A. N. Wilson has been there, seen that, believed this, and rejected that. The British author, now in his sixties, has had an on, off, and on again relationship with Christianity. As a young man, he pursued theological training and potential ordination in the Church of England, but by the late 1980s he was openly atheist, writing a 50-page booklet, Against Religion (1991), that complained of the “intolerance”, “authoritarianism” and “spiritual bullying” of the papacy. (Many years ago, in the 1990s, I read his book on the Apostle Paul, and thought it was both well-written and quite wrongheaded in many key respects.) But, after three decades of skepticism, Wilson announced in 2009 that he had returned to Christianity, a decision that he discussed at length in this essay in The Mail.
For much of my life, I, too, have been one of those who did not believe. It was in my young manhood that I began to wonder how much of the Easter story I accepted, and in my 30s I lost any religious belief whatsoever.
Like many people who lost faith, I felt anger with myself for having been ‘conned’ by such a story. I began to rail against Christianity, and wrote a book, entitled Jesus, which endeavoured to establish that he had been no more than a messianic prophet who had well and truly failed, and died.
Why did I, along with so many others, become so dismissive of 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.
Now, in a long essay, “I’ve lived through the greatest revolution in sexual mores in our history. The damage it’s done appals me”, published in The Mail this past Friday, Wilson takes up the topic of his youth once again as he tears into the sexual revolution that began, as he marks it (fairly accurately, I think), in 1963:
I was born in 1950, 28 years after Larkin. And far from being ‘rather late for me’, the revolutionary doctrines of the Sixties were all readily adopted by me and countless others.
From being schoolboys who read Lady Chatterley under the sheets, to teenagers and young men who had the Rolling Stones reverberating in our ears, we had no intention of being stuffy like our parents.
The arrival of a contraceptive pill for women in 1961 appeared to signal the beginning of guilt-free, pregnancy-free sex. We were saying goodbye to what Larkin (in that poem) called ‘A shame that started at sixteen / And spread to everything.’
But if the propagators of the Sexual Revolution had been able to fast-forward 50 years, what would they have expected to see? Surely not the shocking statistics about today’s sexual habits in the UK which are available for all to study.
In 2011, there were 189,931 abortions carried out, a small rise on the previous year, and about seven per cent more than a decade ago.
Ninety-six per cent of these abortions were funded by the NHS, i.e. by you and me, the taxpayer. One per cent of these were performed because the would-be parents feared the child would be born handicapped in some way. Forty-seven per cent were so-called medical abortions, carried out because the health of mother and child were at risk.
The term ‘medical abortion’ is very widely applied and covers the psychological ‘health’ of the patient.
But even if you concede that a little less than half the abortions had some medical justification, this still tells us that more than 90,000 foetuses are aborted every year in this country simply as a means of lazy ‘birth control’. Ninety thousand human lives are thrown away because their births are considered too expensive or in some other way inconvenient.
The Pill, far from reducing the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, actually led to more.
When women neglected to take the Pill, there seemed all the more reason to use abortion as a form of birth control.
Wilson goes on to discuss the importance of marriage and how the decline of stable marriages (or any marriages at all) has caused more unhappiness among Brits. He then takes on some of the architects of this obvious breakdown in morals, marriage, and social order, writing, “But the Sexual Revolution was not, of course, all accidental. Not a bit of it. Many of the most influential opinion-formers of the age were doing their best to undermine all traditional morality, and especially the traditional morality of the Judaeo-Christian tradition, which has always taught that marriage is for life.”
Wilson’s conclusion is simple and emphatic: his generation, he emphasizes, was “wrong, wrong, wrong.”Read his entire essay on The Mail website.