Ed Brayton, Influential Atheist Blogger, Dies at Fifty-Two

Julia Lavarnway

On August 10, 2020, Ed Brayton wrote a post on his Dispatches from the Culture Wars blog
titled “Saying Goodbye for the Last Time.” The post was to inform his readers that he had
decided, as he put it, “to end my battle to the death with death.” Brayton had long battled with
his health issues and decided to enter hospice care. There he hoped to “slip into the eternal abyss
in the next couple weeks.” Three days later, in the early hours of August 13, 2020, Brayton
slipped into that abyss. He was fifty-two.

Brayton was probably best known to the Center for Inquiry (CFI) family as the co-
plaintiff in the 2018 lawsuit CFI brought challenging Michigan’s marriage laws as
unconstitutional. (That suit was dismissed as settled this year, after the state’s new administration
under Governor Gretchen Whitmer reversed the opposition of previous governor Rick Snyder’s
administration to the recognition of Secular Celebrants.) Brayton, who lived in Grand Rapids,
Michigan, was very active with the CFI Michigan branch, often becoming involved in legal
matters that impacted the nonreligious of the state. He was an emeritus member of the CFI
Michigan Advisory Board.

Brayton spent several years touring as a comedian. He later, according to his blog, “tired
of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most
common outlet for the voices in his head.” As such, he soon became a leader in the atheist
blogosphere. He cofounded Freethought Blogs, a popular “atheist-plus” blog network. He also
cofounded The Panda’s Thumb, a blog defending evolution. At the time of his death, he hosted
his blog on the Patheos network.

Upon hearing of Brayton’s move into hospice, Clare Wuellner, acting executive director
of Foundation Beyond Belief, wrote a touching post remembering Brayton’s involvement in that
organization’s conference in 2014. In it she quoted Dale McGowan: “Ed pretty much ran the
conference. He … kept the trains running during the event.” By all accounts, that was Ed
Brayton in a nutshell. He kept a lot of trains running in the atheist/humanist sphere through his
writing, organization, and support—both monetary and temporal. He will truly be missed.

Julia Lavarnway

Julia Lavarnway is assistant editor at FREE INQUIRY, a columnist for the Secular Humanist Bulletin, and the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine.