1. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    ”How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind”

    “Editor’s Note: For the last half of the twentieth century, Antony Flew (1923-2010)
    was the world's most famous atheist. Long before Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris began taking swipes at religion, Flew was the preeminent spokesman for unbelief. However in 2004, he shocked the world by announcing he had come to believe in God.

    While never embracing Christianity—Flew only believed in the deistic, Aristotelian conception of God—he became one of the most high-profile and surprising atheist converts. In 2007, he recounted his conversion in a book titled “There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.” Some critics suggested Flews’ mental capacity had declined and therefore we should question the credibility of his conversion. Others hailed Flew's book as a legitimate and landmark publication. A couple months before the book's release, Flew sat down with Strange Notions contributor Dr. Benjamin Wiker for an interview about his book, his conversion, and the reasons that led him to God. Read below and enjoy!

    Dr. Benjamin Wiker: You say in "There is a God", that "it may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial...to discovery." Everyone else was certainly very surprised as well, perhaps all the more so since on our end, it seemed so sudden. But in "There is a God", we find that it was actually a very gradual process—a "two decade migration," as you call it. God was the conclusion of a rather long argument, then. But wasn't there a point in the "argument" where you found yourself suddenly surprised by the realization that "There is a God" after all? So that, in some sense, you really did "hear a Voice that says" in the evidence itself "'Can you hear me now?'"

    Antony Flew: There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so.

    With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in "The God Delusion" that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

    Wiker: You are famous for arguing for a presumption of atheism, i.e., as far as arguments for and against the existence of God, the burden of proof lies with the theist. Given that you believe that you only followed the evidence where it led, and it led to theism, it would seem that things have now gone the other way, so that the burden of proof lies with the atheist. He must prove that God doesn't exist. What are your thoughts on that?

    Anthony Flew: I note in my book that some philosophers indeed have argued in the past that the burden of proof is on the atheist. I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.

    Wiker: As for evidence, you cite a lot of the most recent science, yet you remark that your discovery of the Divine did not come through "experiments and equations," but rather, "through an understanding of the structures they unveil and map." Could you explain? Does that mean that the evidence that led you to God is not really, at heart, scientific?

    Anthony Flew: It was empirical evidence, the evidence uncovered by the sciences. But it was a philosophical inference drawn from the evidence. Scientists as scientists cannot make these kinds of philosophical inferences. They have to speak as philosophers when they study the philosophical implications of empirical evidence.” (1 of 2)

    In "There Is a God", one of the world's preeminent atheists discloses how his commitment to "follow the argument wherever it leads" led him to a belief in God as Creator. This is a compelling and refreshingly open-minded argument that will forever change the atheism debate.” http://www.strangenotions.com/flew/
  2. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 02:034 edits
    "World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind" (2 of 2)

    Wiker: "You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar as the latest scientific evidence tends strongly toward—or perhaps even demonstrates—a theistic conclusion. Is that a fair assessment of your position?

    Flew: Yes, indeed. I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data. Two noted philosophers, one an agnostic (Anthony Kenny) and the other an atheist (Thomas Nagel), recently pointed out that Dawkins has failed to address three major issues that ground the rational case for God. As it happens, these are the very same issues that had driven me to accept the existence of a God: the laws of nature, life with its teleological organization, and the existence of the Universe.

    Wiker: You point out that the existence of God and the existence of evil are actually two different issues, which would therefore require two distinct investigations. But in the popular literature—even in much of the philosophical literature—the two issues are regularly conflated. Especially among atheists, the presumption is that the non-existence of God simply follows upon the existence of evil. What is the danger of such conflation? How as a theist do you now respond?

    Flew: I should clarify that I am a deist. I do not accept any claim of divine revelation though I would be happy to study any such claim (and continue to do so in the case of Christianity). For the deist, the existence of evil does not pose a problem because the deist God does not intervene in the affairs of the world. The religious theist, of course, can turn to the free-will defense (in fact I am the one who first coined the phrase free-will defense). Another relatively recent change in my philosophical views is my affirmation of the freedom of the will.

    Wiker: According to There is a God, you are not what might be called a "thin theist," that is, the evidence led you not merely to accept that there is a "cause" of nature, but "to accept the existence of a self-existent, immutable, immaterial, omnipotent, and omniscient Being." How far away are you, then, from accepting this Being as a person rather than a set of characteristics, however accurate they may be? (I'm thinking of C. S. Lewis' remark that a big turning point for him, in accepting Christianity, was in realizing that God was not a "place"—a set of characteristics, like a landscape—but a person.)

