The Story of Antony Flew

The first time I can recall ever hearing the name Antony Flew was in my college apologetics class. My crazy teacher, always trying to prove a point, had said something along the lines of “even this famous atheist, Antony Flew, changed his mind and now believes in God! That proves that God exists!” My inward reaction to this was twofold: I thought, “Well, then, he must not have been a very convinced atheist” and “That invalidates any atheistic arguments that this person must have had, because in the end he himself wasn’t even convinced by them.”

Since then, I’ve heard of Antony Flew from time to time, but the only thing I knew about him was that he was famous for being an atheist-turned-theist. He came up once again as I was reading a book (which I’ll talk about next week but it’s hard to explain) and the author provided three reasons why Antony Flew abandoned his atheism. They were “the laws of nature, the existence of the cosmos, and the presence of life”¹. After some research, it looks like his conversion was more specifically due to the teleological argument, or intelligent design and the developments surrounding it which had come out over the course of his lifetime².

I was intrigued by this old man’s story. He became an atheist at age 15, spent 66 years arguing against the existence of God, and then, at age 81 in 2004, he denounced it all and admitted a new belief³. His story isn’t the same as Lee Strobel’s or Francis Collins’, who were “atheists” in their young lives because they had never quite considered their beliefs or the evolution they were taught in high school science class. C.S. Lewis also has a famous conversion story, but even he became a Christian at age 33 before becoming possibly the most well-known apologist in recent history. Antony Flew is different.

Flew died around the same time as Christopher Hitchens. I came onto the atheist scene in 2016, but I became more than familiar with the works and influence of Hitchens, while I had heard barely a word of Flew’s atheistic accomplishments. No one told me that Flew was behind the idea of the famous No True Scotsman fallacy, or that it was his idea to consider atheism as negative (“I don’t believe there is a god”) rather than positive (“I believe that there is no god”) by default. This proposition, put forth in his book The Presumption of Atheism, is a huge idea that has completely shaped what atheism is and how it is defined. Yet it is rarely mentioned that Antony Flew was the great atheistic mind behind it. It seems to me that Flew was the Richard Dawkins of his time, considered “the world’s most notorious atheist,” yet because he later converted, no one wants to mention that he ever was.

Most of what I ever hear about Antony Flew is from Christians. The author of the book I’m reading brags about what it is that converted Flew, and my apologetics teacher tried to prove Christianity true because someone like Flew changed his mind in the end. But I don’t think that his conversion invalidates any of his work as an atheist. He had so many good arguments, and the only one that overcame him was that of intelligent design. His arguments for secular morality and the viciousness of the Christian God are no less legitimate than they were before; as a matter of fact, Flew didn’t even convert to Christianity. Because of what he saw as evidence of design, he became a deist who believed in some cosmic creator, but he still despised the god of Christianity, and even more the god of Islam.

I think that just because Antony Flew spent the last six years of his life a deist, this doesn’t mean that the other 66 years as an atheist should be entirely ignored. It was noble of Flew to say that he would follow the evidence where it leads, and when, for him, it lead to deism, he wasn’t afraid to admit that he had been wrong. But for those of us who remain atheists, we have a lot to thank him for.

¹ The Making of an Atheist: How Immorality Leads to Unbelief by James S. Spiegel. 2010.
², ³ Antony Flew on Wikipedia

54 thoughts on “The Story of Antony Flew

  • Christianity creates deists through their doctrine which infests scripture. Their lies make it seem that God is evil and indifferent to us. We can’t know God’s attributes until we remove their words from scripture and re-translated from the original Hebrew and Greek. It’s a big undertaking, but once the lies are removed, the truth starts to shine through and we can see that God is a just and loving God who cares deeply for his people.


    • Actually, it really doesn’t matter what language the bible was written in … it’s still a collection of myths and legends verbally passed on over several centuries (with the same results as the “telephone/gossip” game).


        • I presume you are referring to the languages as they are known today. In fact, the written Hebrew language was not actually developed until around 1000 BCE … and it was a far cry from the Hebrew that scholars use today to study the bible.

          And while it may be easier to read and translate Greek, which primarily makes up the New Testament, one needs to remember there were numerous “books” circulating among the people after Yeshua’s death. It was a group of men who made the decision about which of these writings should be included in the “Holy Bible.” So if you believe the bible becomes more valid by reading it in the “original text,” perhaps it would be wise to include ALL the writings.

          Further, an important point to consider is any analyses of biblical literature is generally dependent on the perspective of the text in modern society.


            • According to Mr. Benner, Hebrew has been around since the beginning of time, beginning as a pictorial language, which evolved into paleo-Hebrew until the Babylonian exile when they adopted the Aramaic square script. In the 10th century AD, vowel pointing was added to the text, allegedly to make it easier to pronounce.

