Is God dead?

The question that scandalised America

On 8 April 1966, the cover of Time magazine posed that one question: "Is God dead?" It was to be the bestselling issue for 20 years and provoked thousands of letters in response. The man who wrote the cover story, John T Elson, has just died -- news in America, where many major papers ran obituaries, but not in the UK, it seems.

I mention this because, for one thing, the opening sentence of Elson's report could just as well have been written yesterday, not 43 years ago:

"Is God dead? It is a question that tantalises both believers, who perhaps secretly fear that he is, and atheists, who possibly suspect that the answer is no."

Second, because journalists today can only marvel at the time and resources that went into this one piece. Elson spent a year on it and 30 reporters contributed to it, conducting 300 interviews in the process.

And third, to draw your attention to the original piece itself, which you can read here. It is a fascinating portrait of religion in America at the time, and a reminder that struggles over the anthropomorphisation of God are nothing new -- though it's hard to see what progress has been made on this question in the intervening decades.

 

Sholto Byrnes is a Contributing Editor to the New Statesman
New Statesman
Show Hide image

Quiz: Can you identify fake news?

The furore around "fake" news shows no sign of abating. Can you spot what's real and what's not?

Hillary Clinton has spoken out today to warn about the fake news epidemic sweeping the world. Clinton went as far as to say that "lives are at risk" from fake news, the day after Pope Francis compared reading fake news to eating poop. (Side note: with real news like that, who needs the fake stuff?)

The sweeping distrust in fake news has caused some confusion, however, as many are unsure about how to actually tell the reals and the fakes apart. Short from seeing whether the logo will scratch off and asking the man from the market where he got it from, how can you really identify fake news? Take our test to see whether you have all the answers.

 

 

In all seriousness, many claim that identifying fake news is a simple matter of checking the source and disbelieving anything "too good to be true". Unfortunately, however, fake news outlets post real stories too, and real news outlets often slip up and publish the fakes. Use fact-checking websites like Snopes to really get to the bottom of a story, and always do a quick Google before you share anything. 

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.