“Is God Dead?” Editor Dies September 22, 2009

“Is God Dead?” Editor Dies


John T. Elson is the former religion editor for Time magazine who came up with that cover in 1966 — for the Easter issue.

He died a couple weeks ago at the age of 78.

The New York Times notes the significance of the cover:

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.

“Secularization, science, urbanization — all have made it comparatively easy for the modern man to ask where God is and hard for the man of faith to give a convincing answer, even to himself,” Mr. Elson wrote.

It was a bold move then. And with so few major media outlets at the time, it influenced the national dialogue in a way that would be rare to see these days.

The release of Sam HarrisThe End of Faith is the only other thing that comes to mind — it began a dialogue on atheism that still continues today.

Is that a fair comparison? Can you think of anything else that is equivalent in terms of impact?

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  • Siamang

    That font is wierd.

    What’s with that nearly unrecognizable question mark?

  • @Siamang, this was the aesthetics of the 1960s. real mod.

    as for the main question, i had a very interesting discussion with a friend from the UK — i had said that, in my mind, harris’ ‘the end of faith’ was the thing that had kicked off the recent dialogue on atheism, whereas she considered it not to be so major and regarded this dialogue as a continuation of a pre-existing stream of thought.

  • An iconic cover and I’m not just saying that because I’m an atheist. It’s a journalistic image that will last throughout history along with the napalm photo, the Chicago balcony and that dog national lampoon was going to kill if you didn’t buy their magazine.

  • It influenced me quite a bit. I got into big trouble bringing it up in religion class. I had to go see the Principal.

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