              Mr. Benner’s information corresponds with the PBS article you provided the link for, but I disagree with some of the statements in it. The article claims that in ancient Palestine literacy was only present among royal and priestly scribes, was restricted and expensive technology, controlled by the government and manipulated by the priests. While there is some truth to this claim, especially that the text was manipulated by priests, I believe that those who seek God will be shown the truth which has been written down since the beginning of time. In reading the Book of Enoch, I see remarkable alignment with prophesies of Christ and judgment, and this book would have been written very early on.

              There are many writings in the first and second centuries AD listed on this site . The dating may be informative but it is not completely accurate. For example Matthew, Mark, Luke and Revelation, the temple is standing and since it was destroyed in 70 AD we can be certain at least some of these writing were before this date however they have all been interpolated by the early church thereafter.

              When considering whether or not a writing is inspired, there are a few characteristics I look for, but equality among God’s people, with only Jesus as teacher and leader as stated in Matthew 23: 8 & 10 regardless of race, status, or gender, as Paul stated in Gal 3:28, is key. With this in mind, the false writings attributed to Paul (Ephesians, the Pastoral Epistles, 2 Thes, Colossians, and 1 Cor 14: 34 & 35) are eliminated. The Didache is thought to be the separate rules for Gentiles referred to in Acts 15: 13 to 21, which violate this equality so I consider it to be a false writing, and the text in Acts 15 to be an interpolation. I believe the intent of most interpolations is to disrupt equality between Jews and Gentiles and males and females.

              The Old Testament is equally damaged. Genesis wasn’t written by Moses, but over time by various authors, which doesn’t mean it is not inspired but we need to dissect it piece by piece like the New Testament. 1 & 2 Samuel, Kings and Chronicles are more historical accounts than inspired scripture, which were modified to present Israel’s history and kings in a certain way. Julius Wellhausen’s book Prolegomena to the History of Israel, which can be found in pdf on the Gutenberg site, provides some insight into the Old Testament books, when they were written and modifications they experienced.

              There are advantages and disadvantages to living in modern times where religious beliefs are concerned. Both Old and New Testaments are interpolated and mistranslated, and organized religion prop up these lies with their church doctrine, making it very difficult to separate the truth from the lies. On the other hand there are many resources we can access for free from the comfort of our homes today that make the task somewhat easier or at least possible with lots of hard work. Biblehub is a remarkable site, providing the multiple translations that can be compared side by side, and the original text with multiple Concordance comparisons and primitive root words which really helps.

              I’m currently going through Genesis 1 to 3 and have found Genesis 2 in particular to contain significant mistranslated words which I believe have been orchestrated by organized religion to support Patriarchy. In looking at the Hebrew text, it becomes apparent that Gen 2:24 doesn’t align with the rest of the text and some Scholars believe it to be a “gloss”, which was inserted to elevate the importance of marriage. The “one flesh” element is found in Gnostic literature like the Gospel of Thomas. Many interpolations and mistranslations have the goal of supporting Patriarchy, which requires undermining the value and equality of woman, and that is surely the case here.


  • It always fascinated me the way theists would show up in a discussion and tell us Flew had converted, as though that was an end-game argument, as though his authority had simply led us into unbelief and it could just as easily lead us right out of it. It was sad to see his changes abused by shameless opportunists.

    Liked by 3 people

  • For me, this sentence explains it all: He became an atheist at age 15, spent 66 years arguing against the existence of God, and then, at age 81 in 2004, he denounced it all and admitted a new belief³
    Doesn’t hurt to cover your ass at the end of the journey…… just in case!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hey, Eric, you stole the words right off of my keyboard. Being a senior citizen, I know a few atheists who accepted christ as their saviour just in case. Do I blame them for hedging their bets, yes and no. It makes me wonder why they ever claimed to be atheists in the first place. But if this allows them to be happy at the end of their lives, good for them.
      Right now, I don’t believe I could ever find a reason to switch my point of view. I feel with every fiber of my being there is not a god. All of my experiences agree. But faced with time to contemplate death, I may waver. I have not lived a perfect life, I have made mistakes, though I try not to do so intentionally. I am not talking about committing sins, but just sometimes not being the person I want to be, by my rules for myself. I could have been better, but I could have been a helluva lot worse.
      I do not believe in a heaven or a hell. So I have no fear of either.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Note: Long comment.


    Re-reading an old post — “What Type of Atheist Am I?” — one line in particular stood out. You describe yourself as an “agnostic atheist”; you don’t claim to know that there are no gods.

    In other words: You’re open to the idea of god(s), but find evidence for god(s) to be lacking.