    Flew: I accept the God of Aristotle who shares all the attributes you cite. Like Lewis I believe that God is a person but not the sort of person with whom you can have a talk. It is the ultimate being, the Creator of the Universe.

    Wiker: Do you plan to write a follow-up book to There is a God?

    Flew: As I said in opening the book, this is my last will and testament." http://www.strangenotions.com/flew/

    > Opinions, Comments, Criticisms, Insights, New Questions?
  3. Standard memberRJHinds
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    22 Jan '14 02:27
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    [b]"World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind" (2 of 2)

    Wiker: "You are obviously aware of the spate of recent books by such atheists as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They think that those who believe in God are behind the times. But you seem to be politely asserting that they are ones who are behind the times, insofar a ...[text shortened]... ttp://www.strangenotions.com/flew/

    > Opinions, Comments, Criticisms, Insights, New Questions?[/b]
    I would agree with the following statement of Flew:

    I would add that Dawkins is selective to the point of dishonesty when he cites the views of scientists on the philosophical implications of the scientific data.

    I get that same impression.
  4. Standard memberSwissGambit
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    22 Jan '14 03:00
    I had never heard of Anthony Flew until he changed his mind. 😕
  5. Standard memberwolfgang59
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    22 Jan '14 03:01
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    [b]”How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind”

    ... and?
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    22 Jan '14 07:32
    Originally posted by wolfgang59
    ... and?
    It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously, he's wrong.

    I'm now finished kicking in the open door and stating the bleeding obvious.
  7. Standard memberRJHinds
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    22 Jan '14 07:56
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously, he's wrong.

    I'm now finished kicking in the open door and stating the bleeding obvious.
    You infidels all think you are smart, but really you are very ignorant and more foolish than a moron.
  8. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 08:16
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    I had never heard of Anthony Flew until he changed his mind. 😕
    "Former leading atheist argues for the existence of God: A review of There is a God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind by Antony Flew with Roy Varghese Harper Collins, New York, 2007

    "Skeptics often cite ‘testimonies’ of former professing Christians who ‘de-converted’ (apostatized) to atheism to show that Christianity is inherently unreasonable; sure, a person may be raised Christian, but once he is able to reason for himself, the light of rationality will wash away all that religious superstition. Of course, they often ignore or dismiss the conversion stories of former atheists. Antony Flew’s rejection of atheism is a nightmare for skeptics, because the most influential atheistic philosopher of the twentieth century is rather harder to dismiss out-of-hand. Flew documents this intellectual process in "There is a God".

    From Christianity to atheism: Flew begins the story of his rejection of atheism by explaining how he became an atheist in the first place. The son of a Methodist minister, Flew went to school as ‘a committed and conscientious, if unenthusiastic, Christian’ (p. 10), but during his studies began to question his faith. The problem of evil caused Flew to question the possibility of an omnipotent God. By the time he was 15, he considered himself an atheist (p. 15), although Flew admits that he ‘reached the conclusion about the nonexistence of God much too quickly, much too easily, and for what later seemed to me the wrong reasons’ (pp. 10–11).

    The 20th century’s most influential atheist thinker, Antony Flew, announced in 2004 that he accepted the existence of a God. Flew’s rejection of atheism would not be such a problem for atheists if he hadn’t been the foremost atheist thinker of the 20th century. In Oxford, Flew was part of the Socratic club, a forum for debate between atheists and Christians, of which C.S. Lewis was the president for over a decade. There he presented ‘Theology and Falsification’, a paper which argued that many theological statements have so many qualifications attached that they are essentially empty (pp. 43–44). However, he says, ‘I was not saying that statements of religious belief were meaningless. I simply challenged religious believers to explain how their statements are to be understood, especially in the light of conflicting data’ (p. 45). This 1950 paper sparked many responses, some decades after the paper was presented (p. 47).

    In 1971, Flew published The Presumption of Atheism. In his final work dealing with atheism, he argued that as the inherently more rational position, atheism should be presumed at the outset of any debate regarding God’s existence, and the burden of proof should be on the theist (p. 53). He notes that the ‘headiest challenge’ to this argument came from Christian logician Alvin Plantinga, who argued that the belief in God is ‘properly basic’ for believers (p. 55). He clarifies that ‘the presumption of atheism is, at best, a methodological starting point, not an ontological conclusion’, and that the presumption of atheism could be accepted by theists who have adequate grounds for believing in God (p. 56).

    Indeed, atheism itself has a number of propositions that have to be accepted by faith, e.g. that something (the universe) came from nothing, non-living matter evolved into living cells by stochastic chemistry, complex specified information arose without intelligence, morality arose by natural selection, etc.

