Right now I am sitting in the Montana Sky restaurant atop the Crowne Plaza sipping coffee and overlooking the snow dusted city of Billings. It’s a bright, clear morning and the city, small though it is, is waking up and bustling with activity. With my six speaking engagements in Omaha behind me, it was time to come here. Yes, last week I was in London and now I am in Billings. Why Billings? Because this is where I debated Christopher Hitchens in October 2010, and it just felt right returning to this place to launch my new book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens.
Even in October 2010, coming to Billings was a bit of a lark. The month before, Christopher had debated David Berlinski in Birmingham, Alabama. After that debate, he suggested we debate one another, but said it would have to happen soon since he was then dying of esophageal cancer. Recalling that he had once told me that Montana was the only state in the contiguous USA that he had never been to, I decided Billings would make for a suitable location. That way we could, after the debate, take a road trip through Yellowstone National Park. That pleased him and so that’s what we did.
Sitting here I am reminded of many things. After our debate at the Babcock Theater, we came to this same restaurant to recount the evening. My family, the Fixed Point staff, and Christopher were all present. Christopher flirted with the ladies and was, much to my amusement, greatly annoyed when they didn’t reciprocate his advances. The conversation, a celebration really, went deep into the night. At the end of the evening, I walked the alcohol-soaked Hitchens to his room. It was always like that with Christopher. Highly entertaining, never boring, but exhausting.
Fourteen months later the cancer killed him. My, how I wish he were still with us. Had he lived, who knows where he might now be on the ideological spectrum. After 9/11, he abandoned the Left and their narrative that the US was the world’s villain and therefore deserving of that terrorist attack. And after the publication of his bestseller god Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, he began exploring, secretly, evangelical Christianity. One thing is certain: he would have nothing nice to say about the Obama Administration’s response to ISIS and Islamic Terrorism.
Tomorrow night I will return to the Babcock Theater, to the very stage where we debated each other in 2010, to give a presentation on not only the book and that debate, but I will also discuss our friendship. I will show clips from the debate, tell the backstory, and field questions from the audience. Whether you are a Christian or a Christopher Hitchens fan, I think you will enjoy it. I know I will.