    What does that have to do with this post? Well:

    In this post, you again bring up the “vicious” Christian god. Which leads me to conclude: For moral reasons, you are willing to put your trust in a god — should the evidence for said god be sufficient — but not in the Christian god.

    From reading your writing over the months, I get the sense that, were the Christian god to appear right in front of you, your life wouldn’t change all that much because you would refuse to live according to his standards. After all, why live by the being that you have described as a “tyrant”?

    Which means that the answer to a question like “Why is the Bible, a book filled with so much that appears false, written the way it is?” is ultimately irrelevant since you refuse to have anything to do with the one behind it. (i.e., The Christian god.)

    Which would effect your search for the answer to the question “Is there a god?” and, thus, whether or not you remain a closeted atheist.

    When it comes to the search for god: There is always going to be doubt; there is always going to be that part of you that goes “___ is true. But… wait… maybe it’s not…” But that’s not something to see as negative. Why? Because: “Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, and trusting that they won’t.” (Source: Unknown.)

    In other words: Because of how you feel about the question “Is there a god?” you are willing to risk being “destroyed” by the answer you will, one day, find. Hence your search.

    You don’t strike me as the kind of person who just wants to survive. You want to live.

    And, when it comes to believing in a god whose existence you have found sufficient evidence for, you don’t strike me as the kind of person who is content to be that god’s servant. You want to be more.

    Thank you for reading.

    Have a good day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Note: Long reply 🙂

      I consider myself a theist, in that I believe in one God as the creator, not a deist because I don’t reject revelation or believe that God is indifferent to us.

      I am extremely frustrated with all organized religion which mindlessly adhere to the Bible and its 66 books in which men have add to the words of God in spite of the threat of being cursed for doing so in Rev 22: 18 & 19, and Deut 4:2 & 12:32.

      I am going through the Bible, attempting to remove everything added by the “Church”, knowing it is the doctrine of men, not God, which Jesus criticized in Matthew 15:5 to 9, as did God in Isaiah 29:13.
      The first step is to remove the pseud epigraphic (false) writings attributed to Paul – Ephesians and the Pastoral Epistles for certain, and 2 Thes and Colossians quite likely. These writings distort the gospel of Christ Gal 1: 6 & 7, and leaven the Bible and the church’s teachings Gal 5:9, with “the precepts of men” just like the scribes and Pharisees who Jesus warned would be uprooted in Matthew 15: 1 to 14.

      If we compare the pseudo writings to those authored by Paul, we see major differences. Instead of Christ being the only teacher and leader as he commanded in Matthew 23: 8 & 10, the men who head the ‘Church’ replace him as leader, and demand their members follow their teachings. Women are put under the authority of men, fathers, husbands, and ‘Church’ authorities, and commanded to be silent, not permitted to exercise their gifts of the spirit which were prophesied in Joel to be poured out on all mankind in the last days Acts 2:16 to 21. They added 1 Cor 14: 34 & 35 to add strength to their false doctrine. That is why we must “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” 1 John 4:1.

      Although I have no knowledge of Hebrew, I am attempting to retranslate Genesis 1 to 3, to see if they have fiddled with these writings which are critical to understanding our origin. What I’ve discovered is remarkable! The first man was a spirit, like the angels, male and female in one being Gen 1: 26 & 27, 5: 1 & 2, & Matthew 22:30. This male and female spirit was formed from the dust in Genesis 2:7, which was when he/she became perishable as Paul confirms in 1 Cor 15: 42 to 46.

      Gen 2:18 is horribly mistranslated to make it appear that the man was alone but what God really said was “not good become man, separation make if only to save opposite”. In Gen 2:23 the male person identified himself as a ‘mighty one’ (Hebrew ish), deceived the woman into eating from the tree of knowledge and was cursed for murdering her Gen 3: 1 to 6 & 17 to 19, just as Cain, also a ‘mighty one’ was cursed for killing Abel in Gen 4: 1 to 12. God warned the woman in Gen 3:16, if she desires a ‘mighty one’ (translated as husband to deceive us), he will rule over her, and this has come true for every woman since the beginning of time.

      Most importantly, we are to seek God Hebrews 11:6, not the favor of men Gal 1:10, and God’s anointing will teach us about all things 1 John 2:27.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kate,

        I’m flattered by your long reply. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

        I could go into detail about what I, as a Catholic, believe to be true regarding Scripture. But this is The Closet Atheist’s blog, and I don’t feel right about using her comment section for that purpose. She deserves better than seeing me get into yet another theology-related conversation.

        So, I’ll end this comment with:

        Thank you for making me think. I wish you the best in your own journey towards God.


