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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
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

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'