Is God dead? 179



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On April 8, 1966 TIME magazine ran its famous cover with the words in large red type on a black background posing the question, “Is God dead?”

It provoked a storm of criticism – with committed Christians seeing the headline as either blasphemy, an apocalyptic announcement or even a declaration of war. Atheists and other secularists said it was the death knell for all religion.

I was in Year 12 and my parents at my urging had subscribed despite mummy’s misgivings. Finally, she had been persuaded that it was – in her words – “fairly respectable despite being American”. Mummy has always had the deepest suspicions of Americans believing that most, if not all, are “common”. The second she saw that cover it was snatched from my hands, consigned to a fiery death and father was ordered to call the newsagent and cancel the subscription.

There was no doubt at all in mummy’s mind that this was communism, tantamount to pornography and an assault on all things that we held dear like the Queen. She was already worried about the drift in world affairs since the retirement of Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies the previous January. This utter disgrace was confirmation of her concern.

The question continues to be asked – in April, 2013 the English heavy metal group “Black Sabbath” released a ditty with the same name and as recently as last May, ABC radio in Melbourne had a panel discussion about the same question.

What many, including mummy, failed to grasp was that the TIME cover merely posed the question – it wasn’t “God is dead” – and not some sort of confirmation that the relentless march of reason and science had crushed the last vestiges of faith.

In fact, the article accompanying the magazine cover was entitled “Towards a Hidden God” and only briefly mentioned in its introduction the so-called “God Is Dead” movement. Not for the first time, and most certainly not for the last time, a headline was far more dramatic than the story warranted.

Indeed, they had previously run a story – “The ‘God Is Dead’ Movement” in October, 1965 but our household didn’t have a subscription then so it evaded mummy’s radar. The article actually pointed out that the immediate reality did not indicate a death of God or religion with as many as 97% of Americans declaring a belief in God although only 27% declared themselves to be deeply religious.

The supreme irony was that “Time” ran a front cover on December 26, 1969, “Is God Coming Back To Life?” – the “God Is Dead” movement was itself dying according to the story.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Atheist Foundation of Australia ran a campaign prior to the last census encouraging people to report “No Religion” on their census form and 58,900 declared themselves atheists, up from 31,300 in the previous census.

There were three other sub-groups – agnostic, humanist and rationalist which each scored less that 1% – while the “No Religion” but without any further definition   comprised 97.8% of the “No Religion” total. Of course, the Atheist Foundation was hardly in any position to pray for a better result, were they?

Until 1961, males were more than twice as likely to report no religion as females at a time when the overall number reporting “no religion” was less than 1%. From 1971, the gap between the sexes lessened and then steadied – in the last census 24% of males said they had no religion compared with 21% of females. The ABS estimates that over the past century, those reporting “no religion” have increased from one in 250 to one in 25.

Those declaring “no religion” in the 2011 census – almost 4.8 million or 22% – are the second largest group behind Catholics with 25% but ahead of Anglicans with 17%.

Before the age of 20 nowadays the gender gap is non-existent but from that age the gap between men and women widens and then remains fairly steady from age 35 with men generally around 4% more likely to report no religion.

Among older Australians, only 10% of all 65 and older people reported no religion. It suggests that as people age, it is increasingly likely that they will change their views and return to declaring a religion. Can we see this as an indication of their own mortality?

Perhaps the celebrated Canadian poet Irving Layton – born Jewish but a tireless campaigner during his long life against Puritanism – got it right when he remarked, “God is indeed dead. He died of self-horror when He saw the creature He had made in His own image”.

And a somewhat similar thought from Joseph Heller, in his book Catch 22: “When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He made of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering”.


Tell us, do you agree? Are your spiritual or religious?


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Russell Grenning

Russell Grenning is a Brisbane-based former journalist and retired political adviser who began his career with the ABC in 1968 in Brisbane and subsequently worked on the Brisbane afternoon daily, "The Telegraph" and later as a columnist for "The Courier Mail" and "The Australian". He worked for a string of senior Ministers in the Federal, Victorian and Queensland Governments as well as in senior executive public relations positions, including Assistant Federal Director, Public Relations, for Australia Post, Public Relations Manager for the Queensland Department of Main Roads and Principal Adviser, Corporate Relations, for the Queensland Law Society.

