Fred Phelps is dead.

Local news reports and the Phelps family confirms that last night Fred Phelps resigned his membership to the being alive club.  This morning Matt Dillahunty pretty much put my feelings into words:

Once upon a time, he was a lawyer who fought for equality (look it up). He created an insular, hateful, abusive little cult that focused on spreading a vile message that has emotionally scarred many people – including his own children.

In a perfect world, this wouldn’t have happened. In a decent world, he’d have had no followers and been largely ignored. We don’t live in those worlds.

Fred reminded us all of both the preciousness and the price of free speech and provided many opportunities to teach people about this subject while demonstrating, quite clearly, the cost of religious doctrine when taken literally and to the extreme.

I’m very sorry that his family is suffering this loss. In particular, my heart is pained for his son Nate Nathan Phelps, who I love and respect along with the others who escaped Fred’s church.

I won’t be picketing and I hope others don’t. I won’t be celebrating or mourning.

There are lessons to be learned from a life focused on bigotry, ignorance, hatefulness and abuse and I hope everyone learns from this. In particular, I hope that this marks the beginning of the end of Westboro Baptist Church.

Mostly, though, I’m torn – and I always have been, when it comes to Fred. As much as I’d like to be happy that he’s dead, he’s been irrelevant for many years and the world continues to change and improve despite his efforts. I’m glad he’s no longer able to cause harm…and I’m sad that, as far as I can tell, the bulk of his life was wasted. His ‘evil’ was in encouraging others to waste their lives at his side.

I won’t be wasting any of my life at his direction. I’ll continue to use him as a teaching example and I’ll continue to focus on making the world a better place…and continue to stand up against bigotry.

Some of you will celebrate. Some of you will dance. Some of you may picket. You have those rights. Fred knew all about rights…what he didn’t know was how to transcend those rights and the lizard brain and engage with humanity and reality in a way that was productive and positive.

I won’t mourn, or celebrate. I’ll just keep on living, which is something I think he failed to do, long before today.

If there is anything in Phelps’ death that can be called mercy, it’s that he won’t have the cognizance to realize there is no god who hates fags and no heaven in which Fred can reside.  That way Fred won’t realize he wasted the chance he had to live.

I imagine this will be the last thought I give that pitiful man.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.


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