Blair 'to do God' in debate with Hitchens

Since one of them is one of most self-publicised atheists in the Western world and the other is arguably the most famous living convert to the Roman Catholic Church, there may not be much of a meeting of minds. Yet Tony Blair has agreed to share a platform with the British-born journalist, Christopher Hitchens, to argue over whether religion is a good thing generally, or not.

Tickets to this unique event will be on sale tomorrow, but for anyone in Britain wanting to go, the bad news is that first they must book a seat on a plane or a liner. Mr Blair very rarely makes a public appearance in the land where he was prime minister. When he does, he usually attracts the sort of hostile demonstration that forced him to cancel last month's launch party for his new book, A Journey.

He and Mr Hitchens will go head-to- head in Toronto, where Mr Blair has fewer enemies, and the Iraq war is less of an issue. Iraq is also one of comparatively few issues on which he and Mr Hitchens agree. Mr Hitchens has consistently praised Mr Blair's willingness to send British troops to combat dictators, in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq.

On the question of religion, however, they are so far apart that the organisers revised the original idea of having them debate whether God exists. Instead, Mr Blair will speak in favour of the motion: "Be it resolved, religion is a force of good for the world."

When he was in office, Mr Blair was advised by Alastair Campbell that it was a bad idea for a practising politician to "do God". It is assumed that he decided years before leaving Downing Street that Rome was his true spiritual home, but he waited until he was out of Downing Street before switching.

Mr Hitchens, by contrast, is the author of a 2007 book much deplored by religious believers, called God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything – a polemic against religion generally, and Christianity in particular.

Religious believers extracted a very Christian revenge on Hitchens when the news broke that he was being treated for cancer. They launched an "Everybody Pray for Hitchens Day" on the net.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

E150/2014 - English Language Checker (Grade B3)

On Application: Council of Europe: The European Court of Human Rights’s judgme...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Project Manager - Bristol South West

£400 - £450 per day: Orgtel: Project Manager (PM), Key Banking Client, Retail ...

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?