Warren Allen Smith, author of 'Who's Who in Hell', has died

Warren Allen Smith, author of 'Who's Who in Hell', has died January 10, 2017

I was sad to learn today that Warren Allen Smith, a veteran US gay rights activist best known for his creation of a 1,237-page tome, Who’s Who in Hell: A Handbook and International Directory for Humanists, Freethinkers, Naturalists, Rationalists and Non-Theists, died peacefully at the age of 95.
I have been in regular touch with Smith for around five years, discussing possible subjects he might want to write for The Pink Humanist, which I edit on behalf of the the UK gay charity, the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT). During our frequent email exchanges, Smith – who participated in the Stonewall riots in 1969 – animatedly kept me abreast of his many activities in New York and remained remarkably active even after moving reecently into an assisted living facility.

Among the many tributes flowing in since news of his death broke yesterday was one from George Broadhead, a Warwickshire colleague of mine, who told me:

I never met Warren but communicated with him regularly when I was secretary of the UK Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA). For many years he contributed a regular ‘Stateside Gossip’ and ‘Gossip from Across the Pond’ column to Gay & Lesbian Humanist. This magazine was published by the Pink Triangle Trust and issued free to GALHA members. The PTT was founded in 1992 and is still going strong, as is its magazine. I am proud to have been included in Warren’s Who’s Who in Hell.

In an interview 16 years ago, Smith, who started the Variety Recording Studio, a major independent company in New York City in 1961 with his business partner and longtime lover Fernando Rodolfo de Jesus Vargas Zamora who died in 1989 – said he spent decades researching people who, like himself, either don’t believe in God, question God’s existence, or, at very least, are sceptical of all organised religions.
The first 50 years or so of Mr. Smith’s research constituted a labour of love, but after getting a computer around 1990, Smith began to think that maybe he had a book.
Lyle Stuart, longtime non-believer and notoriously anti-establishment owner of Barricade Books, agreed, and on July 10, 2000, his book was published and contained more than 10,000 names ranging from billionaire Warren Buffett to actors Paul Newman, Bruce Willis, and George Clooney.
His own entry describes him as a “roué and a sybarite”.
Smith said in his interview with Frank DiGiacomo:

I do think I’m a happy person. If you’re the member of an organised church group, you really have to have a guilt complex. You have to feel guilty about not loving God enough or not contributing enough money or not contributing enough to society.

Asked by DiGiacomo if he thought that his homosexuality had anything to do with his non-belief, Smith replied:

I’ve really thought about that, and I don’t honestly think so at all. I was in my late 20’s before I really knew I was gay, and by that time, I was already a humanist.

In his summer 2002 column for the Gay and Lesbian Humanist, Smith wrote:

‘And what do you do?’ Sir Ian McKellen asked. ‘I’m an author,’ I replied.
We were at the annual ceremonial of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the 250-member honorary group of notable American artists, writers and composers, which also includes 74 foreign members (e.g., Margaret Drabble, Thom Gunn, David Hockney). Presumably, Sir Ian thought I might be a member or a recipient of one of the Academy’s awards. The ceremonial, which I attend as a journalist, is not open to the general public. When I explained that I have written two books about people who have not been attracted to organized religion, he said with a smile, ‘Is anyone any more?’

When I mentioned writing for the present journal, Sir Ian expressed deep interest, asked how to subscribe and exchanged e-mail addresses. Not wanting to monopolize him, I started to leave but he eyed my 36-year-old black companion, Peter Ross, and brought him into the conversation, too.
How much longer can the Catholic Church continue? Sir Ian wondered aloud, commenting upon all the reports about priests sexually abusing children. He then turned to the subject of computers, and my companion and I talked about OS X, gigabytes and digital imaging.
It was only when I returned home that I realized I’d listed this incredibly handsome man in my Who’s Who in Hell (Barricade Books) as well as in my just-published Celebrities in Hell (Barricade Books), documenting that he is an atheist who considers Hell simply a theological invention.

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  • Let us be inspired by his good work to do good work.

