Larry Alex Taunton is back at this old job.
If his name doesn’t ring a bell, it may be because he doesn’t have a lot of fans in the atheist world.
Taunton is perhaps most famous for his book, published after the death of Christopher Hitchens, that suggested the famous atheist was “contemplating conversion” near the end of his life, though he never actually made that leap. It was widely considered an insult and a lie by everyone who knew Hitchens personally. Not only did Hitchens never convert, he never even thought about it. He had no reason to. His own wife, Carol Blue, said of Hitch that the deathbed conversion never happened: “He lived by his principles until the end. To be honest, the subject of God didn’t come up.”
That’s a polite way of saying Taunton’s book was just a way to capitalize on the death of one of the world’s most famous atheists.
Since then, he’s only got worse, writing that atheism “unquestionably exacerbates the evil in our nature.” He pushed ideas like those in his job at the director of the Fixed Point Foundation, a religious group that organizes debates between atheists and Christians.
Considering those groups often preach that Christianity makes you good, atheism makes you evil, and that we should rejoice in the (false) narrative of a famous atheist who (allegedly) reconsidered God’s existence while on his deathbed, you’d expect everyone who works for them to be moral exemplars. And yet, early last year, Taunton announced his resignation from the group after allegations that he “had inappropriate relationships with two young women on the ministry staff.” Taunton admitted that was true, but added that the relationships were consensual.
He didn’t say any of that in the official resignation, though. Instead, he cited exhaustion and an accident he suffered in 2015.
“I am, to put it bluntly, spent,” Taunton wrote in the letter announcing his resignation. “As many of you know, I have maintained a manic pace for several years now. After my horrific accident of two years ago, I returned to work much more rapidly than was wise. Many friends and family have expressed concern about my unrelenting travel and work schedule, and I have, up to now, ignored their counsel. But the Lord has made it very clear to me that I need to properly renew my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health if I am to be effective in the coming years. As such, I need to step back from the work of Fixed Point Foundation and let others lead that work and fulfill its mission…”
There were really just two possibilities: Either the allegations were true, in which case Taunton deserved to be pushed out of his Christian ministry, or they were false, in which case he was finally getting a taste of his own medicine.
But now Taunton is back in his old job.
Last week, the Fixed Point Foundation announced that he had been reinstated… with no mention of why he needed to be in the first place.
… It is not wholly uncommon for people in high profile work to suffer their own setbacks, and Larry did. But he faced it with courage and dignity and he has done all that we have asked of him and more these last two years. Furthermore, it has become clear to us that God’s call upon his life is unchanged. A skill set like his is needed now more than ever.
As a Christian organization we believe that people are flawed and sinful. But we also believe that redemption is near to our Heavenly Father’s heart, and His work in Larry and [wife] Lauri and their children has been a powerful example to us all. We believe that Larry was meant for this work and it is our joy to restore him to it.
Considering that Taunton admitted to “inappropriate” relationships with female staffers, then saying he faced his setbacks with “courage and dignity” is a slap in the face to the women. But that might be irrelevant to the board if Taunton is the kind of fundraiser they can’t do without.
Hitchens would’ve had a field day with this story.