T Nation

Iconoclastic Atheist Turns To Belief In God

Anthony Flew has been a mentor to atheists young and old. However, last week he changed his mind to belief in God. Not a particular brand of religion but a belief in intelligent design. His shift in thinking comes as a result of scientific advances, mainly the complexity of DNA. Here’s the interview and link.

http://www.biola.edu/anthonyflew/index.cfm

Zep,

Very interesting.

The Evolution Creationism thread got too big for me to jump into with any continuity, so I’ll take my opinion on this piece to give my two cents.

The more I learn about science, the more I am convinced the amazing organization of complex systems is the work of a higher power, much like this guy.

Of course, I’ve never been atheist, and certainly not an influential one. That’s quite a change for a public atheist.

I always wondered how athiests could be so sure. Especially in light of the fact that some of the greatest minds of all time were in fact believers.

Einstein was once asked if he believed in God. His answer was “absoultely.” The intereviewer pushed him further: “Do you accept the historical Jesus?” Einstein stated: “Unquestionably, no one can read the gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”

Read it for yourself:

http://www.ctinquiry.org/publications/reflections_volume_1/torrance.htm

atheism is a belief system. its just as irrational at its core as christianity, islam, etc. many dogmatic atheists posture as if their atheism is based in fact, yet the “rational” criteria that they have established to dismiss all gods from their lives are just as arbitrary as the criteria used by theists to establish the existence of gods in their lives.

[quote]battlelust wrote:
atheism is a belief system. its just as irrational at its core as christianity, islam, etc. many dogmatic atheists posture as if their atheism is based in fact, yet the “rational” criteria that they have established to dismiss all gods from their lives are just as arbitrary as the criteria used by theists to establish the existence of gods in their lives. [/quote]

You’re right, if using the strict definition of “atheism” that I believe you’re using. I assume you are describing a doctrine in which the non-existence of a deity is accepted without doubt. However, I’ve found that most self-described atheists I know are actually closer to what we would probably define as agnostics (In that they don’t believe that god exists, but aren’t sure about it, and accept they will never know.) and know of no other word than “atheist” to describe themselves.

You are absolutely right that both true atheism and religious belief are both irrational (although I would argue one is more irrational than the other).

Agnosticism is the only rational choice, given the available options.

Nope, he IS still an atheist:

http://skepdic.com/refuge/funk42.html#update

[quote]ramses wrote:
Nope, he IS still an atheist:

http://skepdic.com/refuge/funk42.html#update[/quote]

Where does it say he is still an aethist?

No one on hear has said that he belongs to any particular religion only that he believes in intelligent design.

[quote]battlelust wrote:
atheism is a belief system. its just as irrational at its core as christianity, islam, etc. many dogmatic atheists posture as if their atheism is based in fact, yet the “rational” criteria that they have established to dismiss all gods from their lives are just as arbitrary as the criteria used by theists to establish the existence of gods in their lives. [/quote]

Are all belief systems irrational?

[quote]Zeppelin795 wrote:
ramses wrote:
Nope, he IS still an atheist:

http://skepdic.com/refuge/funk42.html#update

Where does it say he is still an aethist?

No one on hear has said that he belongs to any particular religion only that he believes in intelligent design.[/quote]

Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!
By Antony Flew

zep,
beliefs are held irrespective of evidence. there is no way to prove the existence or non-existence of a god, yet many people believe in either the existence or non-existence despite this lack of empirical data. this is, fundamentally, irrational. however, I’m not in any way decrying this irrational behavior. as a theist myself, I fully embrace the idea of the irrational. my beliefs, just like yours or Anthony Flew, act as a filter on empirical data. the sunrise means different things to all of us.

[quote]doogie wrote:
Zeppelin795 wrote:
ramses wrote:
Nope, he IS still an atheist:

http://skepdic.com/refuge/funk42.html#update

Where does it say he is still an aethist?

No one on hear has said that he belongs to any particular religion only that he believes in intelligent design.

Sorry to Disappoint, but I’m Still an Atheist!
By Antony Flew
[/quote]

That article was written in 2001!!!

[quote]battlelust wrote:
zep,
beliefs are held irrespective of evidence. there is no way to prove the existence or non-existence of a god, yet many people believe in either the existence or non-existence despite this lack of empirical data. this is, fundamentally, irrational. however, I’m not in any way decrying this irrational behavior. as a theist myself, I fully embrace the idea of the irrational. my beliefs, just like yours or Anthony Flew, act as a filter on empirical data. the sunrise means different things to all of us. [/quote]

Your logic is faulty. Thinking that way would correlate to believing that before light bulbs were invented, that the thought of using electricity to light the dark was irrational. It was a thought based on evidence that later proved to be possible. What is irrational is turning your mind off to a great possibility simply because it isn’t standing directly in front of you. People like that do not become inventors or free thinkers. They are immediately bound by what they believe to be impossible. Thankfully, most of the greatest minds this world has ever seen did believe in a higher power.

