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The Globe and Mail

Christopher Hitchens was a hater of humbug, and if he found it, he went after it

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and author Christopher Hitchens pose ahead of their debate on religion set up by "Munk Debates" in Toronto, Nov. 26, 2010.

Mark Blinch / Reuters/Mark Blinch / Reuters

Christopher was a total one-off, a unique character and an extraordinary polemicist. A contrarian, often. And yet, an incredible inspirational writer and thinker.

Chris was one of those people who never minded courting controversy, certainly, but literally if he thought something, he was prepared to go out and argue for it. And because he was such a great writer – he had this amazing depth of knowledge of English literature and poetry – when he stood up for a particular cause, no matter how controversial and difficult, his views counted because they were so brilliantly expressed.

He was a hater of humbug, basically, and if he ever identified that, he went after it. And he found a lot of the hypocrisy associated with religion, he just found it humbug and he was going to say it. On the other hand, he didn't disrespect people who held faith, he wasn't unpleasant about people who themselves had faith.

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He was somebody who was so much more than a contrarian or a controversialist. It was nothing to do with causing pain to people who hold views for the sake of it. It was once he came to a belief that he held, it became something he'd stand up for against all the odds. When he was confronting death and we were talking about faith, he was determined not to yield an inch to the argument that religion might have some purpose or some justification to it.

There's nobody who ever came into contact with him who ever forgot the experience, and no one who ever listened to him or debated with him, as I did, that didn't realize we were in the presence of a quite special talent.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair is founder and patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

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