Is God Dead?
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Is God Dead?" was an April 8, 1966, cover story for the news magazine Time. A previous article, from October 1965, had investigated a trend among 1960s theologians to write God out of the field of theology. The 1966 article looked in greater depth at the problems facing modern theologians, in making God relevant to an increasingly secular society. Modern science had eliminated the need for religion to explain the natural world, and God took up less and less space in people's daily lives. The ideas of various scholars were brought in, including the application of contemporary philosophy to the field of theology, and a more personal, individual approach to religion.
The issue drew heavy criticism, both from the broader public and from clergymen. Much of the criticism was directed at the provocative magazine cover, rather than the content of the article. The cover - all black with the words "Is God Dead?" in large red text - marked the first time in the magazine's history that text with no accompanying image was used. In 2008, the Los Angeles Times named the "Is God Dead?" issue among "10 magazine covers that shook the world".
The magazine cover also entered the realm of popular culture: in a scene from the 1968 horror movie Rosemary's Baby, the protagonist Rosemary Woodhouse picks up the issue in a doctor's waiting room.
In 1966, Otto Fuerbringer had been editor of the news magazine Time for six years. He helped to increase the circulation of the magazine, partly by changing its rather austere image. Though a conservative himself, he made the magazine focus extensively on the counter-culture and the political and intellectual radicalism of the 1960s. A best-selling 1964 issue, for instance, had dealt with the sexual revolution. Already in October 1965 the magazine had published an article on the new radical theological movement.
The April 8, 1966, cover of Time magazine was the first cover in the magazine's history to feature only type, and no photo. The cover - with the traditional, red border - was all black, with the words "Is God Dead?" in large, red text. The question was a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche's much-quoted postulate "God is dead" (German: "Gott ist tot"), which he first proposed in his 1882 book The Gay Science.