David Silverman has just reported that Edwin Kagin, the man who was the legal director at American Atheists, and my friend, has died.
He was 73.
While the “media” atheists get much of the attention, those close to the atheist movement know that most of the progress is achieved by the people working behind the scenes while people like me are smiling at crowds. These are people like Lyz Liddell, Amanda Metskas, and Edwin Kagin. Kagin was known for founding Camp Quest and for his legal work in defense of separation of church and state, but for a time he was also editor of the American Association of Mental Deficiency and National Institute for Mental Health project that created the Adaptive Behavior Scale, an instrument for the assessment of mental retardation. Edwin cared about mental illness, he cared about atheism, all because he cared deeply, passionately for humankind. Any amount of injustice or suffering was simply unacceptable in the eyes of Edwin Kagin.
Atheism will suffer for Edwin’s loss, but it can (and will) sustain this loss because atheism was greatly empowered by Edwin’s life. Edwin crammed more life into his 73 years than most people could manage in an eternity, if such fantasies were real. Someone will never step up to fill Edwin’s shoes – that task will take several people, and because Edwin dedicated his life to that 30% of millenials not claiming a religion statistic, several people will one day combine to continue Edwin’s work. In the meantime the rest of us will merely do our best, for Edwin. We will keep his passion for a better world alive. If there is anything that can be called a soul, anything that lives on after a person’s death, it is what they inspired those still living to do.
In that sense, Edwin Kagin will be with us for a very, very long time. I’m going to go finish crying now.