The longest running soap opera in the philosophy of religion

Regular readers of my blog will remember that a couple of years ago we were discussing the supposed “conversion” of the English philosopher Antony Flew. Here’s how I summarized it a year ago:

The Anthony Flew brouhaha
Of all the subjects I’ve blogged on, the one that has generated the most discussion is the sad case of the English philosopher, Antony Flew. The short version: eminent atheist philosopher (Antony Flew) gets taken in by a charlatan (Gerald Schroeder) peddling an “irreducible complexity” argument about DNA; eminent philosopher concludes that this may be evidence for a designer; triumphalist creationist huckster (Roy Abraham Varghese) persuades Flew to go public at a conference; creationists crow about the “conversion of the most famous atheist”; Flew talks to some real scientists, and makes a half-hearted retraction, apologizing that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
This first piece attracted 53 comments; later entries included More on Antony Flew, Carrier on Flew, and Antony Flew: at last, the book. The discussion ran on from December 2004 until May 2005, and I was still getting email months after that.

When this whole, messy business subsided in early 2005, I didn’t expect to hear any more about it. After all, as Flew wrote to Richard Carrier, “I am just too old at the age of nearly 82 to initiate and conduct a major and super radical controversy about the conceivability of the putative concept of God as a spirit.” And it seemed unlikely that Flew would want to revisit a topic over which, in his own words, “I now realize that I have made a fool of myself”, and “I have been mistaught” by a charlatan who “appeared to be so well qualified as a physicist (which I am not) that I was never inclined to question what he said.” One would expect that Flew would prefer to draw a discreet curtain over a painful and embarrassing episode.
Well, it seems that one would be wrong. You can now pre-order There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, ((I have to confess that I first read the subtitle as How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Lost His Mind. My bad…)) authored by Antony Flew and Roy Abraham Varghese. It’s scheduled to be published in November, 2007. So far it’s attracted little attention, apart from one rather triumphalist blog entry.
It will be interesting to see what Flew has to say for himself at this point. Back in 2005 he was emphatic that he was tentatively embracing a form of deism, and he vehemently rejected any traditional Christian conception of God:

Q But there’s also, Professor Flew, a great yearning to have someone of your previously held scepticism on board for a Christian God, a participating God, a God of goodness, and so on. Now can you tell me what your reaction is to that?
A Well I don’t think I have offered the slightest reason for believing in a good God. You know, if that’s what they want – a good God in any ordinary sense of the word ‘good’ – it seems to me it is inconsistent with what they believe this good God is going to do. I mean to torture anyone eternally is a violation of the most fundamental principles of merely human justice.
Q So this is the tortures of Hell, which you would reject entirely?
A Well this appalling nightmare, you know. If it was proved that I was wrong in this book ‘The Logic of Mortality’ I would myself get worried because it seems to me entirely possible that the universe around us was created by an evil figure who would do this sort of thing.
Q So you reject the Christian concept of God?
A I follow what has become the universally accepted definition by Richard Swinburne of the entire English-speaking philosophical world which includes a very large part of the philosophical world.
Q So you don’t believe in life after death?
A Certainly not, no….
Q What view do you take of what is happening in America – where presumably you’re being hailed now as … one of them?
A Well, too bad (laughs). I’m not ‘one of them’.

It’s hard to imagine a huckster like Varghese being associated with a book that rejects Christianity. We’ll just have to wait and see. Of course, none of this has any effect on anything except Flew’s reputation: most atheists that I know have little respect for arguments from authority.

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