On finding atheism too simple

Alister McGrath explains what first excited him about Christianity.



Alister McGrath explains what first excited him about Christianity.


Well my own personal journey is that of a gradual movement from atheism to Christianity. And I think that one of the reasons I moved away from my early atheism was my realisation that just … it was just too simple, that actually it failed to do justice to the complexity of life. It was like what C. S. Lewis once called a glib and shallow rationalism, which actually failed to engage life’s complexity. And life is so complicated, you just cannot live with a simplistic philosophy which portrays everything as being black or white and fails to realise that real life is multiple shades of grey.

I think one of my main concerns in transitioning from atheism to Christianity was my growing realisation that atheism was not generative. What I mean by that is, it doesn’t excite you, it doesn’t open up new intellectual possibilities. I think when I grasped what Christianity was all about – I think I had a very bad misunderstanding of what Christianity was – when I saw what it really was, it kind of in a way opened up new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing reality. And I suddenly thought, this makes sense, this is exciting – and that was the end of my commitment to atheism.

Now let me emphasise, in moving from atheism to Christianity, I don’t rubbish atheism. Only some fool would rubbish an alternative viewpoint, it usually means they haven’t understood it. I respect atheism, but I do believe it to be inadequate. And to me Christianity, if you like, gives depth to what is otherwise a very simplistic, shallow vision of reality. And we need that depth if we’re going to be authentic human beings in this world.