Anthony Flew: Atheism Doesn’t Fly

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Some time ago, we reported the about-face of one of the most vocal proponents of atheism in modern times. British philosopher Anthony Flew announced that he had grave misgivings about his stance of many decades; looking at the evidence led him to believe that only a Supreme Deity could explain the origins of life.

There were denials, and denials of the denials.

The matter appears to have been settled. Flew indeed has found G-d, and he was indeed influenced by Orthodox scientist Gerald Schroeder. The details, for those who need them, can be found in a recent treatment in Christianity Today.

The conversion of the aged skeptic has been met with… skepticism. No less of a great theological light than Jay Leno pronounced the verdict of many. “Of course he believes in G-d now. He’s 81 years old.”

Leno clearly had the example of several of the philosophical ancestors of the pre-conversion Flew in mind. Several of the eighteenth century French philosophe found G-d in their final days upon this earth as they more fully contemplated their mortality. Voltaire, the most damaging of them all, tried to find his way back to the embrace of the Church in the last months of his life, going so far as to pen a retraction of his views.

I, the undersigned, … [declare] that if G-d disposes of me, I die in the Catholic religion in which I was born, hoping in the divine mercy that it will pardon all my faults; and that if I have ever scandalized the Church, I ask pardon of G-d and her.- Signed, VOLTAIRE

This mea culpa was not quite enough for the ecclesiastical powers that were, and historians still dispute whether Voltaire went further upon his death bed.

It turns out, however, that Voltaire and Leno combined do not explain Flew’s seeing the light. He has changed his mind about G-d, but not Christianity, for reasons he makes explicit in the interview. He also claims to have no hope or interest in claiming a stake in eternity. . “I don’t want a future life. I have never wanted a future life…I want to be dead when I’m dead and that’s an end to it.”

Flew, if we take him at his word, has simply reviewed everything he believed, and found that it comes up lacking in its explanation of the complexity of life’s beginnings.

We live in interesting times.

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2 Responses

  1. Eliezer Barzilai says:

    He has backtracked somewhat, saying that all he meant was that he now accepts that a study of the complexity of biology could legitimately be seen as “confirmatory to a faith in a creator.”
    I think that the biggest mussor haskeil is that we cannot be slaves to the inertia of our assumptions. The Alter from Kelm once said that the greatest negi’us is the negi’us of the muskol rishon, because it has the powerful allies of both gaivoh and atzlus. Flew reminds me of the Rambam’s comment about Aristo, who despite his great mind, just couldn’t make the final step to acceptance and faith.

  2. Yaakov Rosenblatt says:

    Thanks for the inspiring words. The premise of so many atheists, that being able to chart how something occurred proves that it probably happened by itself, holds not primordial soup when faced by spiritual experience; the fire of Yosef consuming the construct of Esav.