A short story on a noted atheist’s long return back to Christianity.
A. N. Wilson’s conversion might be old news–but it’s profoundly emblematic of ex-atheists.
That means it’s useful to us here at Fallen and Flawed.
Let me show you what I mean.
Brief History of Wilson’s Conversion to Atheism
In April of 2009, this 59-year-old English writer rediscovered his faith.
A faith he formerly denounced in his late 30s.
Legend has it that Christopher Hitchens–during dinner with Wilson–probed the writer:
So – absolutely no God?
Nope, I was able to say.
No future life, nothing ‘out there’?
No, I obediently replied.
And that creedless catechism sealed it. Wilson could officially declare: “At last! No more silly talk about the incarnation. Jesus’ resurrection. The afterlife.”
He was done with that load of baloney. That nonsense.
But there was just one thing. He couldn’t shake the sense that there was more to life than just material.
There’s More to Religion Than Argument
Skeptical to the core, Wilson even struggled with his non-belief. And when he did–just like a devout saint cracking open the New Testament–he brought down his copy of David Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.
But even the monarch of anti-supernaturalism and his literature couldn’t keep the doubts at bay.
What Wilson found was that after the novelty of his dramatic abandonment of faith wore off, he felt bleak and muddled more than ever. Religion wasn’t about argument alone. Religion embraced the whole person. Body and soul.
Further Doubts Rise
Then there’s language. Darwinian materialists suggest that language evolved. Yet, Wilson asks:
Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind?
At the bottom of Wilson’s critique is this: Materialism can not adequately explain our complex world. Christianity, on the other hand, as a working blueprint for life, can.
Tell this to an atheist and you’ll get a blank stare. Or a sweeping, scaled-down explanation that demonstrates one thing: They don’t understand what they’re talking about.
Bold assertion. But hear me out.
What Makes *Truly* Useful Parenting Advice
Long ago I didn’t have children.
Yet, I freely gave parents child-rearing advice. Turns out, bad advice. The advice I shared pre-children amounted to a vigorous lack of understanding. A wholesale existential bankruptcy when it came to raising children.
Now that I do have children, I actually understand what it means to struggle with discipline or irregular infant sleep patterns.
What was the difference? I’ve looked a sobbing 5-year-old girl in the face and told her she couldn’t ride her bike. I’ve sat beside an infant soothing his restlessness well past midnight.
The Issue That Put a Tin Hat on Atheistic Ambitions
Interestingly enough, the issue at stake here was the same issue that ate at a unbelieving C. S. Lewis.
That issue is nothing more than morality.
Wilson’s acute crisis with non-faith happened while he was writing a book about Nazi Germany. At some time while writing he realized “how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood.”
Injustice simply didn’t make sense in a creedless society and ethics as a human construct was absurd.
Final [Somewhat Interesting] Thoughts
However, it was God’s Funeral that always most stuck out to me, a book that proclaimed the decline of faith in the western civilisation. In fact, Wilson went so far to say towards the end of the book that at the end of the 20th Century we were witnessing a robust decline in professions to the Christian faith.
What was surprising to Wilson, on the other hand, was that in the face of ferocious persecution, compelling objections and disruption within the ranks, it persisted.
“It” being God. The very Being, in the end, Wilson couldn’t escape.