  • Broga

    I have my own candidates for hell arising from experience. They are the people, almost always Christians and especially Roman Catholic priests, who campaign, with lamentable success, in preventing the relief of death to the suffering terminally ill.
    The wishes of the dying people and the distressed families are set aside by these meddling pests.

  • Brummie

    Being a blaspheming infidel kuffar, can I please be listed in the next edition of this book, or am I not famous enough?

  • barriejohn

    Brummie: Only “God” knows who is going to Hell – we can’t say, not even the Pope or Warren Allen Smith. And in any case, you might have a wonderful revelation on your deathbed and be “gloriously saved”, who knows? (People are ALWAYS “gloriously saved”.) Or you might even have an experience like this – “verified” by Christianity Today (Praise the Lord):
    I feel nearer to Heaven already!

  • andym

    And of course there’s also a long tradition of predestination in Protestantism. Doesn’t matter what you do when alive; your soul was marked for salvation or damnation long before you were born.

  • Stuart H.

    Only just catching up with this, and very sorry to read it.
    I only caught up with Warren’s later contributions to G&LH, and then Pink Humanist, but they were a lovely combination of historical and contemporary information, gossip and mischief. You could almost imagine his eyes twinkling as you read them.
    Hard act to follow, but I hope we’re all going to give it our best shot.

  • Matthew Carr

    Let us be inspired by his fearlessness to do good work. We may no longer be added to his volume by him but it’s a pretty good thing to aspire to.

  • barriejohn

    Hell is inside the earth. “Whether you believe it or not, it is a Biblical fact.”
    He’s quite right, of course. It is a “Biblical fact” – i.e. a fairy story.

  • Andy Armitage

    It was an honour to be among the first to read Warren Allen Smith’s column each quarter when I edited the print edition of Gay & Lesbian Humanist, since I was usually the first person it came to for editing. Not that it ever needed much editing as such, just tweaking to fit with house style.
    I found his writing informative, witty and interesting, and he always wrote with a twinkle in his eye. On a practical level, he was always on time with his copy and was aware of the magazine’s requirements. This made him an ideal contributor.
    His knowledge of arts and culture Stateside never ceased to amaze us at Gay & Lesbian Humanist, and we all enjoyed his material. In addition, there were some email exchanges when anything needed to be discussed, all of them friendly and often amusing. It was great working with him.
    I made it into his Who’s Who in Hell, too – not that there was much he was able to say about me, because I’ve not been as prominent or busy in the areas of gay rights, gay culture and humanism as many of those he did write about.
    On the day after 9/11 I emailed Warren to see how he was affected, knowing how close he lived to the World Trade Center, and he was quick to send us a piece about his experience of seeing the towers fall.
    Many have read Warren’s columns over the years, and many will miss them, and miss him.

  • barriejohn

    I’ve just come across the following; hilariously funny if you have a few minutes to spare. Apparently, God allowed him to live so long in order that he might have plenty of time to “repent” and avoid the horrors of Hell – hahahahaha!!!!!
    Warren Allan Smith, a renowned atheist who once wrote a book entitled “Who’s who in Hell”, has, himself, passed into that dreadful place at the age of 96 (unless, of course, he came to his senses and repented before he died – see Luke 23 v 40-43).
    I don’t need to go into the details of his appalling lifestyle and the perversions he was involved in, nor will I seek to glorify his vileness; the Bible tells us that we shouldn’t go into such details (Ephesians 5 v 12). Suffice to say, that he now believes in the God whom he spent his life denying; indeed, just as God had a “little chat” with George Michael (see earlier post), so He will, by now, have had a similar encounter with Mr Smith.

    Well, it cheered me up this morning!

  • Stephen Mynett

    It always amuses me how certain people like Hutton and other thickoes are about things, while brilliant scientists, despite being right continue to try to find something wrong with their research just to be sure.

  • barriejohn

    Stephen Mynett: It is impossible for we mere mortals to understand the mind of God.
    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
    But, like all those prattling prelates wheeled out after any great disaster, Bob knows just what God thinks! Amazing, isn’t it, that the inscrutable, unknowable creator of the universe should reveal his innermost thoughts to some little keyboard warrior in Kent?