  • I am curious as to how he changed his position after being a convinced atheist all these years, and because of intelligent design apparently. I mean, their arguments are weak! Perhaps there is more to this. He did have dementia in the last few years of his life, and some of the last books he wrote weren’t actually written by him apparently – these things may or may not be a factor. In any case, I want to read more about this guy. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I was thinking something similar. I remember when they asked Hitchens, when he was dying whether once he got closer to death if he might start believing in God. He said something like “well it’s possible, but obviously if something like that happened I wouldn’t quite be myself”. I’ve seen my father-in-law who was part of the underground movement against communist rule in Poland become a supporter for the alt-right there today. He is prone to fits of rage as well. Dementia runs in his family, and he is showing many signs of not being the man he was. Converting after the age of 80 as Flew did could be neurologically based for sure. Also death anxiety is real, even for atheists, and fear can make us do things we normally wouldn’t. The fact that he converted to Deism though makes me think that he was looking for just a beautiful idea to help himself pass from this life in a more peaceful way. Not that I don’t think that’s possible with atheism, just saying there are lots of aesthetic and emotional reasons to believe in a creator as well, not because you rationally arrived at the conclusion.

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yeah I agree. I don’t think about death or a potential afterlife much, since I’d like to think I’ve still got many years ahead of me, and I’ve never been struck with a deadly condition. If I was near death though, I’m pretty sure my outlook on life and everything else might be quite different, so I don’t blame people who are in that position who apparently suddenly change beliefs.
        Yes many people base their beliefs on emotion. I mean, I like the idea that something greater than all of us played their hand and gave us lives to enjoy in this universe, as brief as they are. I’m talking in a general sense here though, not a fan of the Christian/Muslim God’s. I think as humans, we have always craved more than just logic and numbers, and survival in an evolutionary sense. I guess what I’m saying is, that as good as science is, it’s emotionless.
        I’m not saying I believe in a higher power though, I mean I don’t know, but I can totally understand why others do. Thankfully, we aren’t required to believe in one to avoid eternal punishment.

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m not sure I would describe science as emotionless. Certainly logic is, although even logic has a certain elegance to it that pleases me aesthetically. In ancient India they had discovered many trigonometric relationships before any europeans did but they didn’t know what they were for, they just thought such relationships were beautiful and wrote them into poetry. I think at its essence science is a representation of our curiosity which I think is an emotion.

          I’m not saying I believe in a higher power though, I mean I don’t know, but I can totally understand why others do. Thankfully, we aren’t required to believe in one to avoid eternal punishment.

          I agree with you. I mean there could be a God or Gods who started it all. We could be all in a matrix like simulation. Regardless I call it a “God of no consequence”. I can say “cool…that’s some impressive work creating this universe” and just go on and live my life and try to understand its mysteries. It’s last act appears to be just typing in the words “run” after compiling the program. If such a God ever makes a personal appearance I’ll be glad to shake its hand. 🙂

          Liked by 2 people

          • Alright fair point, perhaps calling it emotionless is going a bit far haha. Science and logic does fascinate me, particularly some of the mathematical stuff. So if someone is inspired by that or creates art from it, then so be it. I suppose you can say that several scientific theories came from experiments arising from a human need, other than just curiosity.

            I’d be happy to meet this hypothetical God too. We can admire them for what the made, but unlike Yahweh, we can’t blame them for what has happened since.

            Liked by 2 people

    • interesting, having ghost writers mauling your ideas, apparentlywithout permission. Makes you wonder if an overzealous fan/family member/acquaintance changed his mind for him, in a kind of “well, he told ME…”

      Liked by 2 people

      • I am feeling more certain things went down that way. His dementia was quite advanced by the time he was supposedly writing his final books (especially one he wrote with Roy Varghese). In that book, he uses a lot of American sounding dialects even though he was British. However he has defended the book saying it was him, so who knows for sure?

        Liked by 2 people

  • The only place I ever heard of Anthony Flew before now was in a Catholic booklet called ‘Apologetics 4: How to Answer Atheists and New Agers’. The booklet included Flew among a short list of notable scientists who believed in God (without actually explaining his reasons). As a short booklet, there was obviously no space or intent to construct extensive philosophical arguments, but even at the time, as a Catholic teenager, I remember finding its arguments circular and unsatisfying.
    I find it intriguing that Flew should have been the first to consider atheism as a state of not believing, as opposed to “believing” in an absence. That fine distinction is one of the things that has always intrigued me about atheism. It is easy to see how that distinction has influenced modern atheism. The peculiar problem of atheism is that it still rests on faith, asserting without conclusive proof that there is no God, relying instead on the emotional confidence gleaned from rational argument. Therefore, even though the term atheism only asserts disbelief, it still implies a set of beliefs. As Nietzsche observed, there is no clear dividing line between intuition and reason.


