National Post – Holy Post (heh): The role of religion: Hitchens to face Blair in Munk debates

Friday’s sold-out Munk Debate in Toronto between former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and renowned atheist and journalist Christopher Hitchens. The motion is: “Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world.”

In this post-9/11 world of radical Islamist terrorism and ongoing child-abuse scandals in the Catholic Church (for complicity in which Mr. Hitchens has proposed that the Pope be arrested), Mr. Blair, a relatively late convert to Catholicism, would seem to have his work cut out.

What makes this debate all the more poignant and fascinating, however, is that Mr. Hitchens was diagnosed a few months ago with a severe form of cancer. Hence part of the reason for going to the debate is to witness the resolution with which he is facing his fate. Mr. Hitchens has guaranteed that he will experience no death bed conversion (unless, he has said, medication makes him literally lose his mind.)

Mr. Hitchens’s resolution in the face of death brought to mind another Scottish Enlightenment parallel: that of the way in which one of Adam Smith’s greatest mentors and friends, the philosopher and renowned “infidel” David Hume, faced his own death.

Lofty parallels, eh? Rather fascinating idea, though. I wonder how Tony’ll hold up on the Catholicism side in front of Hitch.