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article imageBattle of the giants: high-profile Catholic v. outspoken atheist

By Andrew John     Oct 13, 2010 in World
One of the world’s most famous Catholic converts and one of atheism’s most outspoken and articulate advocates are to go head to head in open debate on whether religion is a good thing.
Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007, and Christopher Hitchens, author of God is Not Great, will meet in Toronto, “where,” says the Independent, “Mr Blair has fewer enemies, and the Iraq war is less of an issue.”
But it’s not that Blair and Hitchens disagree over the Iraq War. It’s just the opposite: Hitchens has praised Blair’s controversial decision to send British troops into Iraq in 2003, in spite of widespread opposition in the UK and very suspect intelligence on which the decision was based.
There have also been stories that Blair and former US President George W. Bush agreed on an invasion of Iraq the year before it happened.
‘We don’t do God’
However, the pair do seriously disagree over religion.
Blair’s media spokesman, Alastair Campbell, once famously told reporters: “We don’t do God.” Throughout his premiership, Catholic-to-be Blair was wary of wearing his religion on his sleeve. In a country that doesn’t “do God” as much as, say, the USA, it wouldn’t have looked too good.
However, since he left office he has converted to his wife Cherie’s religion, and has set up the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
Christopher Hitchens – who is suffering from oesophageal cancer – is an unalloyed atheist, and has spoken out enthusiastically against religion. He’s among the so-called “Four Horsemen” along with God Delusion author Richard Dawkins, End of Faith author Sam Harris, and Breaking the Spell author Daniel Dennet.
Of the debate, the Independent says: “On the question of religion … 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.’”
Tickets for the debate go on sale Thursday.
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