I can see it now, “Making butter out of peanuts is irrational because I have not seen it before”. Or, “using mold to fight infection? Are you crazy? That is irrational because no one has done it previously”.

This world was built by the people you claim are “irrational”. Thank God for that.

[quote]battlelust wrote:
zep,
beliefs are held irrespective of evidence. there is no way to prove the existence or non-existence of a god, yet many people believe in either the existence or non-existence despite this lack of empirical data. this is, fundamentally, irrational. however, I’m not in any way decrying this irrational behavior. as a theist myself, I fully embrace the idea of the irrational. my beliefs, just like yours or Anthony Flew, act as a filter on empirical data. the sunrise means different things to all of us. [/quote]

What about the belief system you used to arrive at your conclusion? Is it also irrational?

It would appear that Flew fought the monster of theism too hard and stared into it for far too long.

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

-Friedrich Nietzsche

[quote]Professor X wrote:
battlelust wrote:
zep,
beliefs are held irrespective of evidence. there is no way to prove the existence or non-existence of a god, yet many people believe in either the existence or non-existence despite this lack of empirical data. this is, fundamentally, irrational. however, I’m not in any way decrying this irrational behavior. as a theist myself, I fully embrace the idea of the irrational. my beliefs, just like yours or Anthony Flew, act as a filter on empirical data. the sunrise means different things to all of us.

Your logic is faulty. Thinking that way would correlate to believing that before light bulbs were invented, that the thought of using electricity to light the dark was irrational. It was a thought based on evidence that later proved to be possible. What is irrational is turning your mind off to a great possibility simply because it isn’t standing directly in front of you. People like that do not become inventors or free thinkers. They are immediately bound by what they believe to be impossible. Thankfully, most of the greatest minds this world has ever seen did believe in a higher power.

I can see it now, “Making butter out of peanuts is irrational because I have not seen it before”. Or, “using mold to fight infection? Are you crazy? That is irrational because no one has done it previously”.

This world was built by the people you claim are “irrational”. Thank God for that.
[/quote]

I think you’re missing a subtlety here. Battlelust is not defining a Christian/Muslim as someone that believes the existence of God is POSSIBLE, he/she is defining such a person as someone that KNOWS God exists, without doubt. It is not irrational to say “flying cars may exist in the future”, it is irrational to say “I know without a doubt that flying cars will exist, so I will start buying flight jackets and googles now to prepare my life for that fact.” There is simply not enough evidence to rationally hold such a belief without doubt to the point that one conforms their life to it.

In your post you seem to agree with the point Battlelust was actually making. You said:

That is exactly the point that Battlelust is making. Atheists are irrational for turning their minds off to the possible existence of God. Christians/Muslims are irrational because for turning their minds off to the possible non-existence of God (which is by definition true because the definition of Christian/Muslim implies adherence to a doctrine that calls for a faith that is without doubt).

I just thought that I would point out that a belief in intelligent design does not necessarily mean a belief in God. It could be that the source of life on our planet was designed by some other form of life that traveled here from a distant galaxy.

I believe that agnostics and atheists would do well to read some of the literature of creation scientists. There are many extremely bright scientists (PhD, etc.) in prestigious scientific organizations that believe in God. If you can find an article that discusses Chaos Theory in relation to evolution, you will have hard time holding to the idea that through a series of trillions of random accidents we evolved into the incredibly complex beings that we are.

I used to be agnostic and it had far more to do with my lack of knowledge and intense desire to do what I knew was wrong, than any well-researched decision that evolution was true. Eventually my desire for what I knew was wrong caught up with me. Call it Karma, “What comes around goes around”, “Reaping what you sew”, or whatever you want, but life wasn’t working the way I wanted.

I still wasn’t looking for God, but through the suggestion of a friend I wound up going to a church that was much different than the few lifeless places I had been in the past. God got a hold of me and now I am a firm believer.

If anyone has ruled out God because they want to live life their own way or have been turned off by some of mankind’s screwed up attempts at religion, I would say that you owe it yourself to give “God” a chance. Seriously, what would it hurt to pray sincerely right now to God something like this, “God, I don’t believe in you, but if you do exist please help me to believe in you. Amen.”

