Another Prominent Atheist De-De-Converts

A.N. Wilson -- a noted British writer and journalist -- grew up in the Christian faith. In the 1980s, he deconverted, announced his atheism and published a pamphlet, Against Religion. He also authored critical biographies of Jesus, Paul, and C.S. Lewis. In an April 2008 article in the New Statesman, however, A.N. Wilson explains "Why I Believe Again."

Wilson recounts the initial joy he found in the certainty of atheism. A certainty that had eluded him as an adult Christian. He rubbed elbows with New Atheists such as Dawkins and Hitchens, reveling in being in line with the sophisticated intelligentsia of his time. But Wilson realized that he is a doubter by nature, not just anti-religious, and began to question the certainty of the atheists. Yet he struggled to cling to his new-found atheism much as a fragile Christian doubter might:

This creed that religion can be despatched in a few brisk arguments (outlined in David Hume’s masterly Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion) and then laughed off kept me going for some years. When I found myself wavering, I would return to Hume in order to pull myself together, rather as a Catholic having doubts might return to the shrine of a particular saint to sustain them while the springs of faith ran dry.

Ultimately, Wilson came to see that materialism was subject to doubt too and that it failed to explain important aspects of reality, such as love, language, morality, and even music. Wilson has come back to believing that "we are spiritual beings, and that the religion of the incarnation, asserting that God made humanity in His image, and continually restores humanity in His image, is simply true."

It is a worthwhile read.


CyberKitten said…
Sounds like he's *really* confused......

I wonder how long we will need to wait until he de-de-de-converts.....
What a boring, depressed, colorless atheist he must have been. The atheists he knew sounded similar or maybe he was projecting.

If believing in God makes him happy, then that's fine by me. He certainly doesn't sound happy.
CyberKitten said…
I've just read the NS article. What a *strange* so-called Atheist he was..... Clearly he didn't understand his own beliefs (or lack thereof).
J.L. Hinman said…
I think you two are being too hard on this guy. I was a de-de converter at one time. It's easy to seem confused when you are searching. This is over several years period of his life.

why be certain if your certainty is only grounded in agreement with others and intellectual ideas that can change or be disproved? That goes for both sides.

Certainty is only valuable when it comes from some life transforming experience (which hu, you know, mine does) ;-)
I don't care what he believes I just don't see any joy there.

the only thing I'm certain of is the fact that I am uncertain.
J.L. Hinman said…
You should read Keirkegaard. He has this long passage about how no one would think he's Joyful but he has total joy writing his works.

If you read them that's reinforced that you can't see any joy in them. I can't. Yet he claimed it was there.

but he then again he was from Denmark. You know, the frozen waste land of the north, keep stuff to themselves and all.
Layman said…
Odd, but it seems to me that a point of A.N. Wilson is that he is regaining his ability to experience joy in life again.
Matthew said…
Reminds me of van Inwagen who wrote that he took comfort in the problem of evil as an atheist.
JayKTX said…
Sounds to me like he is finally in touch with Reality. Good for him!
adude said…
"Clearly he didn't understand his own beliefs (or lack thereof)."

LOL! That's some funny stuff. All you guys criticizing his atheism, have to remember that there is supposedly no structure to atheism.

If you're morose, there's an atheism for you. What you are as an atheist, after you disbelieve in God is supposedly up to you.

If you imply that there is a resolution for all this, then you are implying there is more to a structured atheistic view, not just the default lack of belief.

I always suspected that there was not a lot of thought in big-tent atheism, it just helps dodge a bunch of questions if you constantly assert that yours should be the default position. Now, I can see you guys don't understand it anymore than I do.

Thanks for that laugh, O facile thinkers.
Thanks for the insult, adude, very loving of you.
adude said…
Hey, if you're a facile thinker, God love you, you're a facile thinker. Not everybody was cut out for critical analysis, and I recognize that. Which is another reason that I dislike the common atheist reason-is-the-only-thing-that-matters, non-intellectuals-are-should-be-marginalized type of diatribes at the people I love, whether or not they think I put on airs or dabble in the danger zone.

It's not really an insult. And it's an assessment I'll take back, if you make a strong case for how one misunderstands a free-form lack?

I'd venture it's projection. Christians are nothing because they're not all fact-masters, thus I am nothing if I can't best a Christian. So it fits into that common characteristic that you should confuse an assessment with an "non-loving" insult.

Nobody on American Idol likes being told they can't sing either.

It has something to do with understanding complement sets that I have had a good chuckle at atheists banking so much on the big dodge.

I know there are atheists out there that can think. I don't replicate the common atheist prejudice that nobody on the other side of the issue has a brain. So if you read that in me, you might be projecting.

I could sit down and have a beer with most atheists. I work with atheists and Hindis and Muslims and a Janist, and nobody knows me as the guy with the pamphlets.

I mean, I'm hoping you see the non-sequitur in the idea that because I think the central definition of atheism, repeated-and-repeated doesn't do that much, and when it is within grasp of somebody to see that it doesn't do that much, somebody makes a facile statement along the lines of "he must have misunderstood the lack in atheism" a lack that you can't examine for propriety, because there's nothing there--that shows they are not only not thinking--but almost avoiding thinking--that I pronounce on this assessment, that I'm "not loving".

