Lew Wallace was a Civil War General, a Governor, a lawyer, and a diplomat, but he is most remembered for his book, Ben Hur Tale of the Christ.   It was a best seller; established the literary form known as the "historic novel"; and was made into more than one famous movie.
Lew Wallace
 
 

The following quotes are from the Lew Wallace Autobiography.

1875
"At that time, speaking candidly, I was not in the least influenced by religious sentiment. I had no convictions about God or Christ.   I neither believed nor disbelieved them.
The preachers had made no impression upon me. . . . . . . . . .
Yet when the work was fairly begun, I found myself writing reverentially, and frequently with awe."

1876
"It is possible to fix the hour and place of the first thought of a book precisely enough: that was a night in 1876."

November 12, 1880
The official publishing date of Ben Hur Tale of the Christ