The Emptiness of Atheism

The New Statesman has an interesting article by A. N. Wilson explaining his move from atheism to belief in God. Wilson is a well known English novelist and critical biographer who some years earlier had considered himself a Christian. So if you’re keeping score at home his journey has moved from Christianity to atheism and now back to theism of some sort.

What I found interesting were the issues that caused him to reconsider his atheism and return to belief in God. Here’s an example…

Watching a whole cluster of friends, and my own mother, die over quite a short space of time convinced me that purely materialist “explanations” for our mysterious human existence simply won’t do – on an intellectual level.

If there is no God and human beings are nothing more than a collocation of material substances, then the deep sadness that one feels at the death of a loved one is irrational. But when you are in the situation of watching someone you love die, it is impossible to deny that there is more to a person that the materialist acknowledges and that human beings have souls that live on beyond their physical bodies.

Here is Wilson again…

I haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising 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. Read Pastor Bonhoeffer’s book Ethics, and ask yourself what sort of mad world is created by those who think that ethics are a purely human construct. Think of Bonhoeffer’s serenity before he was hanged, even though he was in love and had everything to look forward to.

I know that there has been much debate over whether the atheist’s worldview gives a rational, consistent basis for morality. According to Wilson, a man who had been approved of by Dawkins and Hitchens, it is wrongheaded to believe that morality is simply a “human construct” as atheism advocates. Bonhoeffer could endure death because he had something greater to look forward to (being with God) than anything this world had to offer.

Then on the Q and A with Wilson…

Q: Do people like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins simply not get life?
A: I think on the whole that’s right, that clever as the professional atheists are, they are missing out on some very basic experiences of life.

Q: What’s the worst thing about being faithless?
A: The worst thing about being faithless? When I thought I was an atheist I would listen to the music of Bach and realize that his perception of life was deeper, wiser, more rounded than my own. Ditto when I read the lives of great men and women who were religious.
Reading Northrop Frye and Blake made me realize that their world-view (above all their ability to see the world in mythological terms) is so much more INTERESTING than some of the alternative ways of looking at life.

This last exchange reminds me of one of Peter Kreeft’s lines in defense of theism: “Bach’s ‘B Minor Mass’ exists; therefore God exists.”

Read the article here and the Q and A here.

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