Oh well, you have a lovely singing voice as well? I'd hate to have you think I'm judgmental. :)

Negatives don't buy much real estate. It was recognized by Rudolph Carnap of the Vienna School of Logical Positivism, in his original essay, when he said that knowing "not" does not help us know what is. Even though he was a Godless atheist, there's no doubting that he was right. It basically boiled down to a statement that he couldn't commit to that only positive statements could be true. That would make the logical operator NOT basically meaningless, and he'd already committed to the rules of Logic as having meaning.
Well, I'm not the one who said he was confused, and CK said that before reading the linked article.

Forgive me for not trying to earn your respect, I'm really not concerned with whether you find me in the same league you are in as a thinker.

Believe it or not, I don't come here to argue. I initially came here because I'm friends with Mr. Hinman.
adude said…
"Forgive me for not trying to earn your respect,"

And I'm not really about trying to get you to. Another dodge. You can't address that an assessment is not "loving" no matter how I lay it out. I answered that sufficiently.

You put yourself into the crowd that I was addressing, so I addressed you. I wasn't sure what you said that made you believe that I had addressed you. I was mainly addressing CK, although it could encompass you comment that he was "boring and colorless" as if atheism couldn't be about being boring and colorless--and I reiterate my central point of amusement has been an abiding suspicion that the central dodge of popular atheism didn't buy much, and it doesn't. All that was quite visible, and yet you chose a non-sequitur like how "loving" of a Christian I was.

In defending a laughable argument, you become a propagator.

Just as atheism doesn't a have to lead to Stalinism, it also does not have to lead to color or vivaciousness. And the best thing is that if the animate material theory is right, he's just elaborating on the genetic code that is the only thing that contain instructions for his makeup. As he may survive with the same likelihood as a colorful atheist, you have no basis to denigrate his makeup. You just need something to invalidate him. As if color were something more than an appreciated characteristic in similarly composed individuals.

This is the ubiquitous half-realization that is rife in popular atheist thought.

I apologize if I'm grating on you. But as a Christian, I can't afford people to make bad assessment of my character. That said, I don't care how loving you have divined that I am. I care about showing how unnecessary the conclusion is.
"You just need something to invalidate him."

You clearly don't know me. I simply made an observation that he seemed to have a dreary perception of life. I wasn't trying to invalidate him. Most of my best friends are devout Christians, so he if he wants to be one that's fine with me.

"I apologize if I'm grating on you. But as a Christian, I can't afford people to make bad assessment of my character."

Neither can I. Tell me, if "facile" is not insult, how about "stupid"? That too is an observation. I would never dream of calling you either, I'm pretty sure Jesus wouldn't as well. Why is it that "stupid is an ad hominem, but "facile" is not?

Seeing as love is the main component in Jesus' two greatest commandments, I hardly think pointing out when a Christian isn't exactly being loving is a non-sequester.
David B. Ellis said…
Wilson recounts the initial joy he found in the certainty of atheism.

Wow. Atheism is about certainty? Over twenty years as an atheist and I never knew it was supposed to provide certitude.

Ultimately, Wilson came to see that materialism was subject to doubt too....
Of course it is. That's why I'm a metaphysical agnostic rather than a materialist.

This so-called "prominent" double deconvert seems to have been clueless as a believer, clueless as a nonbeliever and, I suspect, is still rather clueless as a re-believer.
adude said…
"Wow. Atheism is about certainty? Over twenty years as an atheist and I never knew it was supposed to provide certitude."

Does it "provide" anything? So are you just supposed to accept that it "provides" nothing? Or does it somehow provide more than what it's supposed to be "about" --a default assumption about the lack of God or gods?

What does "over twenty years as an atheist" mean? It means that you have lacked a belief in God or gods for 20 years. As if to put punctuation to how little that means, let me quote Wilson: "... I underwent a 'conversion experience' 20 years ago". So if you have 20 years with atheist experience under your belt, so has Wilson. Unless you're willing to call Wilson a liar, saying that he secretly believed in God in those 20 years, then he lacked a belief as well.

It doesn't seem that atheism can provide mentoring to warn nascent atheists against enjoying seeming aspects such as certitude. So if someone was basking in the glow of a perceived certitude, then what are you to say about it in relation to the lack of God or gods? In fact, it would be a little more like group-think and a little bit less like "thinking for yourself" wouldn't it?

Plus, remember, not believing is supposed to be some sort of rational enema. It's supposed to clear the registers of the brain and make one instantly a more rational thinker. But if you can naively linger as a non-believer, there's no guarantee that you'll ever clear those registers.

First of all, as an atheist, I never self-described myself as "certain". I was a soldierly "skeptic". I was behaviorally certain and hungry for certainty, just not self-descriptively "certain". I would have agreed with anyone that "certainty" is a fool's errand. However, that last would feed the need for certitude. Just like your certitude that 20-years lacking something suggests that you know something about an essentially contentless principle.

So what were the clues that Wilson was supposed to pick up? And isn't it saying something that he was not clearly detected as "clueless" by such prominent non-believers as Dawkins and Hitchens?
Steven Carr said…
AN WILSON writes 'Of course, only hard evidence will satisfy the secularists, but over time and after repeated readings of the story, I've been convinced without it.'

As Layman says, it was a worthwhile read...
Steven Carr said…
Here is the source for the Wilson quote.

Wilson also writes 'The vast majority of media pundits and intelligentsia in Britain are unbelievers, many of them quite fervent in their hatred of religion itself.'

Well, you don't get to be a member of the intelligentsia for nothing, do you?

There are certain requirements - like being intelligent.

Wilson might be aghast that most intelligent people in Britain are unbelievers, but why does he write articles saying so?

Popular Posts