Irving Kristol and those pearly gates

When a public figure dies, media outlets will often go looking for that person’s views about some of the old predictable categories: religion, God, death … and what comes after death. If a reporter digs up something pithy, it’ll often be included.

In noting the passing on Friday of neoconservative lion Irving Kristol (who died at age 89 due to complications arising from lung cancer), the New York Times did its fair share of digging on said subjects. Obit writer Barry Gewen left two small, circumspect paragraphs near the end of his story.

Mr. Kristol saw religion and a belief in the afterlife as the foundation for the middle-class values he championed. He argued that religion provided a necessary constraint to antisocial, anarchical impulses. Without it, he said, “the world falls apart.” Yet Mr. Kristol’s own religious views were so ambiguous that some friends questioned whether he believed in God. In 1996, he told an interviewer: “I’ve always been a believer.” But, he added, “don’t ask me in what.”

“That gets too complicated,” he said. “The word ‘God’ confuses everything.”

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