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N. D. Wilson


A Collision of Lives

An atheist and a pastor square off—with surprising results.

In a corner room, on the thirty-fourth floor of the Millennium Hotel, United Nations Plaza, I look for a place to sit. There isn't one. Every surface is covered with cameras, laptops, cords, drives, surge protectors, recharging batteries, and, occasionally, other people. I end up on a windowsill, cold glass against my back, traffic far, far below me.

One floor down, my father, Douglas Wilson, is asleep. A few blocks away, I assume, Christopher Hitchens is as well. It's late enough to be early—even in New York—but this room bustles on.

Two cameramen are dumping their hard-drives and backing everything up. Two producers are talking. The director, cross-legged on the floor between a bed and my windowsill, is reviewing footage from the night. He can't help himself. He must edit. He must make something. And he must do it now.

"Check this," he says. "Gangster. Your dad's a gangster."

The room quiets, and the two producers join me, huddling over the director's head. In a small window on his laptop screen, we watch traffic freeze and surge in fast motion. The sun sets on NYC. Old-school rap begins to throb from the small speakers.

And there they are, my father's cowboy boots, moving down the sidewalk in slow motion. And there he is, turning, realizing a camera is following him, grinning in his beard, laughing as he enters the hotel. Cut.

Nothing has happened yet. The cameras have captured only New York establishment footage, and one scene of a pastor from rural Idaho arriving at his hotel.

In May of 2007, Christopher Hitchens published God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Christopher's polemic naturally drew some attention. It was designed to inflame, and it did, while settling in for a long run on the bestseller list. His taunts and insults were delivered in polished and often amusing prose and reiterated verbally in television appearance after television appearance, all as droll and limp-faced as they were acidic.

And then the debates began. Hitchens ...

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