When all is said and done neither atheism or theism can be proven, no matter how hard you try. If you have a strong belief in either option, it is a belief based on faith. Personally, I would rather have faith in God and values like love, hope, kindness, etc.

Of course atheists could share the same values I just listed above, but a true atheist would have to admit that there is no such thing as right or wrong without a source of absolute truth (from God). In a world devoid of absolute truth, greed, lust, and treachery would all be perfectly legitimate values to base one’s life upon.

Anyway, hope I have not offended anyone, it certainly wasn’t my intention. Take care and God bless.

Has nothing to do with Flew, everything to do with being a Positive Christian Atheist.

http://www.oregonherald.com/n/radicalruss/20041124_positive-christian-atheist.html

[quote]Moriarty wrote:

I think you’re missing a subtlety here. Battlelust is not defining a Christian/Muslim as someone that believes the existence of God is POSSIBLE, he/she is defining such a person as someone that KNOWS God exists, without doubt. It is not irrational to say “flying cars may exist in the future”, it is irrational to say “I know without a doubt that flying cars will exist, so I will start buying flight jackets and googles now to prepare my life for that fact.” There is simply not enough evidence to rationally hold such a belief without doubt to the point that one conforms their life to it.

In your post you seem to agree with the point Battlelust was actually making. You said:

What is irrational is turning your mind off to a great possibility simply because it isn’t standing directly in front of you.

That is exactly the point that Battlelust is making. Atheists are irrational for turning their minds off to the possible existence of God. Christians/Muslims are irrational because for turning their minds off to the possible non-existence of God (which is by definition true because the definition of Christian/Muslim implies adherence to a doctrine that calls for a faith that is without doubt).[/quote]

Actually, Christian beliefs do not require faith that is without doubt. The Bible states that it takes only enough faith to equal the size of a mustard seed. As humans, we are faulted in that there is much we don’t understand. God does require faith, but not at the expense of asking questions.

The more I learn about the human body, the more I realize that it is simply too complex to have happened by chance or by accident. For the many functions that your body accomplishes every second without you even thinking about it is not a chaotic mass of happenings. It is fluid, precisioned, and purposeful. Believing in God has not stopped me from asking questions. It has allowed me to see that many of the things that I have experienced, am experiencing and will experience in the future have lessons that are taught within that faith.

I believe that God is possible and I have enough faith to keep me within that belief without being blind to the faults of many men who attempt to speak for him. Only a fool would follow a religion blindly and without purpose simply because of how they were raised. That act would make you succeptable to every crooked preacher or televangelist asking for all viewers to pledge 10 bucks a piece for his new porsche. I understand your point and the point of Battlelust, however, from what I have seen, I have no reason at all to believe that life on this planet, the geography of the world around us and our place in this universe are all chaotic events that accidentally stumbled upon creating entire DNA strands, plant life, and animal geneotypes. As soon as someone explains how chaos stumbles on that much order and functionality, let me know. I personally think it to be extremely arrogant to disregard the complexity involved and pretend as if there is no purpose. Have any of you actually dissected an animal/human or watched the birth of a baby?

so far, everyone is agreeing with me (whether they realize it or not)! hooray!
note to fellow theists: your gods are greater than mere human “rational thought.” do jehovah, or odin, or krishna, or quetzocatl allow themselves to be confined by rational thought? you drag your gods down from olympus by trying to understand your gods as if they were humans and as if they had to be confined by rational thought. is your god all-powerful? then the scientific evidence contrary to your god’s existence is STILL CORRECT!!! gods do not need to justify their actions with proofs for your mind. do I hold irrational, unprovable beliefs that form the core of my arguments? yes! of course! so do you! that’s my whole point!

Enjoy the comments here. ProX, really good post on that last one (yes, I actually said that - !).

One thing to consider about ‘rationalism’ - it’s largely a function of what we know right now. One thousand years ago, a combustible engine would have been irrational, or the X-Ray machine. As for believing in deities being ‘irrational’, I believe it always will be because of mankind’s inability to achieve utopian reason, however, as ProX stated and as I believe, the presence of a ‘maker’ becomes more and more rational the more we learn about the natural laws and organization of the universe.

That means, in my view, that believing in a deity has become more and more rational, marching in lockstep with our advancements in knowledge and science, not the opposite - that is, marching away from belief.

We’ll never, in my view, merge knowledge and faith at a single, revolutionary point - and it wouldn’t serve a purpose anyway. Why would you need faith if you had proof?

But, rationalism actually buttresses faith in a higher power, and should not be viewed as a tool to refute the existence of a God.