Skip to comments.William Hamilton, who said `God is Dead,’ dies at 87
Posted on 03/02/2012 9:13:07 AM PST by NYer
PORTLAND, Ore. (RNS) William Hamilton, the retired theologian who declared in the 1960s that God was dead, died Tuesday (Feb. 28) in his downtown Portland apartment. He was 87.
Hamilton said he'd been haunted by questions about God since he was a teenager. Years later, when his conclusion was published in the April 8, 1966, edition of Time Magazine, he found himself at the center of a theological storm.
Time christened the new movement "radical theology," and Hamilton, one of its key figures, received death threats and inspired angry letters to the editor. He lost his endowed chair as a professor of theology at what was then Colgate Rochester Divinity School in 1967.
Hamilton moved on to teach religion at New College in Sarasota, Fla., and then joined the faculty at Portland State University in 1970. He taught classes in religion, literary criticism and death and dying for the next 14 years.
"He was a gifted and inspiring teacher, a person of vibrant and wide-ranging intellect," says Ronald Carson, who met Hamilton in 1962 and has been his friend for 50 years.
Carson recalled hearing Hamilton speak for about 10 minutes and being "mesmerized."
"I have no idea what he said," he said, "but I remember going away from that session and thinking, 'I would love to be like him.'"
Hamilton was Carson's teacher at Colgate and recruited the younger man to teach at New College.
"He was curious, questioning, skeptical and sort of caused his students to take up that attitude toward what they were learning," said Carson, who now teaches in the honors college at the University of Texas at Austin. "I am missing him today."
In addition to teaching, Hamilton often spoke at churches, where Christians were struggling with the same questions that had spurred his studies. The image of God as all-knowing and all-powerful couldn't be reconciled with human suffering, especially after the Holocaust, Hamilton said in a 2007 profile in The Oregonian.
"I wrote out my two choices: 'God is not behind such radical evil, therefore he cannot be what we have traditionally meant by God' or 'God is behind everything, including the death camps -and therefore he is a killer.'"
He discovered that he no longer believed in an active God.
"The death of God is a metaphor," he said. "We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God."
While Hamilton may have paved the way for the most recent wave of strident atheism, he wasn't a fan of best-selling writers who attacked religion in general or Christianity in particular.
"There is a self-righteousness, a glibness in their writing," he said. "They are too sure of themselves. They've backed themselves into a fundamentalist mode."
For his part, Hamilton saw himself as a Christian who no longer went to church.
"The death of God enabled me to understand the world. Looking back, I wouldn't have gone any other direction. I faced all my worries and questions about death long ago."
Hamilton is survived by his wife of 62 years and five children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. No funeral services are planned.
(Nancy Haught writes for The Oregonian.)
Rest in peace, ping!
“William Hamilton is dead”. God
Didn’t Nietzsche say it about 100 years before this guy?
“...I also note that both Nietzche and Hamilton are dead...”
Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’
But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:22-23 NLT
It is written; “Before a man tries to outlive God, he must first outlive Castro.”
Sounds like the old joke about Unitarians; Athiests who haven't kicked the church habit.
Well, I guess Mr. Hamilton now has his questions answered. I pray for God's Mercy for him.
“Radical theologian”??? The more accurate term should be “collectivist/Leftist theologian” which makes it a an oxymoron unless you want to consider Marxism a type of theology.
And, what does he say when standing at the judgment seat of Christ?
He was born dead.
Wow, talk about not being impressed!
“God is Dead” Nietzsche 1890.
“Nietzsche is Dead” God 1900.
I thought that was Nietzche
Best-use-of-a-magazine-cover-in-a-movie belongs to Time Magazine’s, “Is God Dead?” cover, in the movie, “Rosemary’s Baby.”
During the 1968 cultural revolution, one could be forgiven for thinking so.
Rosemary’s Baby and Altamont define the era for me.
Or is that another God?
While he claimed to be a theologian, I think he’s learning a bit about karma right now.
Puny minds of men think the can figure out God. Just enjoy praising, trusting and believing Him and reap the rewards of an awesome, blessed eternal life forever. Bless you Jesus!
Cue Powers Boothe from Tombstone: Well . . . Bye!
I guess he will be going into earth orbit.
I’m sure God had the last laugh.
It takes a helluva whole lot more ‘faith’ to state that God is dead when all His very creations encompass us all around. On a lesser scale its like observing the artwork painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then declaring that Michaelangelo never existed. DUH!!!
I am pretty certain that he is not anywhere that GOD can be seen... and it smells of brimstone where this guy now resides.
You are correct about Nietsche.
Doesn’t anyone do research any more?
Crazy intellectual triangulations of foolish thoughts...I be scared sheetless of going to hades forever... yikes.. no thanks. I’ll take the free ticket paid by Jesus for the eternal vacation in heaven.
There's a huge logical disconnect in his supposed reason for disbelief -- that God "allows" evil to happen.
In all of his extensive theological studies, he never ran across the concept of free will?
To continue making his living as a “Theologian” and “Teacher of Religion” when he believes that “God id Dead” is the height of hubris and hypocrisy.
May he rest in peace. Judging a soul is above my pay grade, but I think he may be surprised to learn that the mental image of God he rebelled against is man-made and false.