    Flew was particularly impressed with a physicist’s refutation of the idea that monkeys at typewriters would eventually produce a Shakespearean sonnet. The likelihood of getting one Shakespearean sonnet by chance is one in 10690; to put this number in perspective, there are only 1080 particles in the universe. Flew concludes: ‘If the theorem won’t work for a single sonnet, then of course it’s simply absurd to suggest that the more elaborate feat of the origin of life could have been achieved by chance’ (p. 78).

    Flew was also critical of Dawkins’s ‘selfish gene’ idea, pointing out that ‘natural selection does not positively produce anything. It only eliminates, or tends to eliminate, whatever is not competitive’ (p. 78). He called Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene ‘a major exercise in popular mystification’, and argued that Dawkins made the critical mistake of overlooking the fact that most observable traits in organisms are the result of the coding of many genes (p. 79).

    Not only does our universe follow finely tuned physical laws, but laws which seem to be finely tuned to enable life to exist. The most common atheist answer is to assert that our universe is one of many others—the ‘multiverse’ speculation. It is interesting that atheists who refuse to believe in an unseen God, based supposedly on the lack of evidence for His existence, explain away the appearance of design by embracing the existence of an unknown number of other universes for which there is no evidence—or even any effect of their evidence. In any case, Flew argues that even if there were multiple universes, it would not solve the atheists’ dilemma; ‘multiverse or not, we still have to come to terms with the origin of the laws of nature. And the only viable explanation here is the divine Mind’ (p. 121).

    As an atheist, Flew struggled with the idea of an invisible, omnipresent Person, and how such a person could be identified (p. 148). However, Flew was making embodiment part of his definition of a person, which isn’t justified. Philosopher Thomas Tracy defined persons simply as agents that are capable of acting intentionally (pp. 149–150). Although human persons are embodied, embodiment is not a necessary component for personhood. Flew admits that ‘At the very least, the studies of Tracy and Leftow show that the idea of an omnipotent Spirit is not intrinsically incoherent if we see such a Spirit as outside space and time that uniquely executes its intentions in the spatio-temporal continuum’ (pp. 153–154).

    Flew identifies his god as the god of Aristotle, with the attributes of ‘immutability, immateriality, omnipotence, omniscience, oneness or indivisibility, perfect goodness and necessary existence’ (p. 92). He is adamant that his conversion to theism does not represent a paradigm shift, because his paradigm remains simply to follow the argument where it leads (p. 89).

    Some of the attributes of the god that Flew acknowledges are also attributes of God, but Flew does not acknowledge the Trinity or Christ as the second Person of the Trinity, both of which are essential Christian doctrines. So although Flew’s deistic beliefs echo Christian belief in some areas, the god he accepts is not the same as the God of the Bible, although he professes to remain open to the evidence.

    Flew never claims to be Christian; he is a self-identified deist who does not believe in an afterlife (p. 2). Nonetheless, he is charitable in his comments about the Christians he came in contact with, writing that his father, a Methodist minister, shared his ‘eagerness of mind’ even though their intellectual pursuits led them in different directions (p. 12). Flew concludes that he is ‘entirely open to learning more about the divine Reality, especially in the light of what we know about the history of nature’ and that ‘the question of whether the Divine has revealed itself in human history remains a valid topic of discussion. You cannot limit the possibilities of omnipotence except to produce the logically impossible’ (p. 157).

    The second appendix contains a dialogue between Flew and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright on the subject of ‘The self-revelation of God in human history’. Flew begins with some very charitable remarks about Christianity, saying that ‘I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honoured and respected whether or not its claim to be a divine revelation is true. There is nothing like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul. … If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat’ (pp. 185–186). However, he questions the reliability of the New Testament on the subject of the Resurrection, because the New Testament was written decades after the events they purport to describe, and the earliest of these, the Pauline letters, have little physical detail. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that ‘the claim concerning the resurrection is more impressive than by any by the religious competition’ (187).

    ‘I must stress that my discovery of the Divine has proceeded on a purely natural level, without any reference to supernatural phenomena. It has been an exercise in what has traditionally been called natural theology. It has had no connection with any of the revealed religions. Nor do I claim to have had any personal experience of God or any experience that may be called supernatural or miraculous. In short, my discovery of the Divine has been a pilgrimage of reason and not of faith’ (p. 93). Update: Antony Flew died on 8 April 2010, at the age of 87, according to the obituary in the Telegraph (UK, 13 April 2010). http://creation.com/review-there-is-a-god-by-antony-flew
  9. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 08:20
    “I now believe there is a God...I now think it [the evidence] does point to a creative Intelligence almost entirely because of the DNA investigations. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together.” -Antony Flew

