Antony Flew: Atheist Apostate to tell all in new book?

Did Antony Flew really leave his long-time atheist position and become a deist? And if so, why? After years of cryptic rambling and then a near media blackout, we’ll soon have some answers: Antony Flew’s latest book, documenting his conversion to theism, is set to arrive this November.

While some have tried to play down his importance, Flew is a significant figure in the history of atheism and philosophy, though very far from the “most notorious” as the book’s title claims (in fact, outside of some rather esoteric debates within academic philosophy ages ago, Flew is just not very well known). For most atheists, Flew’s conversion has been controversial less because of its ultimate significance and more because the whole matter has been downright confusing.

For starters, in 2001 and then again in 2003, rumors circulated that Flew had become a theist. Flew eventually swatted these rumors with a definitive essay entitled “Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!” Only a year later, however, he claimed that he had updated his position to sort of speculative deism based on doubts about the possibility of chemical origins of life.

Then, another turnaround: Flew seemed to reject many of the arguments that had led him to that point, saying that he felt he had been foolish and somewhat misled. Even so, Flew still claimed that he remained a deist, but declared himself too old to really consider or research the relevant subjects. When critics prodded him to explain the remaining justifications for his position further, he suggested that a forthcoming new edition of one of his classic books would finally explain his true position. But when it arrived in 2005… no such luck. Even more baffling, in 2005 he published an article called “My ‘Conversion” that bizarrely seemed to imply that he was still an atheist. Finally, in the face of increasing criticism over his cryptic arguments and even accusations of senility, Flew basically stopped talking about the issue altogether. (A more detailed summary of all the many confounding twists and turns in this saga is available from Richard Carrier, who corresponded with Flew for some time over this period)

In the last year or so, Flew hasn’t so much as finally explained his thinking as he has confirmed it in practice: by associating himself with the Intelligent Design movement. First he accepted an Intelligent Design award at a conservative evangelical university celebrating his conversion, and then signed a letter urging Tony Blair to start including ID in Britain’s schools.

It remains to be seen whether his reasoning in the new book will put him solidly in the ID camp or not (movement groupies are already claiming victory on this score), and exactly what his final reasoning will be. Interestingly, the second author listed on the book is Roy Abraham Varghese, one of the two figures that claim personal credit for “converting” Flew. Varghese himself usually shies away from most of the biological Intelligent Design critiques, though he seems sympathetic to their basic claims.

With evangelists and cranks from Kirk Cameron to Bill O’Reily citing Flew as proof of atheism’s ultimate intellectual failure, it will be interesting to see whether Flew’s conversion story can live up to the hype.

5 Responses to Antony Flew: Atheist Apostate to tell all in new book?

  1. Scientists and artists both are searchers for the Truth with a capital “T”. Both believe that endless indulgence in to every form of experimentation will reveal more of the truth to them, and consequently their experiential knowledge is then given to mankind via the personage of the “Truth Giver”. This is great for the ego.

    I too was negative toward any consideration of a supreme being that created everything and ruled over all, yet there are many scientists that often see that there is more the fact than can be explained except by some form of higher intelligence, and the artist often sees into the being of a person that goes far deeper than that person could possibly be, and into places that do not exist except for that the artist has seen them.

    What is most neglected in any of their experiments are the Spirit of God, the spirit of man and the spirits that abound upon the earth that deceive and war against man. Once all of these become recognized, then the ability of man to know things expands exponentially. It is then that the choosing of the right path is most critical. Which do you choose to have influence over your life? Man really has little or no conception of what is truly Holy, but by the Holy Spirit of the Living God these things can be revealed and with the gifts of wisdom and understanding there comes a knowing that exceeds mans’ perceptions and opens the door into the Supernatural of the supreme being, God.

    God is conversive, although not everyone hears his voice. His Spirit is the Revealer, and in so many ways that we do not often give credence to his work, his showing off of his knowledge, his plan, his timing, and his love. It is written, “God is Spirit”. It is written, “God is love”. It is written, “Love never fails”.

    Let the Spirit of the Sovereign God come upon you.

  2. Bad says:

    I don’t think your hostile psychoanalyzing of scientists holds much water. Scientists tend to be humbled by what their studying, and well aware of the limits of knowledge: they very deliberately DON’T capitalize truth. And non-believers don’t think of anything as a “Truth Giver” in the sense you imply. I’m endlessly amused that people who spend their time running around insisting that they know all the core ultimate secrets of existence better than anyone else (because they just do!) could actually accuse anyone else of acting on a drive to stroke their “ego.”

    If you are going to insist that there are various spirits running around doing things though, then you are going to have to provide some reason to believe so, rather than just telling people that they aren’t “recognizing” them properly. Why should I believe your story about the “true” secrets of reality over any other persons? I don’t see that your story does much to illuminate or inform anything, personally.

  3. […] take a look at the new book by Anthoy Flew, at the very least to help shed some final light on the long baffling saga of contradictions, ambiguity, retractions, re-retractions, and so on. But while I haven’t had a chance to check it out in the bookstore yet, hearing that it […]

  4. It is also better to take the plane or the train for lengthier trips such as vacations. Main driver – The main driver of the car has a bearing on your car insurance quote and may vary from male to female. The insurance companies also require teenagers and senior citizens to have safer vehicles in order to qualify for better discounts.

  5. he is a good writer but the day has come for him to write better…

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