Wilson entered Oxford on the path of ordination in the Anglican Church, but quit after the first year, and in the 1980’s came out as an atheist. In 1991 he published a pamphlet entitled Against Religion, and wrote other historical and fiction books critical of religion, including God’s Funeral: The Decline of Faith in Western Civilization (2000), his 2004 Jesus: A Life, which is critical of the historicity of the gospels, and his fictional piece My Name is Legion, a satire attacking both the British Press and the Anglican Church. But it seems that all those opinions may now be his FORMER positions on such matters.
However, in Why I Believe Again (April 2, 2009 edition of The New Statesman), Wilson discusses how he became an atheist and his “slow and doubting” return to faith. Regarding his initial loss of faith:
He discusses his elation at leaving a doubting, hesitant faith for the ‘sureness’ and ‘fellowship’ of intellectual anti-theists, and his new found camaraderie with Dawkins and Hitchens:
But his doubting nature soon got him doubting atheism itself. In fact, the creed that fails to take religion seriously seemed dishonest to him as well:
In an argument that seems to echo the Moral Argument for God, Wilson discusses the realization that atheism is bleak, and those he admired most from history, like Gandhi, Bach, and Beethoven, were men of faith:
Interestingly, while the problem of suffering had caused him to leave faith, the death of his mother and some close friends made him reconsider faith, since the materialist atheist view did not seem to address the complexity of existence and human situation at all:
But what really seems to have broken his atheist stance was not intellectual argumentation, but the common sense realization that the human intellect, language, and the beauty of music, just could NOT have evolved – nor could mere ‘collections of meat’ create all of this logic and beauty by chance evolution. He concluded that we ARE spiritual beings, and such beings had to be created.
No, the existence of language is one of the many phenomena – of which love and music are the two strongest – which suggest that human beings are very much more than collections of meat.
Again, though his thought process is somewhat heuristic and emotional, it mimics the classic intellectual philosophical arguments for the existence of God, as well as the claim by Paul the Apostle that all men should realize there is a God, just by looking at creation:
His summation of atheism is unique and interesting, stating that atheists’ root mistake is not in its assumptions about God, but about man.
My departure from the Faith was like a conversion on the road to Damascus. My return was slow, hesitant, doubting. So it will always be; but I know I shall never make the same mistake again. Gilbert Ryle, with donnish absurdity, called God ‘a category mistake’. Yet the real category mistake made by atheists is not about God, but about human beings. Turn to the Table Talk of Samuel Taylor Coleridge…Read the first chapter of Genesis without prejudice and you will be convinced at once . . . ‘The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’. And then Coleridge adds: “‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain
those last words.”