November 4, 2007


The Turning of an Atheist (MARK OPPENHEIMER, 11/03/07, NY Times

Unless you are a professional philosopher or a committed atheist, you probably have not heard of Antony Flew. Eighty-four years old and long retired, Flew lives with his wife in Reading, a medium-size town on the Thames an hour west of London. Over a long career he held appointments at a series of decent regional universities — Aberdeen, Keele, Reading — and earned a strong reputation writing on an unusual range of topics, from Hume to immortality to Darwin. His greatest contribution remains his first, a short paper from 1950 called “Theology and Falsification.” Flew was a precocious 27 when he delivered the paper at a meeting of the Socratic Club, the Oxford salon presided over by C. S. Lewis. Reprinted in dozens of anthologies, “Theology and Falsification” has become a heroic tract for committed atheists. In a masterfully terse thousand words, Flew argues that “God” is too vague a concept to be meaningful. For if God’s greatness entails being invisible, intangible and inscrutable, then he can’t be disproved — but nor can he be proved. Such powerful but simply stated arguments made Flew popular on the campus speaking circuit; videos from debates in the 1970s show a lanky man, his black hair professorially unkempt, vivisecting religious belief with an English public-school accent perfect for the seduction of American ears. Before the current crop of atheist crusader-authors — Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens — there was Antony Flew.

Flew’s fame is about to spread beyond the atheists and philosophers. HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins, has just released “There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind,” a book attributed to Flew and a co-author, the Christian apologist Roy Abraham Varghese. “There Is a God” is an intellectual’s bildungsroman written in simple language for a mass audience. It’s the first-person account of a preacher’s son who, away at Methodist boarding school, defied his father to become a teenage atheist...

Which is really all you need to know about atheism.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 4, 2007 6:25 AM

Yep, that's what it is: Oedipal narcissistic antinomianism.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 4, 2007 8:19 AM

I remember once flipping through a book by a professor at Boston University making a logical philosophical case for atheism -- I'm sure it would've been tough sledding if I'd actually tried to read it. In the introduction, he becomes a bit more personal and talks about how he broke out in hives when he was in the third grade and confessed his atheism to a school counselor.

If I were him, this would seem to me like a good time to backtrack and ask myself which came first: The logical building-up of the case against God or the emotional conviction that God did not exist. I don't know him, but I personally doubt that he had made much of a logical case against God in the third grade.

Posted by: Matt Murphy at November 4, 2007 2:07 PM