Christopher Hitchens dies at age 62

Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62 after a long battle with cancer.

The writer and commentator, who was a sworn atheist, was told that he was of Jewish descent when he was 38. His maternal grandmother had been Jewish and came from Kempen, now Kempno, in Upper Silesia, a discovery that Mr Hitchens described as thrilling.

In 1988 he wrote: "My initial reaction, apart from pleasure and interest, was the faint but definite feeling that I had somehow known all along."

Despite this, he remained critical of religion, writing a book titled "God Is Not Great". In 2008, during a debate with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, he called faith a "junk explanation over no explanation", and said the belief in God was "the first explanation, and the worst explanation" for the state of existence.

Born in Britain, he later gained US citizenship. Known for his writing in Vanity Fair, he contributed to numerous publications including the New Statesman, the Atlantic and Slate.

Last year his memoir "Hitch-22" was published and became a bestseller.

A student revolutionary, his left-leaning politics of his youth gave way to more conservative views in later life, as he became a supporter of President George W Bush’s war on terror and became less critical of Israel. However his moderate views put him at odds with many of his former contemporaries.

Bellow, Amis and me: Christopher Hitchens interview here

Last updated: 12:38pm, December 19 2011