Ian McEwan

On this date in 1948, novelist Ian McEwan, son of a Scottish army officer, was born in Aldershot, England. McEwan spent most of his childhood in East Asia, Germany and North Africa, returning to England in his teens. He attended the University of Sussex and the University of East Anglia, becoming the first graduate of writer Malcolm Bradbury’s newly introduced creative writing course.

McEwan’s novels, which have a dark edge, have earned him worldwide critical acclaim and numerous awards. He’s also written several screenplays, a stage play, children’s fiction and an oratorio. He’s a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Royal Society of Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, as well as being a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association.

McEwan speaks openly on his atheism and was featured on Richard Dawkins‘ series on religion, “The Root of All Evil?”(2006). His freethought views are also expressed by some of his characters. Henry Perowne, in Saturday, defines the supernatural as “the recourse of an insufficient imagination, a dereliction of duty, a childish evasion of the difficulties and wonders of the real, of the demanding reenactment of the plausible.”

In an interview in The New York Times Magazine (Dec. 2, 2007), McEwan, musing about Atonement’s character, Briony, said: “Yes, I am an atheist, and probably Briony is, too. Atheists have as much conscience, possibly more, than people with deep religious conviction, and they still have the same problem of how they reconcile themselves to a bad deed in the past. It’s a little easier if you’ve got a god to forgive you.”

He married Penny Allen in 1982. They had two sons and divorced in 1995. McEwan married author and journalist Annalena McAfee in 1997.

Freedom From Religion Foundation