December 15 marked five years since the death of writer Christopher Hitchens.  Hitchens, a polemicist who polarized audiences like no other, taught us much about the importance of liberty and free expression.

Hitchens, until his last fighting breath, fought stupidity, authoritarianism and bullying. He also fought theocracy: he never once attacked anyone’s freedom to express religious faith, but opposed theocratic bullying and impingement on the liberty of others. A vehement opponent of Islamic apologists, left-of-center Hitchens paved the way for pundits and citizens alike in a post-9/11 world to go forth against intellectual dishonesty and be steadfast in the face of waves of leftist propaganda and identity politics.

Years before the height of what we now call the Islamic State, Hitchens warned the world of the threat of the radicalization of the moderately faithful. He said that some Muslims would eventually cease time-wasting and do what the good book says: form a state governed by Islamic law, and spread its influence on pain of death.

But instead of learning from Hitchens, the left wing of today does mental marathons to justify terrorism. Liberals frequently fashion abstract explanations for Islamic terrorism, and this disrupts our ability to deal with the problem honestly. We must recognise that we need to read and talk honestly and without fear. We mustn’t hold the opinion that words can hurt, as that’s a sure way to destroy our most powerful tool: open discussion.

Instead, take a leaf out of Hitchens’ book: learn from him and others like him, and don’t idolize any one person or rigid set of ideas. Think for yourself, make no assumptions, be a slave to nothing and no one, and respect the scientific process of reason and doubt. At least that way, one can have a better chance at ensuring humility.

Humanity cannot rise to its potential height without understanding this basic principle.

Edward Brooks joins the TCC staff from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.