  1. Funny isn’t it, according to the scriptures God gave mankind a choice. Go with me or go your own way. Mankind chose the latter. So I guess the non believers are living the lives they choose so stop blaming God for all the stupid mistakes in the world.

    6 REPLY
    • And do innocent children deserve to be raped & abused by his priests & nuns?..again innocent baby’s suffering from terminal illness?..where is their free choice in that?

    • Peter Hayward – quite right, God gave man a choice which goes right back to Adam & Eve – when they chose to believe the lie of the devil – nothing has changed. God is not responsible for all the evil things that people do to eachother or in mistreating the planet – He left man in charge, – it’s called the Dominion Mandate – we’re the ones who have messed it up.

      1 REPLY
    • No the children don’t Lyn but those people are evil not priests and nuns, they are as the scriptures would imply using Gods name in vain. It doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to realise that they chose evil as their life choice. I think you will find that the good religious people far outweigh the bad just like the non religious people.

  2. Why is God never present in natural disasters or warfare ?

    1 REPLY
    • I would like a dollar for everyone who asks this same old question, its like a broken record and serves no purpose. Believe whatever you wish, but let others do the same

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      • Precisely Margaret, that is exactly the point, but unfortunately its not a mantra employed by the so-called believers! They knock continually on my door, trying to convert ME, but they get quite angry when I offer to convert THEM to ‘No Religion’. If its a case of minding one’s own business, it should apply to BOTH parties!

  3. Yep…..dead if u don’t believe in this ‘god’ phenomenon…..every society has had a go at creating one….is supposed to keep people consciously ‘good’….meaning not killing each other….robbing each other…..exactly what went wrong with all the religious wars present over the centuries to now time…..

  4. I’m neither,you don’t have to be religious to be a good person,some people think that being religious automatically makes them good,well I’ve seen lots of so called religious people that don’t come anywhere near good people…

  5. God cannot possibly be dead because he never existed in the first place. I am a spiritual person. I get my spirituality from the world around me, particularly the natural world. Religion has done more harm than good in our world. To live an ethical life and do good for others one does not be religious.

    17 REPLY
    • I’m with you Alan. Some religious people I know are the biggest hippocrits in the world. I am an atheist but I think I am a good person.

    • There are some genuinely good Christians guys. Sometimes hard to find but nonetheless still there.

    • well i have to disagree – who do you made the world in the first place – I suppose it’s the infamous “big bang” and we all “morphed” from slimey lumps ina pond. It takes more “faith” to believe that than in God.

    • Shelagh Hampson I don’t rely on faith to form my opinions. I rely on evidence or lack of it. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. The account of creation in The Bible is not supported by evidence. I don’t know how our universe began but I certainly do know how it did not begin. So we will just have to agree to disagree. You continue with your faith in a mythical being and I will continue evaluate the evidence and work of our scientists.

    • Faith is believing, sometimes not quite understanding, but that is true faith. The Old Testament in the bible, I think are a lot of stories. Never sure of the authenticity. The New Testament I do believe in and believe is a true recording of Jesus’s time on this earth! I guess those of us who do believe will go on doing so! That is our right just as I guess atheists all go on thinking their ideas,

    • Agreed Shelagh… I’d sooner believe in a loving Father God than a nothing, any day.

      If there is no God, how shall we then live?

      “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

      King James Version (KJV)

    • John Plummer you are entitled to have your beliefs just like Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Scientologists, Jehovah Witnesses and people from all the other religions and sects. However, don’t assume atheists believe in nothing. I don’t need books, stories, fables, fatwas, etc. to decide what my moral code, ethics, values, actions towards others, etc should be. There are many things I believe in, but religion is not one of them.

