What is your reaction to the death of the 'turncoat' atheist Antony Flew?

Antony Flew was a notable atheist who changed his mind in 2004. How do you think his life and death (here’s an obituary ) has affected the atheist 'movement’?

Posted: April 14th 2010


I don’t really have a reaction.

Atheists aren’t centrally organized, so the views of one person rarely have a big effect on individual atheists. What Flew believed and why he changed his beliefs doesn’t really have any impact on what I believe.

That Flew was a philosopher makes me less interested in his opinion in general – though I think philosophy has done much for the world, it does suffer from a lack of concreteness, and because of that it’s easy to come to conclusions that I think are, well, a bit silly.

Posted: April 16th 2010

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Stefan www

Atheists tend to base their beliefs on evidence and sound reasoning rather than any individual’s convictions. Flew’s conversion didn’t really come with any new arguments. For some reason he was suddenly convinced by some old, pretty standard and arguably discredited Intelligent Design arguments.

Also, he turned deist, which is a lot closer still to atheism than it is to Christianity for example. Deists believe there is no God influencing our lives today. But that the universe must have been started by some First Cause.

This is called the cosmological argument and is commonly associated with Aristotelian metaphysics. Essentially it says the universe needs something that created it, but that thing that created it doesn’t need a creator itself. Why not? Well, because I say so. So whenever you ask a deist, “So what created God?”, they’ll say that he “just exists” which contradicts their own premise stating that everything needs a creator, it can’t just come into existence spontaneously.

By not applying their premise consistently, they commit a fallacy called “special pleading”. It’s a common and very basic error of logic.

In a way, late conversions of prominent atheists are a good thing, as are conversions of prominent Christians. It forces people on both sides to look at the reasoning rather than just the people.

Posted: April 16th 2010

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SmartLX www

Flew was indeed a notable atheist. When he changed his mind, he explained why on several occasions. The arguments which had apparently convinced him, frankly, are not very convincing. This, combined with the admitted fact that his last book was authored entirely or almost entirely for him by religious author Roy Abraham Varghese, led many to suspect that his faculties were in decline.

Regardless, he was exploited to the utmost by apologists worldwide as a trophy, or scalp, from the atheist side. He was used to reassure the faithful that even people like Richard Dawkins will eventually “come around”. The tactic had little effect if any on actual atheists, except to provoke pity for Flew as he was figuratively wheeled out for show, and anger at his apologist handlers.

That won’t stop now that he’s died, but at least they can’t bother him anymore.

Posted: April 15th 2010

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brian thomson www

I don’t remember Flew’s “re-conversion” making much of an impact, to be honest. I just saw it as one of those human failings to which we are all susceptible. Are you imagining that he was a “leader”, and we are “followers” who look to him (or others) to tell us what to believe? That’s not how it works in this “movement”, as you call it.

Posted: April 15th 2010

See all questions answered by brian thomson


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