    • The thing is though, you can’t really conclusively prove something doesn’t exist, the burden of proof should be on those who are claiming it DOES exist. I look at it like this: someone tells me they believe in Santa, and that they have these texts which prove Santa’s existence. But the problem is, the texts are inconsistent and unreliable, and we haven’t ever seen Santa. So I decide to not believe in Santa. Is my non-belief in Santa resting on faith? I don’t think so. But to believe in Santa given this information would certainly require faith. So I’m not sure if you can say that ‘not believing in something’ requires faith. My 2 cents.

      Liked by 6 people

      • Technically, you can’t prove anything: by Cartesian logic, everything is ultimately unknowable. I don’t disagree with you. However, I do feel that the mysteries of the universe are sufficiently vast and incomprehensible that the situation is a bit more complex than simply saying that there is a burden of proof on people who claim a positive about the nature of it. There remain vast questions about existence which have yet to be answered satisfactorily by atheism. Deists are not wrong to feel that there might be more to the universe than atheism traditionally claims. As for the more complex claims of organized religion, some of them are indeed hideous and highly illogical. However, so are many cultural claims, which always seem bizarre when taken out of context. The origins of religious claims, which are always closely tied to culture, are immensely complex, and so deserve more serious consideration than simply saying “You can’t completely prove it, so you’re wrong.” That sword cuts both ways.
        Like I say, I don’t disagree with your point. But I think there is more faith involved in any view of reality than atheists usually admit. Thank you for your 2 cents.

        Liked by 2 people

        • No doubt religion has existed for various important reasons, and as humans we have always craved for more beyond survival. Yes there are many mysteries of this universe, and our existence and purpose etc, but I don’t think it’s up to atheists to work out all these mysteries. An atheist doesn’t believe there is a God, nothing more, nothing less. Some atheists make specific claims about the universe, and many atheists ALSO think there is more to the universe than what we know too. Basically, you can’t lump atheists into one box.

          For me, I’m not saying I know for certain there is no God, but based on probabilities it would be very unlikely. There COULD be a God out there, but I’m not counting on it being any of the God’s of the religions we know, since much of what their texts say are inconsistent and don’t match up with reality. And what if they’re some other kind of God we don’t know about? Well, in all this time we haven’t seen anything to point us to them, and we have some fairly sensible explanations as to how we got here and evolved, that don’t involve any God, so (just) in my opinion, I think it’s unlikely enough such that it’s not worth considering, just like Santa.

          You’re welcome and thank you for your 2 cents as well.

          Liked by 4 people

        • I see CovertAtheist already responded with something similar to what I was going to say, but I’ll just add a bit extra. Your argument doesn’t really represent hold in terms of how we come to know things in this universe. Anybody might have faith that some claim is true, but there needs to be evidence to support the claim. And even if we want to hide behind the claim that we can’t be sure what we know about anything is true, from a probabilistic standpoint we can certainly apply high degrees of certainties to one claim over another. That there is no God is simply the null hypothesis, it is not a claim, it is the default position or null hypothesis which exists for any field of study.

          I would also say that one can’t refute a claim on the basis of the argument being “immensely complex” is ridiculous. Because it has origins deeply connected to culture of course means that simply providing some rational argument, or ridiculing the person isn’t going to be very effective and changing someone’s mind. I am sure the roots of female circumcision are immensely complex and closely tied to culture, but this by no means makes the practice less wrong. The claim doesn’t deserve any more of time from an argument standpoint. However knowledge of its origins and the cultures it’s embedded in might be extremely important for informing me on how to stop the practice from happening. An incorrect or unsupported claim simply is, and while people might be deserving of more respect, a wrong idea doesn’t.

          I do feel that the mysteries of the universe are sufficiently vast and incomprehensible that the situation is a bit more complex than simply saying that there is a burden of proof on people who claim a positive about the nature of it. There remain vast questions about existence which have yet to be answered satisfactorily by atheism

          All you’re doing here is what people have been doing for years. Your just filling God into the spots we don’t understand. And many of those things, historically speaking, that we didn’t understand, for which we removed God from the picture, were figured out by theists and deists alike. Atheists aren’t required to solve all the mysteries of the universe. We’re just comfortable with the answer “we don’t know”. It is religions who constantly claim ‘they know”. And how do they know? Through faith…not on evidence. What I do know is that throughout human history, that numerous things that we attributed to be acts of God, because we didn’t understand them, have been found to have natural causes. The evidence is in favor of this continuing to happen. But if it doesn’t, again the correct answer is still “we don’t know’. For God to be the answer, well that still requires evidence.

