An Atheist Who Wants Atonement: The Testimony of Human Nature
Questions for Ian McEwan
A Sinner’s Tale
Interview by DEBORAH SOLOMON
Published: December 2, 2007
Q: Your novel “Atonement” — the story of Briony Tallis, a novelist who tells a lie in her girlhood and hurts her older sister in a way for which she can never atone — has been made into a film. . . .
Q: It seems to me that the impulse to atone is a religious one, and yet you are a self-declared atheist.
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.