“Is God Dead?” Guy Dead
John T. Elson, the journalist who wrote the article behind Time magazine’s famous “Is God Dead?” cover in 1966, just, well, died. The New York Times obituary reports:
The issue caused an uproar, equaled only by John Lennon’s offhand remark, published in a magazine for teenagers a few months later, that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. The “Is God Dead?” issue gave Time its biggest newsstand sales in more than 20 years and elicited 3,500 letters to the editor, the most in its history to that point. It remains a signpost of the 1960s, testimony to the wrenching social changes transforming the United States.
The ’66 article described a seminary fad of the time, “death of God theology,” in which theologians explored the possibility that a transcendent God was becoming unthinkable in the modern world. By the 70s, as conservative religious revivals began replacing the libertinism of the 60s, it drifted out of fashion. But it remains a fascinating movement which, as it happens, I’m currently in the midst of writing about (so stay tuned!).
Also be sure to check out my gloss on Anthony Towne’s Excerpts from the Diaries of the Late God, a work of satire poking fun at the whole thing. I wish Towne were here to say something clever about the inevitable irony of Elson meeting his maker.
Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.