FOR MORE THAN TWO YEARS, infamous atheist Christopher Hitchens has made good sport debating those who believe in God. His rapier wit and merciless debate style pack houses across the country. But after his January lecture in Portland, at a dinner organized by Literary Arts, Portland Monthly, and Bluehour, Portlanders learned that Hitchens’s swashbuckling stage persona is actually his soft side.

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In his book God Is Not Great, Hitchens takes aim at fundamentalist religion. But at dinner, he faced mostly religious progressives: renowned Jesus scholar Marcus Borg, Reed College religion professor Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, and USA Today religion columnist Tom Krattenmaker. "Often," said Hitchens, setting the bait, "I find liberal Christianity to be the most suspicious." Indeed, Hitchens quickly slashed their views down to simple questions: Did Christ rise from the dead? Did the Archangel Gabriel dictate the Koran to Muhammad? "If you don’t believe that, don’t waste our time," Hitchens snorted. "You’re not religious; you’re someone who knows a bit about religion."

After three hours of battle, the dinner party dispersed. Hitchens, fortified by bourbon and still gyroscopically cradling a glass of wine, took a cab to his hotel. But as he finished a cigarette outside the Heathman, one Portlander managed to find a way into the pundit’s heart.

"I love tabbies!‚" Hitchens exclaimed as an orange feline wound figure eights through his legs. "It doesn’t have a collar—what are we to do?"

And with that, cigarette still smoldering, wine glass not yet empty, Christopher Hitchens scooped up the cat and strolled into the hotel lobby.

Read on for the complete transcript of the discussion.