A death to celebrate
Oh, come on. Phelps was not "misguided", he was evil. He did not waste his life, he spent it doing exactly what he wanted to do. Don't tell me he was brainwashed by a Christian upbringing. Millions of people grow up with that, and do not end up behaving like Phelps did -- his own son Nathan managed to become a good and humane person. Like all humans, Fred Phelps had free will and was fully responsible for his actions.
The capacity for hatred and anger is born in us for a reason. There are people toward whom those emotions are appropriate, even necessary. Fred Phelps was such a person. I'm reminded of the death of bin Laden three years ago, when normal people celebrated and hand-wringers whined about it. This is what happens when people become so hypnotized by abstractions and clichés that they lose touch with honest human feelings. Here's one atheist who gets it.
Did Phelps do any good at all? Some say he actually helped the cause of gay equality by giving the opposition a face so ugly that no one wanted to be associated with it. That's almost right. In an age of euphemism and mealy-mouthed language, his brutally straightforward evil showed what was behind the more mainstream enemy's façade of civility.