Born in Hitchin, Herts on 18 April 1930, the son of the Rev. Wilfred C. Billington, he served his National Service as a pacifist in agricultural work. He was accepted as a probationer in 1949 and graduated from Handsworth College in 1952. A born rebel, his rejection of the idea of a personal God was spelled out in The Christian Outsider (1971), which he saw as a sequel to John Robinson's Honest to God and was followed in due course by Religion without God (2001).The Conference of 1971 found him guilty of heresy and he was expelled from the ministry. He then taught widely as an enthusiastic and stimulating philosopher, from 1971 to 1995 at the Univrsity of the West of England and elsewhre, including an exchange year, 1984-85, at Chicago State University, where his atheism aroused the hostility of fundamentalist students.
In later years his views were tempered by an interest in existentialism and eastern philosophy. He was a columnist for the Guardian, describing himself as 'an official Christian heretic'. He died of throat cancer on 1 September 2012.