Leading Atheist Philosopher Converts to Theism

Anthony Flew has been one of the leading atheist philosophers for some time now. His father was a Methodist minister, but he left Christianity and became an atheist at the age of 15. He is a Professor of Philosophy and has written well over a dozen books on philosophy and atheism. Over the years he has engaged in many debates with theists on the question of the existeince of God--always espousing the side of the atheist. Leadership U has a biography for him:
Professor Anthony Flew: D. Litt. (Keele) Casberd Scholar of St. John's College, Oxford. He received the John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy (1948). Professor of Philosophy in York University, Toronto. Professor and lecturer at various institutions including King's College, University of Aberdeen. He has held numerous academic positions including philosophy advisor for the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in London and visiting lecturer on behalf of the British Council to Poland, Burma, Thailand, Argentina, and Brazil. He is corresponding member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of the Claims of the Paranormal, Member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy, Member of the Academic Advisory Board of the Adam Smith Institute, Vice-President of the Rationalist Press Association, Member of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (1974-79), and Foundation Member of the Council of the Freedom Association. His writings include: God and Philosophy (Harcourt Brace & World, 1967); The Presumption of Atheism (Pemberton/Elek, and Barnes & Noble, 1976); and A Rational Animal (Clarendon, 1978); Professor Flew is generally regarded as the most influential contemporary representative of philosophical atheism.

But things change. Even atheists. Even the "most influential contermporary representative of philosophical atheism." (Richard Carrier of the Secular Web, who has been trying to downplay the possibility of a Flew deconversion, has to admit that Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up.").

Rumors that Flew was growing increasingly sympathetic to theistic ideas have floated around the internet for many months. Those rumors have been confirmed. In an interview with the Associated Press, Flew stated that he has concluded that scientific evidence -- akin to that espoused by the Intelligent Design movement -- has lead him to conclude that there is a God.

To be sure, Flew has not converted to Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. But he now believes that there probably is a higher intelligence, a being with intelligence and purpose, that created the universe. As Flew states in a new video being released, biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved." This makes it clear that Flew sees God's hand active not only in the big bang, but in the specific creation of life. In other words, a purely naturalistic Darwinism is insufficient to explain the existence of life. According to the AP, "He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life."

Skeptics are afraid to admit that a rational atheist could ever slide back towards a belief in God. I have seen murmers that perhaps Flew is getting old and simply afraid of dying (Flew is 81). This is just wishful thinking. Rational, informed, and intelligent people can and do believe in God for rational, informed, and intelligent reasons. Flew is now one of them. Furthermore, any fear of death Flew might have is not solved by his belief in God--he still does not believe that there is an afterlife.

This is rather exciting news. And a death knell to the notion that rationality, science, and intelligence cannot lead a reasonable person to a belief in God.


BK said…
For those looking for the AP story, it can be found here. I am personally not the least bit surprised at this development since, as I noted in an earlier blog, he has been hinting that he doubts the idea that evolution alone can explain life on earth. Personally, I think this is the inevitable conclusion that anyone who give ID a fair hearing must come to.
Anonymous said…
"""""""Skeptics are afraid to admit that a rational atheist could ever slide back towards a belief in God. """""

Even if that were true, this case does not demonstrate otherwise in that the "God" meant in this scenario is NOTHING like the one Flew is endorsing.

""""""This is rather exciting news. And a death knell to the notion that rationality, science, and intelligence cannot lead a reasonable person to a belief in God.""""""

At least one of those three (science) cannot lead anyone to God when used properly. But anyways, Flew, again, does not believe in your "God".

Omnipotence? Negative.
Omnibenelovence? Negative.
Omniscience? Negative.
Revealed? Negative.
Similar to Christian? Negative.
Intervenes w/ World? Negative.
Makes Miracles? Negative.
Is Personal? Doesn't know for sure.
Cares about and Loves You? Negative.
Are theological propositions testable? Negative.

