Here's the interesting bit--
The first speaker to get into the fight was Scott Dikkers, editor in chief of satiric Web site The Onion, which routinely lacerates President Bush and the war in fake news stories with headlines like, "Thousands More Dead In Continuing Iraq Victory." Dikkers asked, skeptically enough, if the United States is really the good guys.
"Some people in this country would define freedom as the freedom to go into other countries and bulldoze their people and put an oil derrick up," he said.
The second half of the audience applauded.
Down the table, there was some huffing. Bellicose columnist and author Christopher Hitchens, sporting an Iraqi-flag lapel pin, motioned for the microphone.
There, he told the audience with a gesture toward Dikkers, was a "classic example of liberal overreaction and guilt." Islam, Hitchens said, is a religion of "dogmatism and totalitarianism and intolerance," something that cannot be combated with "insipid, pathetic liberal multiculturalism."
"It is not just implicitly, but explicitly a totalitarian religion," he fumed. "And if you don't believe me, just wait a few years."
Scientific American Editor-in-Chief John Rennie opined that possibly not all parts of Islam nor all of its adherents were in favor of blood-drenched tyranny.
Hitchens disagreed and said Islam was incapable of denouncing its extremists and was a worse religion than Catholicism, quite a big statement coming from Hitchens.
At last, Dikkers got the microphone back and said he didn't wish to be misunderstood and that, after all, "the enemy is all religion."
Finally, something everyone could agree on.
Well, almost everyone
"We knew this would come up," said Matt Stone as he glanced at his watch.
Stone is onstage with "South Park" co-creator Trey Parker. The two were invited out to the convention by their friend Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, a magician and prominent skeptic who is also friends with the event's founder, magician James Randi. Last season on "South Park" the pair pilloried atheist Richard Dawkins. Specifically, they portrayed him as a dogmatic extremist and depicted the gray-haired biologist in flagrante delicto with a sexually ambiguous schoolteacher.
"He's the smartest dumbest person in the world," said Stone, who found Dawkins' brand of atheism as intolerant as religious extremism. "So we had him fall in love with Mr. Garrison."
The crowd seemed only slightly appalled at Dawkins' treatment - not enough to keep them from lining up for autographs and pictures. One attendee, a stock trader from Chicago, made a $10,000 donation to the James Randi Educational Foundation in exchange for a private photo with Stone and Parker.
The audience will forgive Stone and Parker anything after their show's ripping parodies of Mormonism, Scientology and psychic John Edward , all of which they felt compelled to subtitle with notes like, "This Is What They Really Believe."
"It's just so stupid that people are going to believe we made it up," Stone said.
And don't expect the 10-year-old show to end anytime soon.
"As long as people are stupid, we'll still be able to have a show," Parker says. "So that'll be at least three or four years."