There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His MindPaperback
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- Publisher: HarperOne
- Format: Paperback | 256 pages
- Dimensions: 132mm x 203mm x 23mm | 181g
- Publication date: 15 November 2008
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0061335304
- ISBN 13: 9780061335303
- Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
- Sales rank: 16,527
A wave of modern atheists have taken center stage and brought the long-standing debate about the existence of God back into the headlines. Spearheaded by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, this 'new atheism' has found a powerful place in today's culture wars. Although this movement has been billed as 'new,' the foundation of its argument is indebted to philosopher Antony Flew and his groundbreaking paper "Theology and Falsification," the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last five decades. Flew built his highly acclaimed academic career publicly debunking the existence of God. But, now the renowned philosopher has arrived at the opposite conclusion and officially joined the other side.With refreshing openness to argument and an absence of the anger and hostility that have been hallmarks of the 'new atheism,' Flew shows how his commitment to following the argument wherever it leads resulted, to his own astonishment, in his conversion to belief in a creator God. Certain to be read and discussed for years to come, "There Is a God" will forever change the debate about the existence of God.
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Antony Flew is a renowned philosopher who was arguably the best-known atheist in the English-speaking world until his announcement in 2004 that he now accepts the existence of God. The son of a Methodist minister, Flew often attended the weekly meetings of C. S. Lewis's Socratic Club as an undergraduate at Oxford, but was not convinced by Lewis's argument from morality that a God exists. In 1950, Flew set the agenda for modern atheism with his renowned essay "Theology and Falsification," which became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last half century. Flew has published over thirty books, including God and Philosophy, The Presumption of Atheism, and How to Think Straight. He spent twenty years as professor of philosophy at the University of Keele and has also held positions at Oxford, the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Reading. He now lives in Reading, England.
By Andrew Finden 27 Mar 2011
While the designation of Flew as 'the world's most notorious atheist' might be talking him up somewhat, the book charts the eminent philosopher's journey from arguing for atheism to a deistic position. It discusses his previous arguments for atheism and the rebuttals his oponents made, and moves on to the contemporary arguments that persuaded him to change his mind, and the ones the didn't.
It's important to note that there has been some controversy with this book. While Flew had already made his change of mind public several years earlier, some felt that Varghese had taken advantage of an old man in mental decline (most notably Mark Oppenheimer's piece in the New York Times). The criticisms have been roundly debunked by a number of people who knew Flew, and indeed, Flew himself offered this clarification:
"I have rebutted these criticisms in the following statement: "My name is on the book and it represents exactly my opinions. I would not have a book issued in my name that I do not 100 per cent agree with. I needed someone to do the actual writing because I'm 84 and that was Roy Varghese's role. The idea that someone manipulated me because I'm old is exactly wrong. I may be old but it is hard to manipulate me. That is my book and it represents my thinking.""
While I don't feel the need to defend the legitimacy of the book against the ad hominem attacks, I was keenly aware of these accusations while reading the book. I noticed a distinct difference between the main text of the book and the appendix attributed specifically to Varghese, and for these reasons, I will continue with the view that the positions put forward are the thoughts of Flew unless specifically stated otherwise.
The first part of the book deals with Flew's career and previous positions and arguments, and I found it very interesting, as well as his appraisal of the debates he has had. One of the things that really struck me about Flew is that he is much more generous and willing to engage and interact with those he disagrees with than might be said about the so called 'new atheists'. Indeed it would seem that his former allies in unbelief are even unwilling to give Flew anything beyond scorn. Most of the time he does not go into the arguments in any real detail, often summarising his response in one or two sentences.
The second part deals with the arguments which convinced him that there exists a deistic 'infinite Intelligence'. The major arguments he cites are 'the laws of nature' - that there appears to be a rational intelligence behind the universe; 'fine tuning' - that the universe appears to have been set-up for us; and DNA and emergence of life.
There follows two appendicies. The first is an essay from Varghese entitled "The 'New Atheism': a critical appraisal of Dawkins, Dennet, Wolpert, harris, and Stenger. In my opinion, the arguments put forward in this section are rather more inferior than the ones put forward by Flew. The second is a dialogue between Flew and N.T. Wright called "The self-revelation of God in Human history" dealing with the evidence for the resurrection. Flew seems to think that Wright puts forward the best case for the resurrection that he has seen, though while being somewhat open to the claims doesn't seem to find them persuasive. I agree that Wright makes a very good case, and the answers he gives to Flew's questions were very interesting, but inevitably Wright fleshes out these issues in greater depth in his own works.
I don't think the book is intended to be an argument for deist belief so much as a chronicle of Flew's journey and thoughts, and in that sense I doubt it will necessarily change anyone else's mind. It is a shame that his opponents resorted to petty ad hominem attacks on someone following the evidence where they saw it to lead. If you're looking for rigorously defended philosophical or apologetic debate, this is not the book for you. If you want to see what a great philosopher thought and how he changed his mind, this is an interesting read.
This is supposedly the ideas of well known British philosopher Antony Flew, a life-long athiest who, shortly prior to his death, is said to have reversed his position. There is some doubt as to whether Flew is the author, or whether much of the book was written by Roy Abraham Varghese, founder of the Texas based Institute for MetaScientific Research and author of a book that is said to claim 50 apparitions of the Virgin Mary cannot be explained away as hallucinations.
Credited with the book's preface and an appendix, others assert that the part of the book attributed to Flew was also written by Varghese. Before purchase I would recommend looking at Mark Oppenheimer's essay, The Turning of an Atheist in the NY TIMES of 4th November 2007. (available on-line)
"Flew's exposition will be a source for reflective inquiry for many, many years..."--Daniel N. Robinson, Philosophy Department, Oxford University