Ed Brayton

Via fellow FtB blogger The Bolingbrook Babbler, I was sad to learn that Ed Brayton had died. I first got to know him when he reached out to me in 2012 to say that the FtB community wanted to invite me to join the group. At that time, I had been blogging since 2005 on the blogging platform set up by my university to encourage faculty, staff, and students to take up this practice.

I accepted his offer and have been here ever since. He was very helpful in helping me get settled in and working through the initial problems. I met him in person just twice, the first time at a conference organized by freethinkers in the Pittsburgh area and the second when the Cleveland freethinkers invited him to give a presentation. He was as genial and friendly in person as he seemed to be from my online interactions with him.

The bloggers here at that time were a friendly and supportive but feisty and opinionated group and as is often the case with creative and passionate people, there were conflicts among them in the email backchannels behind the scenes that would sometimes get very heated. Ed would try to smooth things over but I could see him getting increasingly frazzled at what he saw as storms in teacups. At some point, I forget when, he announced that dealing with these conflicts was affecting his health and that he was leaving and shifting his blog Dispatches From the Culture Wars over to Patheos. That was the first inkling that I had that he some serious health issues. Some time later other bloggers left too, some as a group to start The Orbit to be replaced by new ones. Online communities tend to be more fluid in their composition than those in the physical world.

I lost touch with Ed after he left and according to his last blog post, he had decided to go into hospice care earlier this month so as to end his life painlessly. His post, short and to the point as always, is a graceful statement about the end to a life spent fighting the good fight for social justice and skepticism. It is a poignant piece that I recommend that you read. The hundreds of warm and affectionate comments reflect the high esteem in which he was held.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I do not know the details of Ed’s disease, but I suspect he would be alive if he had lived in any of the other insustrialized countries, with affordable universal health care.
    I used to log in to his blog first thing before other sites.
    It feels like having a burning crater inside.

  2. jenorafeuer says

    I don’t know the details either, but Ed had commented along… related lines, certainly implying that he would have received better and more regular care elsewhere with less risk of bankruptcy, and that Republican attempts at defunding the Affordable Care Act were pretty much existential threats because there was no way he could get private health insurance any more.

  3. Holms says

    Yes, many of the health updates he gave included references to treatments that were out of reach due to the cost. Other nations would have kept him alive.

  4. OverlappingMagisteria says

    I believe he once mentioned that he had what Bernie Mac had, which I’m looking up… was sarcoidosis -- inflammation that often attacks the lungs. And yes, he often wrote that our healthcare system would likely kill him.

  5. Silentbob says

    At some point, I forget when, he announced that dealing with these conflicts was affecting his health and that he was leaving and shifting his blog Dispatches From the Culture Wars over to Patheos.

    That would be just over five year ago

    So why am I leaving? Also omnipresent since the start of FTB, as I’m sure you well know, has been controversy. The bloggers here have often gone on crusades and launched battles, most of them necessary and justified. But along with that has come a great deal of drama and stress. I’ve endured several threats of lawsuits against me as the owner of the network over the words and actions of others. I’ve had continual demands that I do something about this or that blogger, that I throw them off the network or censor them. I’ve been caught in the crossfire of a great many fights, continually taking shrapnel in battles that I wasn’t even involved in.

    I believe it has to some degree impeded my ability to engage in important activist projects by making some people reluctant to work with me because of all that controversy. That frequent stress has also begun to affect my health. I have two autoimmune disorders that are triggered by stress and I have come to the conclusion that it would be better for my health, both physical and mental, to get out of the crucible and be responsible only for myself and my own words and actions.

    Let me also make absolutely clear what this is not about. For the denizens of the slymepit and the far too numerous anti-feminists that are unfortunately part of the broader atheist community, do not think for one second that this is any kind of victory for you and your vile ilk. Do not think for one second that this has anything to do with me moving away from important fights for social justice. I remain absolutely committed to fighting for equality and justice for women, for the LGBT community, for the black community, and anyone else who finds themselves targeted by bigotry wedded to power. Social justice is what animates me, what drives me, and that is not going to change. So if you have any plans to crow about this, I urge you instead to, quite frankly, go fuck yourself.

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