Spinoza's God? Afirmative.
Layman said…
Since I never claimed Flew believed in "my" God, I'm not sure what your point is. Flew believes in a higher power, with intelligence and will, who created the universe and at least started life on earth. He believes this God can be known through the fine-tuning in the universe and the complexity of biological life on earth. In other words, a leading atheist philosopher has admitted -- rather bravely -- that those intelligent design apologetics are not only reasonable, they are persuasive.

And judging from BK's post, he's at least open to the idea of revelation.
Anonymous said…
No. What you claimed is "This is rather exciting news. And a death knell to the notion that rationality, science, and intelligence cannot lead a reasonable person to a belief in God."

As Flew wrote to Carrier:

"""but this is not at all the same as a proof of the existence of a spirit and all the rest of Richard Swinburne's definition of 'God' which is presently accepted as standard throughout the English speaking and philosophical world."""""""

You say "belief in God" and it obviously means somethign along the lines of a Swinburne definition, unless misleading most of your viewers is your intention because that is how they will understand God. Flew finds the "God" you envision to be more or less impossible.

Thus your statement really means "This is rather exciting news. And a death knell to the notion that rationality, science, and intelligence cannot lead a reasonable person to a belief in God unlike that of Christian theism with omnipotence, omnisciece, omnibenelovence and so on."

Its a death knell to nothing. It only has rhetorical force if you take it out of context. No one is losing any sleep over a deist God who has no relevance to any one of us, who is nothing like what probably 99% of the opulation thinks of when they hear the term "God".

As Carrier wrote in his update:

"Flew has now given me permission to quote him directly. I asked him point blank what he would mean if he ever asserted that "probably God exists," to which he responded (in a letter in his own hand, dated 19 October 2004):"

"I do not think I will ever make that assertion, precisely because any assertion which I am prepared to make about God would not be about a God in that sense ... I think we need here a fundamental distinction between the God of Aristotle or Spinoza and the Gods of the Christian and the Islamic Revelations."
BK said…
What you are missing, Anonymous (*sigh*), is that this we are now having a different discussion. We are no longer arguing whether God exists, but what type of God he is. The acknowledgement that there is a god (whatever his attributes) now changes the course of the discussion.

And Layman is right in many ways, but at least to this extent: Antony Flew was one of the leading expositors against the case for the existence of God because he did not believe it to be reasonable. He has now acknowledged that the evidence for a creator from scientific research (which is the focus of ID) has convinced him that it is not only rational, it is the most rational to his mind. He has abandoned a long held belief (which he has supported by many writings) that it is not reasonable to believe that God (or a god) exists. Thus, it is certainly true that his decision to adjust his thinking represents a blow, if not a death knell, to "the notion that rationality, science, and intelligence cannot lead a reasonable person to a belief in God."
Layman said…
BK is right.

See what a different discussion we are having now? And I'm sure that philosophers will be having with Flew. Okay, there is a God. What do we know about him? How do we know it? How does this God compare to the God of Christians?

And you skeptics think this is some sort of victory? That one of your leading philosophical proponents "only" believes in a God who created the universe, specifically created life on this planent, has intelligence and intent, and is known by the scientific evidence of intelligent design?

Talk about looking for a silver lining.

I think it is interesting that he singled out Gerard Schroeder and his work on Genesis. Schroeder is a Jewish physicist who argues that "the latest science and a close reading of the Bible are not just compatible but interdependent." And Flew is "very much impressed" with this argument? And Flew thinks "[t]hat this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation."

And you guys are seeking solace in such comments?

Nope. I'm still thrilled.
Anonymous said…
Heathen Dawn here.

I think Flew's change (not conversion!) is nothing to be excited about. Article on it on my website:



Popular posts from this blog

How Many Children in Bethlehem Did Herod Kill?

Where did Jesus say "It is better to give than receive?"

The Bogus Gandhi Quote

Discussing Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Exodus 22:18 - Are Followers of God to Kill Witches?

Revamping and New Articles at the CADRE Site

A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

Jewish writings and a change in the Temple at the time of the Death of Jesus

Tillich, part 2: What does it mean to say "God is Being Itself?"

The Folded Napkin Legend