I've known Richard for many years, and frankly, I'm surprised it took him this long to snap. He was always much too delicate, emotionally, to safely lead the life of a public critic of religion. He was a brilliant writer and speaker in our cause, no doubt, and he rarely showed his private torment publicly, but every bit of unfair criticism from someone like James McGrath or Benny Hinn wounded him, all the more so as he failed in attempts to start a career as a tenure-track academic and as a televangelist. He felt taunted by their jabs. He shouldn't have. He should have been quite proud of his own unique career. And yet here we are this sad day. I think the final blow was Bart Ehrman's implicit ridiculing of Richard's supposed lack of academic credentials when he wrote in a recent Huffington Post piece that no REAL academics doubted Jesus' existence. (It hardly needs to be said that I'm worried about Bart too, as are many others of his good friends, what with his extremely erratic statements lately.) Last week Richard and I were having dinner with Jimmy Carter and Kate Capshaw. Out of the blue Richard put his head in his hands and began to sob. "I'm a real academic! I AM!" he shouted, startling the other patrons at Spago. And of course Jimmy, Kate and I know his is, and we all said so, and that Ehrman was being ridiculous, but Richard is the kind of tortured insecure soul who can only believe the bad things people say about him.
And now at last he's lost that brilliant, fragile mind and "given his life to Krishna." (His words.) Now instead of hanging out at Spago and Jai he'll be hanging out at LAX. You can read his sad announcement here.