Ewww, Flew: Atheist Turned Theist is Much Ado about Not Much

I’ve been hoping to take a look at the new book by Antony 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 ultimately wasn’t really even written by Flew sort of puts a damper on things. In fact, it’s sort of a depressing spectacle, all told.

Plenty of giddy believers would like to write this off as atheistic sour grapes: we’re pissy because Flew converted. But that’s really not any sort of big deal: people convert and deconvert all the time. Plenty of intelligent people that I respect, in the prime of their intellectual acuity, believe in god (and not just Flew’s thin deism): so what difference does Flew make as an example?

What matters are the reasons and whether or not you personally think they hold water. Flew’s given reasons, or at least what his ghostwriter says are his reasons, are embarrassingly old-hat in atheism/theism debates (a bunch of fine-tuning and argument from incredulity blather). To my ear, they are not only unconvincing, but disappointingly amateur. There are plenty of theist philosophers who, while I still disagree with them, at least seem to me to have really considered the subject matter, surveyed the literature, and can defend these arguments in both detail and obvious awareness of common counter-arguments. Flew seems have had no time or desire to really engage in this debate, and instead seems to have passed on the task of laying out arguments to a rather third-rate huckster (Roy Varghese) and a circus of ghouls who are far more interested in crowing over a prize trophy than caring all that much about the philosophical details.

To be clear, Flew has no obligation at all to reconsider his newfound reconsideration, entertain anyones counterarguments, or anything else. Whatever his reasons for thinking deism is justified, I don’t see much point in anyone badgering him about it unless he himself really wants to debate the matter. It’s just sad to see people trading on his former reputation for the purposes of some rather cheap apologetics.

Ross Douthat, certainly no atheist, gets the same icky feeling from the book.

PZ Myers provides this embarrassing video of the Lee Strobel salivating over Flew that makes me even more disgusted and ever more happy to use the word “ghouls” for this case.

5 Responses to Ewww, Flew: Atheist Turned Theist is Much Ado about Not Much

  1. vinny says:

    This is not the first time that Strobel has exploited the elderly. In “The Case for Faith” he interviewed Billy Graham’s first partner in evangelism, Charles Templeton, who subsequently left the faith. Strobel triumphantly reported that he got the octagenerian Alzheimer’s sufferer to sob and admit that he “missed” Jesus/

  2. Craig says:

    Dear sir or mam,
    In the highly cranial world of atheist blogging, especially the “new atheism” which makes demands upon all persons to convert or die (instead of the old model of merely not being theist, explaining why, and being content to leave matters at that), I’ve found some very well written sites in the blog world.

    I am a Christian and though I am entirely unable to make a sound defense of my faith (I’ve tried several times and failed to really account for the significant arguments…I default into “child-like hearts” rhetoric) I feel it’s a duty of mine to at least expose myself to other individuals who are militantly opposed to any kind of theism, and take careful account of their capacities to express something more significant than just a passionate dislike of the theist crowd.

    As such, I have discerned that a common element of those sites which perform swimmingly in their endeavors (and in their capacity to attract traffic to the site) are those which are grounded in fundamentally strong representations of the English language. Good Grammar wins.

    In the spirit of encouraging others to strive for excellence I’d offer you this criticism – you make several spelling and grammatical errors in this post. I’d suggest investing a tad more time to re-read the post before finalizing it. You’re verbiage and commentary in general seem worthwhile, but I have to fight an inclination to disregard you based on a few errors. Trite? Perhaps, but I think all writers would agree with me that one’s subject matter is always better received when it is presented without grammatical errors.


  3. Craig says:


    {{Unlike many Christians, I make no qualification of an individual when encouraging them to strive for excellence in their own endeavors, because I derive mutual benefit from said excellence through their contributions to culture. Humans do well for each other (yes, atheists for Christians and vice versa) when they do excellently.}}

    Peace (again),

  4. Craig says:

    “You’re verbage”
    Bah. I render myself dumb by hypocricy.
    Needless to say, I’m an amateur critic, but I stumbled on your site from the wordpress frontpage.

    cheers anyway,

  5. Bad says:

    Welcome Craig.

    I’m not sure where you are getting the idea of militancy or intolerance to belief, at least in my case: I’m perfectly happy to live in a world with believers, as are virtually all atheists, who live with, work with, vote for, marry and befriend theists. I don’t think theists are anywhere near showing us the same tolerance and acceptance that we show you. I don’t hate religion, and it’s actually a matter of indifference to me if someone believes in a god. That doesn’t, of course, mean that I’m not critical of arguments and ideas I think are unjustified, deceptive, or otherwise: but I’m generally critical of these whether they come from believers or non.

    Nor, I must admit, have I encountered a substantial number of actual, non-tongue-in-cheek “convert or die” atheists, even amongst the most strident of bloggers. Most atheists, new and old, do seem to be fitting quite neatly into the model of not being theists, and explaining why they are not. Some are nice, some are nasty, some satirical, some serious, but all are engaging in wordplay and debate, not armed combat. For some reason, however, these critique are often portrayed as some sort of violent uprising. I suspect that the reason for this portrayal is largely tactical: instead of actually addressing the substantive points that these critics of religion raise, it’s far easier to summon up images of nasty, brutish heathens. It goes without saying that I think this portrayal is largely unfair.

    As for spelling and grammar, I generally think I do just fine, considering how little time I have to blog these days. But if you’d like to play editor to help improve things around here, I’m more than happy to make any corrections you think are particularly pressing when you catch me flubbing my lines. On a quick read-through as per your suggesting, I see that a hasty changing of tense in the middle of composing this post indeed left me with some rather awkward omissions which I’ve now endeavored to correct. Thanks for the watchful eye.

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