      1 REPLY
    • I am another who totally agrees with you, Alan. If there is a God, he is totally mad, uncaring and in no way the forgiver they try to pretend he is. I am another who believes in the power of nature, and if I was going to worship ANYTHING, it would be the sun, the source of EVERYTHING on Earth!

  6. Catholics
    Seven Day Adventists
    Jehovah Witnesses
    And all the other minor or major religions in this world, who all believe their way is the only way, look at all the ways your religions conflict; look at how your beliefs define you, look how much hatred you generate, how many wars you’ve started because of that hatred, think of all the people who have died in the name of religion, of the raped, the murdered, the tortured. Think of the starvation, the horror, the terror, the suffering of the children, all in the name of your religion. Then understand this, religion is man made, because religion is power. Not love, not tolerance, not acceptance. Why do people drink Kool Aid, why do people climb mountains and wait for the aliens to come for them, why do people build bunkers because the world is going to end on a specific day, why do people take up arms against each other??? Because power hungry men tell them to, and yet, the minions still don’t get it. It’s called brainwashing and people purporting religion are experts at it. I read many posts, see the anger and the hate, and all I feel is despair!

    9 REPLY
    • Are you ok there? You will find good and bad everywhere, you only need to look for the good in people.

    • Lee, I know you have read the posts, because I see you have commented on some of them. I know in this forum people don’t hold back because they can say whatever nasty thing comes to their mind because they don’t have to fear repercussions. I do know there are good people out there, otherwise where would we be. But even you cannot deny that religion is at the base of at least 90 percent of the grief afflicting the world. Then, I think, it it wasn’t religion, would it be something else? There are entire generations of people who have known nothing but war. Nor is there any cure. No wonder I’m sad, for because of these religions, we will never have peace. That’s a pipe dream. But I cherish the good people. Do not doubt that.

    • Linda, if you believe in God, if you follow your version of the bible, and every religion has its own version of supposed truths from this book, then what you have there is a religion. And as you tell it, people are dying for it. I am sorry that people of your faith are persecuted, but that’s the message I’m trying to impart. Religion is man made and for crazy reasons, people kill or be killed. I’ve listened to the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I stand by my statement.

    • Mary, I Can see where you are coming from, I feel it is the way people interpret religion or the bible that is the issue, and there are plenty of people from every religion doing good things, I always come back to the quote, Do unto others. This pretty much says it all for me, I don’t always practice what I preach but I try.

      1 REPLY
      • The Bible, and the many other ancient, holy volumes in the world, were very carefully and skilfully written, so that anyone can find the answers they want, to ANY question, no matter what it is. They’re not really true guides to life, but a compendium of useful answers!

    • Of course, there are as many interpretations as there are religions. But it should never be forgotten that the bible was written by men. I went to church and Sunday school as a child. I sang in the choir and I taught Sunday school classes in my late teens. I went to bible classes. I listened to the questions of children (8-12) I was teaching. It was the most amazing thing. They each listened to the exact same lesson, but the questions asked proved to me that each child interpreted it differently. I was an eye opener for me.

    • You are right Linda Beale. We are all brothers and sisters and learn war no more. Former enemies United together, from all races, colours and former creeds. I am proud that we can say, we do not kill in the name of religion or anything else.

    • Written by man inspired by the creator… Most of which is the history of the Jew and the introduction of salvation through forgiveness included for the gentile (every other person) salvation through repentance!

      “Christian” was a name given to men and women who were changed people and reminded people by the way they lived, of Jesus.. Christian today is a far cry from that.

      Are you a follower of Christ?

      On judgement day that’s all The creator will be interested in “What did you do with MY Son (Jesus)

      We will certainly be without excuse…

      Our opinion will mean nothing on that day…

  7. There is no God, religion was created to keep the masses under control, scaring people with fire and brimstone if they misbehaved. Today they are full of arrogance with little to no respect for other religions or beliefs. They certainly aren’t a peaceful lot which is what disgusts me the most. Try being a humanitarian.

  8. lol hahahahah your so called god does nothing to prove he is real .he allowed kids to raped in his so called house of god when he could have stopped them

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