          The peculiar problem of atheism is that it still rests on faith, asserting without conclusive proof that there is no God, relying instead on the emotional confidence gleaned from rational argument.

          I don’t assert there is no God and many atheists don’t either. What we do assert is that there is no personal God that intervenes in the lives of humans based on some merit based system. As an atheist I am deeply concerned with religious ideas being used for governance and laws. I openly debate the validity of the Bible and other holy books when they are being used to make decisions about how society should work. Whether there is some impersonal creator who started the whole show is of zero interest to me, because it has zero impact on how I live my day to day life, how I survive in this world, or the moral decisions I make. And if you talked to many of the deconverts out there who were deeply into their faith, like closet atheist here, you will see that watching what you’ve believed crumble is a terrifying and sometime traumatic feeling that if emotional satisfaction was the goal, one would hang on to what they already believed. Even as someone who didn’t strongly believe in God myself it is extremely difficult to let go of an idea that people around you seem to believe in and have been telling you is real your entire life. I simply applied the same standards of truth seeking to religion that I did to any other field of knowledge and the idea of their being a personal God simply fell away. But it is no confident and comfortable feeling. In many ways feeling that there is magic, that there are easy answers to questions I may never know the answer to, and that there is more to existence than the one I’m living in would be much more emotionally appealing than any rational argument I might make against the existence of God. I mean I am madly in love with the idea that there could be an afterlife where I’ll be with all my loved ones in death and have this glorious existence. However, I accept that what I want to be true isn’t necessarily true. That believing in something doesn’t will it into existence. Now you might say, “Ah…but not believing in something doesn’t will it out of existence”, and that’s quite true, but I’ve spent a lot of time studying the arguments and views of different cultures on God, just as I would fact check any claim that I didn’t believe to be true. I have yet to see one rational argument for the existence of God. I have seen plenty of good arguments for why we’d believe there was one however.

          Liked by 3 people

          • Maybe you don’t assert that there is no god, but a lot of atheists do. Either way, you are still making a statement about how you perceive the universe. The evidence on the origins of the universe is highly debatable and subject to differing perspectives, just like every other debate. You happen to be convinced by the evidence that suggests no divine creator is necessary. So do I. That does not mean that deistic claims are devoid of evidence or that their arguments are not logical (noting that there is a difference between a logical argument and a sound argument). There are all kinds of factors which influence how every person subjectively perceives evidence, and the “evidence” on the origins of the universe is about as vague and open to interpretation as any in existence. Therefore it is not ridiculous to believe in an intelligent creator as an atheist usually claims, hence the large number of highly intelligent, scientific deists. Obviously an atheist is nevertheless going to say that deist arguments are weaker than atheist arguments, and are therefore not rational arguments for the existence of god, because atheists are obviously convinced by the atheist argument. By that logic, you could say that every single argument is as ridiculous as atheists perceive deistic arguments to be. That is not what an open mind looks like.

            By the same token, if you accept that deists are not insane to be convinced by the arguments to be made in favor of a deity, then it is not insane for those who believe in a deity to construct systems of ideas on the nature of such a being. It follows logically that anyone interested in the nature of the universe would follow such speculations, and such deistic speculations are therefore not necessarily any more farfetched than some of the scientific claims that have been made about the nature of the universe. If you accept that it is inevitable that everyone, atheist or deist, is going to have trouble constructing a coherent value system, which will always look a bit absurd when held up to the light, then it is hypocritical to criticize religious people for saying they “know” (which in no way applies to all or even most religious people) while making equally firm statements of rightness while back-pedaling with the statement that you “don’t know” whenever someone accuses you of self-rightness.

            Regarding the intersection of such speculations on the nature of the universe and the construction of religious/cultural systems, first of all, I never asserted that female circumcision is not wrong, simply because it can be explained by complex social pressures. On the other hand, I am a big believer (haha) in cultural relativism, because I can see nothing tolerant, rather I see nothing but typical western liberal condescension, in the more traditional approach to respecting other cultures which seems to go something like “Gee, I have to respect other cultures, because I’d be a bad liberal if I didn’t, because that wouldn’t be tolerant, but at the same time I have to take a firm moral position myself in order to be a good moralist, which is an axiomatically intolerant thing to do, and so I’ll halve the difference by saying I respect other cultures while condemning everything about them that I don’t approve of.” In other words, while I am in no way endorsing female circumcision or anything else, I don’t think that analyzing such practices in black/white terms like “right/wrong” is helpful. Such terms are vestiges of religious thinking which, as a sincere atheist and pluralist, I have no use for.

