R.I.P. Paul Kurtz. We all owe you a great debt of gratitude for making the world a better place. You will be missed.
It’s customary to say nice things about the dead, especially right after they die.
Still, atheists pride themselves on their unflinching honesty, even when it hurts. As Richard Dawkins so charmingly put it:
If it's true that it causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it's true, and you'd better live with it.
So is Shermer’s eulogy true? Not only do I see no evidence that Kurtz will be missed–I see no evidence that he was missed even when he was still alive. Indeed, it’s pretty clear to me that time had passed him by long before he died. He was just another old man, filling time, waiting to die.
The intellectual momentum of the infidel movement had clearly shifted to the younger generation. And even among the old guard, the atheist thinkers whom Christian philosophers took seriously were guys like Antony Flew, J. L. Mackie, and William Rowe–not Paul Kurtz.
For that matter, did he leave the world a better place? Even from a secular standpoint, his impact was fairly negligible.
Likewise, it’s been less than a year since Christopher Hitchens died. Honestly, who even notices? Absence is very different than presence. Once you’re gone, it’s only a tight little circle who really miss you.
Nietzsche was right about atheism. In a godless world, it does come down winners and losers. Young and old. Rich and poor. Healthy and sickly. Powerful and powerless.
A godless world is a shouting match in which everyone is screaming for attention. The prize goes to the loudest.
And that’s no contest. The young bucks oust the aging bucks. In about three decades, Richard Carrier will be where Kurtz was in his dotage.