I do hesitate.  And, I try not to offend even though I am not always successful.

We did have two things in common: We both visited synagogues all over the world, and we both had a father whose career was in the military. That’s where it ends. It’s not a lot, but even trivial commonalities seem significant when you desperately want to find similarities between yourself and someone whom you admire.

I always look for synagogues wherever I go, and despite not being religious I would get in touch with the energy, the vibrancy and the silent noise of the place. Here’s a synagogue that is being visited by tourists, or sometimes just by me, and yet I see men praying, swaying from side to side, tallit wrapping their shoulders – blue and white, blue and white, and the voices of my people.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard that Hitch used to do the same thing. He, the God of Atheism visited synagogues. Wow. We are alike! Please forgive my excitement.

Press Release Photo Rabbi Wolpe and Hitch debate

The realization that he should be my imaginary friend came about years ago, when I had to think about who would be the person I would like to be with on a desert island. If I had to not consider my husband as a possibility (you see how I don’t want to offend…), it would be Mr. Hitchens.

I could imagine forgetting about being alone there, forgetting about boredom and isolation and letting go of the feeling of misery about being stuck there, if he were my buddy. I can envision long conversations about the trivial and the sublime, about history and current events and long arguments about the Middle East and the war in Iraq, but mostly learning how not to be afraid of expressing my opinions, allowing myself to be disliked more than I am already, and sleep well at night.

With my imaginary friend I would be more true to myself.

So even though Christopher Hitchens is gone, my imaginary friend will always be with me – to guide me, to make me laugh, and to teach me. My imaginary friend’s spirit is so transcendent, that he really is not imaginary after all.

Elvis may have left the building. Hitch did not.


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
This entry was posted in Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, Religion, Secular, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Maddy Zimring says:

    Your blog on Christopher Hitchens really resonated with me. I also am a big fan and agree with most everything he said except his position on the Iraq war and his dislike and criticism of Bill Clinton. I read all his articles in Vanity Fair and think his bravery and steadfast commitment to his Atheism in the face of imminent death was remarkable. As an Atheist myself I gained an insight that it is possible to not only comfortably live with that belief, but to die with it. His ability to write so beautifully and clearly until the very end was amazing to me. His last column questioning the statement “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, is terrific. If you haven’t read it’s in the most recent issue of Vanity Fair. By the way, I think you have something else in common. He had one Jewish parent – I’m not sure if it was his mother or father.

  2. Barbara Cooper says:

    I have never thought of you as a person who was afraid to express your opinion. It is one of the things I love about you and I think, one of the things that makes you so much fun to be around. You call it as you see it. I think I do too. I don’t always agree with you, but I enjoy hearing your point of view. We all form our opinions based on the lives we are living and the experiences we’ve had. Your life has been so very different from mine in every way and so we are very different women. And that is what makes a conversation with you so interesting!
    As for being disliked for what you may or may not say- here’s my attitude on it. Not everyone is going to like me and that’s okay. I don’t like everyone either. I cherish the ones that I do like and try to surround myself with their energy. I try to be the best ‘me’ I can be. I may make mistakes and may unintentionally hurt someone, but that is just the human experience. I try to learn from it, maybe even get the chance to correct it, then let it go. And I always sleep well!

  3. Mort says:

    You & Hitchens had one more thing in common: each of you had a Jewish mother. Only, you knew it all along. He didn’t find out until his mother was dead and he was an adult. So there’s more stuff for you to talk about with your imaginary friend.

    • rachel bar says:

      I know, Mort.

      It is different though, to know your origins, as opposed to realizing it later.
      Neverthless, his polemic approach must have come from his Jewish origins IMHO.

  4. Maurice Labi says:

    I didn’t know Hitchens died, but then, here, in Israel, I don’t follow events I once did. I recall an interview with him about a year ago. He was asked if he changed his mind, whether he chose to believe in God after he found out he was very sick. The interviewer possibly chose to with the old adage “There are no atheists in the trenches.” Hitchens stood steadfast to the end in his beliefs.

  5. Oren says:

    Courageous, vulnerable, human, honest and heart warming blog. Thank you Rachel!

  6. rachel bar says:

    Thank you Oren for saying such nice things. I hope to see you soon.

  7. Mo Brock says:

    You and I feel exactly the same way! Except that because I didn’t really become immersed in him until a few days ago, my imaginary friend is just now coming to call. As I drove to and from Florida last week and this, I decided that having him as my imaginary friend was the only way I could get through this. But at the risk of showing just how blubbery I am, it really does feel as if the light has left the world. You and I know that there are other lights, other minds. Sam Harris, for instance, seems to have all his brain cells lined up appropriately to make lovely logical arguments (love that!). But. And you know what comes after the but without my saying it.

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