            Thank you for your analysis. Bear in mind that my point was not to argue that there is a god or that religion and science are non-overlapping magisterium. My point is that all views of the universe are ultimately founded on conviction rather than proof. I am an atheist because I believe that atheist arguments are the most convincing. That does not mean that an intelligent, reasonable person is not perfectly justified in believing in a higher power or in the precepts of a given religion. Atheist conviction is still ultimately an emotional view, like all faith.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Sure logical arguments can stem from unverifiable premises, but I think soundness is ultimately what’s important. Deist claims don’t depend on inductive reasoning, only on deductive reasoning. A sound argument is achievable by both types of reasoning. In the end it ultimately boils down to “The answer is unknown or debatable, therefore God.” Atheist simply assert that a God should be knowable by an evaluation of empirical evidence as the most probably conclusion to that evidence. I’ve read many articles about deism and have yet to see one that simply doesn’t say something like theory A doesn’t actually explain all the evidence or doesn’t answer such and such question, therefore I’d like to plug in an intelligent creator here. It’s fine to point out problems with theory, but that doesn’t make arguments for God more well supported. Nor should we expect that something like the Big Bang Theory should answer the question of why there is something rather than nothing? That’s not what the big bang theory explains. So perhaps you can enlighten me then, what is the empirical evidence for deism, and if there is none, why shouldn’t we expect some for that hypothesis?

              And you are missing my point about what atheists think. When atheists say there is no God, they are usually referring to the personal God that is prevalent in the major religions in the world today. And for that, there is actually quite a lot of evidence to support that conclusion. Notice that when annoying atheists use badgering terms like “sky fairy” to theists they are talk about a magical being who grants wishes and interferes with the laws of physics on a person’s behalf. I don’t agree with that style of argumentation but this is clearly who atheists are referring to. As to whether there is some sort of intelligent creator who set the universe in motion and it just sitting back now for a smoke watching it all unfold, I am sure most atheists are content with letting anybody have such a God (even though there are also logical flaws with that argument as well). The response is generally well but who cares though? The universe behaves exactly the way it should even if there was no intelligent creator, and such a creator certainly doesn’t care about my worship, there is no implication of an afterlife and so I might as well behave like such a being isn’t there. God becomes a wholly uninteresting answer, even if there was some evidence that it was.

              In regards to my point about female circumcision, again I don’t think there is anything wrong with saying a practice is wrong or even immoral. It does become unhelpful to just scold somebody and expect it to stop, which is why I said understanding why that practice is there in the first place. It could be that at some time female circumcision served some practical purpose. And if we are really concerned about stopping a bad practice it serves us well to understand the culture and the history to do that, but that doesn’t change the conclusion about whether something is a good or bad practice or value to have.

              Liked by 2 people

            • I don’t pretend to be an expert on the science of the cosmos (hence part of the reason I regard atheism as a matter of faith, actually) but I know that there is a growing view among cosmologists and some other scientists that the structure of the universe seems to make more sense if understood as the product of conscious design, which is a bit more comprehensive than the god-of-the-gaps sort of thing that you ascribe to deists. There are also arguments to be made for the idea of an intercessional deity, some of them with respectable scientific supporters. None of which compromises my own atheism, but it reminds me how insufficient is human knowledge, which makes it a lot harder to condemn any religious claim as simply “ridiculous.”

              Also, I don’t see how deism fails as inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning acknowledges that a conclusion may be false, even if all the premises are true. I can’t imagine any deist denying that, and if they did, they would not be paying much attention to their own reasoning. In argument terminology, inductive reasoning does not lead to sound conclusions (that term only applies to deductive reasoning.) Inductive logic leads to cogent or uncogent conclusions.

              Liked by 2 people

        • Back in 1968 or 9 it was reported I was dead. The paper printed it. The radio announcd it. Everyone in my hometown believed it. When I returned there in 1972, people were astonished. (What had happened was my wallet, with all my ID, but no picture ID, had been lost or stolen, and found on a dead body. I never heard about it until I came home.) Somewhere, in some Potters’ Field, lies a grave marked with my name. Who lies in it I have no idea. The newspaper never retracted the error, nor did the radio. As far as many people who knew me, but never heard I was still alive, are concerned, I am dead. They believe it to their core. Who can blame them?
          There are many things in this world we think we know, but really it is only belief. Without knowing reality, belief is all we have to go on.
          What is reality? No one really knows. No one! All any of us can do is believe.

          Liked by 5 people

          • thats an amazing story, and when I hear of such things I always feel the rug under my own feet shift a bit. All of us are so vulnerable, aren’t we.

            The mind reels at what it must be like to have no identity at all, no way to prove who you are without proof to show anyone. yikes.


