Blogger and researcher Jim Fletcher has worked in the book publishing industry for 15 years, and is now director of the apologetics group Prophecy Matters. His new book, "Truth Wins," provides important analysis of Rob Bell and his Emergent friends.More ↓Less ↑
Redemption often travels a path of twists and turns. Much of William Murray’s life has been like that.
Forever linked with his mother, the famous atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Murray’s story has nonetheless opened up into a glorious future, one that inspires the rest of us.
As a pawn in his mother’s evil machinations against expressions of Christian faith in public schools, William Murray found the inner strength to leave her warped worldview behind and become a born-again Christian.
William Murray converted to Christianity many years before his mother’s 1995 disappearance (she and another son were later discovered to have been murdered by a former employee of the American Atheists), and needless to say, mother and son never again had a relationship.
I’ve met William Murray on a couple of occasions, at conventions, and am impressed both with his biblical worldview and his gentle demeanor. His book, “My Life Without God,” reflects that, and is such an absorbing read, I finished it in one sitting.
He begins his story with a wrenching scene in the family kitchen. At eight years of age, William hears a blood-curdling argument between his mother and grandfather. When it is over, the old man is bleeding and Madalyn has run from the room screaming.
This was young Bill’s life.
And there was an evil thread running through the family story; in 1918, pregnant with Madalyn, her mother jumped from a second-floor window. The baby was not harmed, obviously, but the irrational behavior and rage of William Murray’s grandmother is indicative of the lifestyle the family had maintained for generations.
Murray relates this, though: “In adolescence my mother became somewhat religious, perhaps in part because of some peer relationship. In her high school yearbook, she listed her goal as serving God for the bet¬terment of man. Later she would claim to have been an atheist from about age six.”
One can almost feel young William Murray’s pain as he is used by his mother to effect a shocking change in American life.
Listen to him describe briefly what it was like to be the object of rage from classmates: “‘Hey, Commie,’ yelled a boy who was shorter but more solidly built than I. ‘You think you’re gonna change this place just to suit yourself?’
“I was about to answer,” Murray writes, “when I was shoved hard from behind and fell to the ground. The boy and two others had sneaked behind me and now had me in a spot.”
When he reached adulthood, William learned that his “fame” followed everywhere.
At one point, his mother said a curious thing to him, indicating that not only was she completely self-absorbed, but that she never thought about what her infamy did to her son: “That’s what you think. I know what persecution is like. You don’t know what I go through because of who I am.”
To which her glum son replied: “No, Mom, I don’t. I only know what I go through because of who you are.”
Murray has the unusual ability to write like a reporter but inject the right amount of feeling and emotion into his story. It’s part of what makes “My Life Without God” a riveting read. The reader can actually feel part of the story, in the sense of an observer waiting (impatiently!) for young William Murray to emerge from the horror of his mother’s life.
And then he does.
Just before Christmas, 1979, Murray read a book called “Dear and Glorious Physician.” Murray identified with the main character, and after a torturous path to find truth, he … well, I won’t spoil for you the story of his dramatic conversion, but believe me, it’s well worth it.
Of all the personal conversion stories I’ve read, I believe Murray’s is the most compelling, for several reasons: the obstacles to overcome; his mother’s satanic worldview; problems with alcohol. “My Life Without God” is a glorious tale of redemption, and would be especially meaningful for that person in your life who is lost and in despair.
William Murray’s life is a triumph. So is his book!