Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Ballad of Antony Flew

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Antony Flew.

But before I talk about Mr. Flew, I'd like to share a revelation I had after reading about him.

I figured out why believers - particularly Christians - are so afraid of atheists.

I speculate that there are a lot more Christians-turned-Atheists out there than there are Atheists-turned-Christians. I'm pulling this number straight out of my rear-end, but I would guess the ratio is somewhere around 10 to 1. I'll try and see if there's some research out there somewhere to back this assertion up. But frankly, the only people you really hear about turning to Christianity are convicted felons (and I'm talking about the kinds of felons who got popped for the Class 1 or 2 varieties). So, you'll have to forgive me if I don't quite believe the sincerity of their conversions.

So by this math, any atheist that converts (or returns) to Christianity is worth about 10 people going the opposite direction (remember also that atheists currently make up only about 10% of the population). And the atheist is worth even more when it's a prominent one.

Such is allegedly the case with Antony Flew. Mr. Flew, it turns out, was one of the great atheist philosophers of the 20th century. There is a new book out entitled There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, attributed to Mr. Flew and a Christian activist named Roy Abraham Varghese. (Why is it that nobody seems to be able to write the word "atheist" without sticking a negative adjective in front of it? Seeing a pattern here?)

I'm going to provide a link to a lengthy article about this book that appeared in the New York Times a few days ago. But let me just give a quick summary:

Antony Flew is now in his 80's, and is clearly losing his mental faculties. As recently as two years ago, he was corresponding with an atheist - and during said correspondence, he rejected the existence of God. But a group of Christian thinkers, including Varghese, were able to get to him again and obtain his permission to put his name on the book. The Times article makes clear that the book was largely written by Varghese, with contributions from some other Christian thinkers. In the book, Flew extolls the virtues of these thinkers and solidly backs their positions - and yet, when interviewed by the New York Times reporter, Flew can't even remember who these people are when asked about them.

Dishonesty does not strike me as a particularly Christian principle. But that's exactly what this book is. A few Christians taking advantage of a mentally declining atheist to get their beliefs validated. If several atheist thinkers took advantage of a prominent Christian experiencing Alzheimer's to get such a book published, there would be outrage from the Christian community.

But don't worry. We're not outraged. Just sad. Sad for Antony Flew that he got suckered into this, and sad that Christians continue to use dishonesty to promote their positions.

If you read nothing else by Antony Flew, read Theology and Falsification - his short 1,000-word masterpiece from 1950, written when he was in his prime.

Here is the New York Yimes article.

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