            • Family serves in place of ID. But really, I found out the government takes no notice, which I guess is why dead people get to vote after their deaths, get to receive government cheques, and debt notices, etc.
              I presume someone must have filled out a death certificate or something for that unfortunate person who died in my place, but no one has ever questioned that I am still filling out official forms, etc.
              I never actually thought about this till now, but I was basically off the grid for at least 3 years, living in unofficial places. Given that I was supposed to be dead during that time, nobody in government questioned when I suddenly reappeared, getting new ID cards, birth certificates, etc. I guess they just expect dead people to stay dead. Of course, this occured at the time computers were starting to be used by governments, so maybe they just missed inputting all the information. All my school records disappeared, and employment records, etc. I never wondered why till now. Amazing how easy it is to forget I’m dead. rotflmdao

              Liked by 2 people

    • Does it really help to say, “I believe there is no god.”? There are no facts in “belief,” no matter how you look at it. I personally can say, “I know there is no god, or creator, or superbeing in charge of life,” but that would only express what I believe to be true. It is exactly as valuable to anyone one else as saying, “I know there are no leprechauns, no unicorns, no santa clauses, or dodo birds.” You cannot prove the non-existence of a non-existant thing. It is impossible, no matter that you absolutely know it is non-existent.

      Liked by 2 people

  • “His arguments for secular morality and the viciousness of the Christian God are no less legitimate than they were before…”

    One can be “Good without God” — a person doesn’t have to, say, proclaim Jesus as their lord and savior in order to give food to the homeless.

    Regarding the “viciousness of the Christian God”: As a Catholic, that is a notion I have struggled with before, and will struggle with to the end of my days. But, if God is who he says he is, than he sees what I, in my humanity, cannot. And so, trusting that the “whole story” has yet to be told, I place my trust in him. For if God is who he says he is, than he wants a relationship with me. And what is the foundation of any relationship? Trust.

    Liked by 1 person

  • When you read: ”Anthony Flew changes his mind” …. or some such, it is always best to include the name of Gary Habermas in the same sentence. And if you know anything about Habermas a red flag should be waving like a Stationmaster at Euston Station.who accidentally double dosed on Ritalin.

    ‘Nuff said.


  • I think it’s also telling that Flew suffered from dementia in the years before his death. His final book was not actually written by him, wasn’t in his style and he could not remember many of the key points in subsequent interviews.

    So the apologists are claiming “The most famous atheist in the world converted to christianity!” while the truth is probably more like “A rather noted atheist, suffering from a mental decline in his last years, perhaps became somewhat of a Deist”. Not very impressive when put that way.

    Liked by 10 people

    • And all to easy to convince a man in the depths of dementia that he really believes what he never believed before. People afflicted with dementia are no less intelligent than they were, but they are more suggestible, and more vulnerable.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Interesting story. I am sure the bridges between belief and degrees of skeptic are well-traveled, both directions. As we change our minds, I don’t see how that proves more than we change our minds. I think we should be watchful for mixing the existence of deities with religious practices, as was Flew. I am not sure C.S. Lewis was ever a convinced atheist, but I am certain that he was not a ‘papist’ (his term for Roman Catholic [ala Tolkien]). I just finished reading “The Last Petal Falling.” By some stretch of reverse-logic, I suppose we could claim Lori Arnold’s (or your) deconversion proves the non-existence of gods.

    Liked by 3 people

  • I had heard of him a little while back. I was going to write about him as his story was an interesting one. In fact, I was going to call it “Anthony Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.” I thought it was funny and clever but then found out someone has already written a blog post with that same exact title a couple of years back. Oh well. It’s still funny and clever…even if I wasn’t the first one to think so.

    The “No True Scotsman Fallacy” is how I learned of him. When people talked about that, I researched where that came from. I like to know the origin of things.

    Good stuff. Excellent post

    Liked by 3 people

  • I first heard of Flew in 1996, when I was browsing the philosophy section of the library. I found his book “Introduction to Western Philosophy”.

    I never knew that he was the worlds most famous atheist until several years later I heard that from the apologetics people who were proclaiming his conversion. So I wonder whether his atheism was all that famous. I somehow had managed to hear of Bertrand Russel and Richard Dawkins as atheists long before I heard of Flew.

    Liked by 4 people

  • How about that? I’d never heard of him either. It is interesting that he became a deist, not a Christian? Did I get that right? If so, what’s in it for religiosos to claim victory when he’s still going to hell?

    Liked by 4 people

    • On the Heavenly scorecard, that’s known as Argument From Authority. You hold up someone who is rich, famous, and/or influential, who happens to agree with your claims. It makes the Great Unwashed more likely to accept your position.
      They never add the “don’t look behind that curtain” caveat, where there is a different person, just as rich, just as famous, and just as influential, who holds the diametrically opposite view. 😯

      Liked by 3 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s