British intellectual A.N. Wilson, by his own admission, was a member for many years of the company of smug mockers of religion that dominates Britain’s chattering classes.
Not any more.
Writing in Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, Wilson recounts why he has abandoned the trendy atheism of which he was formerly a prominent apostle.
Raised a Christian, Wilson’s faith weakened as he matured and collapsed completely by the time he was in his 30s.
And by the 1990s, he had authored a book, titled Jesus: A Life, that denied the divinity of Jesus and the miraculous aspects of his birth, life and death.
“Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of Christianity?” Wilson writes in his Daily Mail article, Religion of hatred: Why we should no longer be cowed by the chattering classes ruling Britain who sneer at Christianity.
“Like most educated people in Britain and Northern Europe (I was born in 1950), I have grown up in a culture that is overwhelmingly secular and anti-religious. The universities, broadcasters and media generally are not merely non-religious, they are positively anti.
“To my shame, I believe it was this that made me lose faith and heart in my youth. It felt so uncool to be religious. With the mentality of a child in the playground, I felt at some visceral level that being religious was unsexy, like having spots or wearing specs.
“This playground attitude accounts for much of the attitude towards Christianity that you pick up, say, from the alternative comedians, and the casual light blasphemy of jokes on TV or radio.
“It also lends weight to the fervor of the anti-God fanatics, such as the writer Christopher Hitchens and the geneticist Richard Dawkins, who think all the evil in the world is actually caused by religion.”
But in recent years, Wilson found himself drawn back inexorably to the faith of his childhood, both by the personal witness of everyday Christians in his daily life and by the realization that religious believers, not atheists, are the ones who have reason on their side.
According to Wilson, “materialist atheism is not merely an arid creed, but totally irrational.
“Materialist atheism says we are just a collection of chemicals. It has no answer whatsoever to the question of how we should be capable of love or heroism or poetry if we are simply animated pieces of meat,” he continues. “The Resurrection, which proclaims that matter and spirit are mysteriously conjoined, is the ultimate key to who we are. It confronts us with an extraordinarily haunting story.
“J. S. Bach believed the story, and set it to music. Most of the greatest writers and thinkers of the past 1,500 years have believed it.
“But an even stronger argument is the way that Christian faith transforms individual lives — the lives of the men and women with whom you mingle on a daily basis, the man, woman or child next to you in church tomorrow morning.”