She forgot to address that comment to Hitchens, who ran away with the evening and bolted off the stage before the event officially ended.
Invited to square off over the value of religious faith, there was plenty that separated the men, even though both are best-selling authors of books about the damaging influences of organized religion.
Hitchens' "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and Hedges' "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America" rank among a phalanx of books with sights trained on institutionalized faith.
A longtime foreign correspondent for the New York Times, Hedges, 50, won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for team coverage of global terrorism. He also won the Amnesty International Global Award for Human Rights Journalism. He holds a master's degree in divinity from Harvard University.
The iconoclastic Hitchens, 58, has written for "Vanity Fair," "Slate" and "Free Inquiry." He abandoned his post at "The Nation" after a falling-out with other editors over his support for the war in Iraq. Oxford-educated, Hitchens has authored several books, including "The Trial of Henry Kissinger" and "Why Orwell Matters."
Dressed in leather jacket and jeans, Hedges somehow appeared pressed and mannerly before a packed audience at King Middle School
After tearing off a 15-minute rant that trashed Islam, Christianity and Judaism -- with asides to the "mush-headed" spirituality that blooms in Berkeley -- Hitchens offered his audience a challenge. He asked if anyone could name a moral stand taken by a religious person that couldn't be equaled by a person who does not believe in the existence of God.
"The whole extraordinary galaxy was created with us in mind?" he told a laughing, clapping audience. Ah yes: "The 'me' galaxy."
Religion comes "from the stupid infancy of our species," before people knew the world was round, he said.
He detailed a history of carnage, cruelty and callousness leading to the present day, in which the Pope declares condoms more dangerous than AIDS and where, in Iran, "parties of God are set on wreckage."
But by oversimplifying faith, Hitchens himself has become a sort of fundamentalist, Hedges said.
"He sees only the chauvinistic, the bigoted and intolerant brand," he said. "It's a cheap way to avoid exploring the wide range of religious belief."
In fact, monotheistic faith created the concept of the individual, Hedges argued. With it, people acquired the freedom to develop and act upon individual conscience, the ability "to resist the clamor of the tribe."
God is not a noun but a verb, a commitment to transcendence, he said.
"Faith is what we do," he said. "Faith is the sister of justice. The danger is not in Christianity, Islam or Judaism, but the human heart -- the capacity we all have for evil."
Hedges said repeatedly that he shares Hitchens' disdain for fundamentalism.
But the polite and civil Hedges was no match for Hitchens, who bit off the ends of Hedges' sentences to register indignation ("It's not an interruption; it's a comment") and volleyed questions from the emcee by pontificating on other points.
The rowdy audience with an obvious appetite for an intellectual feast alternately roared, applauded, booed and cheered each thrust and parry.
The room reached its boiling point when Hedges explained suicide bombers as people whose despair has driven them to desperate acts.
In the occupied territories in 1988, he found a "strangled" people, 1.1 million "living in what can only be described as a prison," he said, "living 10 to a room, no possibility of work."
"You're rationalizing murder," Hitchens cried. "You're rationalizing murder. Shame on you."
Seeking to understand the motivations of suicide bombers represents "a new fashion among the half-baked," he said.
By the time the emcee took questions from the audience, one man accepted Hitchens' challenge. He mentioned a spiritual leader who "ministered" to the Ku Klux Klan out of love.
"It's a start," Hitchens said gallantly, before suddenly souring. Better than loving them, the religious leader should have sued them, and pushed them into economic ruin.
"Love your own enemies, don't love mine," he roared.
Hitchens drew brickbats from the crowd by defending the United States' incursion into Iraq as a mission to bring democracy to that devastated country.
"Though you sneer and jeer at them -- and you have to live with the shame of that -- these people are guarding you as you sleep," he said.
"I feel like I'm reading Rudyard Kipling's' 'The Burden of the White Man,'" Hedges quipped.
"You mean you wish you'd read it," Hitchens shot back.
The real danger, Hedges said, is the conviction of people who feel they have the "absolute truth."
"The search for the truth, the examined life, requires humility," he said.
Hitchens unleashed a final firebomb, and Hedges quietly passed on closing remarks. By then, Hitchens had darted off the stage, a cigarette dangling from his mouth.
Rebecca Rosen Lum covers religion. Reach her at 925-977-8506 or firstname.lastname@example.org.