The New York Times never declared that God is dead. With such headers it was reporting on the theological faction from the sixties briefly discussed below.
The 1960s brought radical thinking about God to the forefront. Academics in universities and seminaries were pushing the envelope to the next stage. Judeo-Christian influence had dispelled and dispersed the ancient pantheons of Pagan gods and they now wondered if we needed any god at all.
Gabriel Vahanian, a professor of theology at Syracuse University, wrote in The Death of God (1961) that the "essentially mythological world view of Christianity has been succeeded by a scientific view of reality". This group of radical theologians were called the "God is Dead" theologians by the popular press. As one might expect the public was outraged at the thought their religious leaders may not believe in God.
An article published on April 8, 1966 in Time magazine entitled, "Is God Dead?", was written by John T. Elson the religion editor for Time magazine. He had been working on the article for months, examining the radical new ways of thinking about God. It became one of the most famous Time covers. The article covered the basic ideas circulating at the time which discussed the age old conflict between religious and secular ideas in Western culture. The article introduced William Hamilton, a tenured professor at a divinity school, as the leader of a new school of religious thinking. Hamilton and his associates believed the concept of "God" had run its course, civilization now operated on secular principles and churches should help people to learn to care for each other unconditionally with no illusions of going to "heaven" when they die. Hamilton received death threats when the article was published. He died on February 28, 2012 at the age of 87.
During that time, in 1966, John Cogley, the religious news editor at the New York Times, wrote an article about the "God is Dead" controversy/phenomenon as did many other writers of that period. Unfortunately the article cannot be found at this time. See link provided below.
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