William Franklin Graham Jr., best known to the world simply as Billy Graham, died at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on February 21, 2018. He was ninety-nine.
Graham was perhaps the world’s best known Christian evangelist. He supposedly provided spiritual counseling to every president from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Graham was a longtime vocal critic of secular humanism, and Free Inquiry magazine was the place to find ample criticism of Graham, especially during the 1980s.
In the Summer 1988 issue of FI, the editors challenged Graham, who was bringing one of his “crusades” to Western New York at the same time that FI was sponsoring the International Humanist and Ethical Union’s World Congress at the nearby University at Buffalo, to a debate. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Graham never took Free Inquiry up on the offer.
The following issue of FI, Fall 1998, ran excerpts from a television interview Woody Allen conducted with Graham in September of 1967. Among other things, Allen asked Graham his opinions on premarital sex and which sin is the worst. “If you wanted to find out which sin is the greatest,” Graham answered, “I would choose … idolatry … ‘Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.’” To that, Allen responded, “Doesn’t that seem to you to be an egomaniacal position?” Graham answered back, “Oh, no, God is perfect.” That just about sums up the evangelical position that Graham so embodied.
The staff and members of the Center for Inquiry and Free Inquiry will miss a worthy adversary.