Paul Harris in The Guardian:
In theory it was not an event that should have created a stir: a philosophical debate on the moral merits of religion. In an age of reality TV drama and Hollywood blockbusters loaded with special effects it would seem hard to get the masses to flock to witness such an old-fashioned, high brow spectacle.
But when the two debaters are the world's most famous recent Roman Catholic convert in the shape of Tony Blair and the charismatic yet cancer-stricken sceptic Christopher Hitchens suddenly it becomes easier to sell tickets.
Two thousand seven hundred tickets to be precise. For that was the size of the crowd that packed the space age-looking Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto late last night to watch the two ideological foes – when it comes to religion – spar and trade verbal blows.
The occasion was part of the Munk Debate series, organised by the Aurea Foundation group, and the motion was simply: “Be it resolved, religion is a force for good in the world”.
Both men were unabashedly stalwart in their positions. Hitchens, one of the leading “new atheists” and author of the hit book God Is Not Great, slammed religion as nothing more than supernatural gobbledegook that caused untold misery throughout human history. “Once you assume a creator and a plan it make us subjects in a cruel experiment,” Hitchens said before causing widespread laughter by comparing God to “a kind of divine North Korea”.