    “Science spotlights three dimensions of nature that point to God. The first is the fact that nature obeys laws. The second is the dimension of life, of intelligently organized and purpose-driven beings, which arose from matter. The third is the very existence of nature. But it is not science alone that guided me. I have also been helped by a renewed study of the classical philosophical arguments.” -Antony Flew, There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind"

    "I now believe that the universe was brought into existence by an infinite Intelligence. I believe that this universe’s intricate laws manifest what scientists have called the Mind of God. I believe that life and reproduction originate in a divine Source. Why do I believe this, given that I expounded and defended atheism for more than a half century? The short answer is this: this is the world picture, as I see it, that has emerged from modern science." -Antony Flew
  10. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 08:27
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously, he's wrong.

    I'm now finished kicking in the open door and stating the bleeding obvious.
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously, he's wrong.

    I'm now finished kicking in the open door and stating the bleeding obvious.



    Au contraire, Great King Rat. I have presented observations and conclusions from some "highly regarded individuals" who once had beliefs similar to the beliefs that Great King Rat and some of my other friends and almost friends have now.
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    22 Jan '14 12:22
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    [b]It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously ...[text shortened]... lar to the beliefs that Great King Rat and some of my other friends and almost friends have now.
    I have presented observations and conclusions from some "highly regarded individuals" who
    once had beliefs similar to the beliefs that Great King Rat and some of my other friends and almost
    friends have now.


    Why?

    For what purpose or point did you do this?

    As GKR says, we don't give a toss about 'authority'.

    There are atheists who are more famous than others [for their atheism] and there are atheists
    that are considered good debaters and/or good role models ect...
    And there are leaders of various atheist organisations... But atheism itself has no leaders, no dogma,
    and no authorities.

    The 'worlds most Notorious Atheist' title exists only in the minds of theists who love tales of atheists
    who have become theists.

    I only heard of flew [as anything other than a scientist] when his name was brought up by theists
    as a 'prominent atheist' who had become a theist. He was so 'famous' as an atheist that I had never
    heard of him.
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    22 Jan '14 13:01
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    [b]It has been shown time and time again that authority is extremely important to GB. He seems to draw strenght from the knowledge that some "highly regarded individuals" have similar beliefs as himself.

    Obviously, he thinks that other people - for instance atheists - share that characteristic.

    Obviously ...[text shortened]... lar to the beliefs that Great King Rat and some of my other friends and almost friends have now.
    First of all, if you click "Reply and Quote" you don't actually have to manually copy my post into your reply.

    Second, it would seem you don't understand the phrase "Au contraire".

    Third, same question as googlefudge: why do you post this story about this supposedly famous guy? What's the point?
  13. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 14:251 edit
    Originally posted by googlefudge
    I have presented observations and conclusions from some "highly regarded individuals" who
    once had beliefs similar to the beliefs that Great King Rat and some of my other friends and almost
    friends have now.


    Why?

    For what purpose or point did you do this?

    As GKR says, we don't give a toss about 'authority'.

    There are atheis ...[text shortened]... eist' who had become a theist. He was so 'famous' as an atheist that I had never
    heard of him.
    "Why?

    For what purpose or point did you do this?" -googlefudge


    To stimulate further productive conversation on a topic you are well qualified to discuss which I would like to learn more about. The extent to which the views of published authors differ from RHP Spirituality Forum Contributors who are as yet unpublished, the greater the opportunity to examine the topic from different perspectives and, in doing so, hopefully generate more light than heat. If in the process new atheists are identified, all the better. No need to be threatened.
  14. Standard memberGrampy Bobby
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    22 Jan '14 14:26
    Originally posted by Great King Rat
    First of all, if you click "Reply and Quote" you don't actually have to manually copy my post into your reply.

    Second, it would seem you don't understand the phrase "Au contraire".

    Third, same question as googlefudge: why do you post this story about this supposedly famous guy? What's the point?
    Thank you.
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    22 Jan '14 14:29
    Originally posted by Grampy Bobby
    "Why?

    For what purpose or point did you do this?" -googlefudge


    To stimulate further productive conversation on a topic you are well qualified to discuss which I would like to learn more about. The extent to which the views of published authors differ from RHP Spirituality Forum Contributors who are as yet unpublished, the greater the opportunity ...[text shortened]... n heat. If in the process new atheists are identified, all the better. No need to be threatened.
    Not threatened, puzzled.

    There is almost nothing you could do that would threaten me.


    Ok. The response is Flew has lost his mind, his argument is nonsense, which is
    why almost nobody in his field agrees with it.
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