1960s “God is Dead” Furor

(Excerpt from Time Frames and Taboo Data, pages 392-393.)

The 1960s would see cultural and political changes in the United States, and it was reflected in discussions taking place among academic theologians. The debate that surfaced, and which startled the public, was occasioned by the theology propounded by such theologians as William Hamilton, Gabriel Vahanian, Paul van Buren, and the provocative Thomas J. J. Altizer, then professor of religion at Emory Univeristy. Altizer dared to state, “We must realize that the death of God is an historical event, and God has died in our cosmos, in our history, in our (existence).” Such bluntness made him a minor celebrity. But the observation was really not new radicalism: Friedrich Nietzsche had asserted the death of God nearly a century earlier. The statement, God is dead, simply served as a phrase to express the obvious incompatibility between a modern worldwide view and the practiced “faith” in some transcendent deity. By 1965-66 Time Magazine exposed the controversy to broader public attention, and the magazine was swamped with correspondence—most of it anti-Altizer. Outraged clergy and Emory alumni threatened to withold donations from the school, but the president of the Methodist-affiliated college pointed out that Altizer was in the undergraduate department of religion, not in the Candler School of Theology (which was responsible for training ministers). As a result of the controversy, however, Emory was no longer an obscure southern church school, but was looked upon as a prestigious research university with a reputation for theological liberalism.

Through the 1960s there arose much media hubbub over the great religious revival taking place in the United States: church attendance was up, they crowed, and the televagelists were beginning to rake in big donations. The media avoided mentioning much about the other side of the issue—that keeping pace with the rising religious fervor was the steady rise in crime, delinquency, racial tensions, alcoholism, a rise in drug problems, higher divorce rates, and an increase in suicides. The ’60s would see an alarming rate of policies put forth to divert public money to private religious schools, and once again alarmed citizens moved to file additional court actions to block these unconstitutional forms of aid.

Today, nearly fifty years later, the religious hacks are still attempting to steal public money for their private beliefs.

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