11/3/07

Anthony Flew: Does He or Doesn't He (Believe in God)?

About Anthony Flew, the Times wants to know does he or doesn't he - believe in God?

You ask, who is Flew? He wrote "Theology and Falsification" in 1950 and became the standard bearer of the British philosophical anti-theologians. I read Flew's work along with that of R.M. Hare, D.Z. Phillips and many others in my first semester at Brown where I went to study Religious Studies after I received my ordination at Yeshiva University.

Flew and his followers ask, If you can't falsify a theological claim, then what is its philosophical value as a truth claim? These British writers came at theology from the angle of language and logic.

It's worth it just to look at a paragraph from Flew's classic essay:
Now it often seems to people who are not religious as if there was no conceivable event or series of events the occurrence of which would be admitted by sophisticated religious people to be a sufficient reason for conceding "there wasn't a God after all" or "God does not really love us then." Someone tells us that God loves us as a father loves his children. We are reassured. But then we see a child dying of inoperable cancer of the throat. His earthly father is driven frantic in his efforts to help, but his Heavenly Father reveals no obvious sign of concern. Some qualification is made — God's love is "not merely human love" or it is "an inscrutable love," perhaps — and we realize that such suffering are quite compatible with the truth of the assertion that "God loves us as a father (but of course…)." We are reassured again. But then perhaps we ask: what is this assurance of God's (appropriately qualified) love worth, what is this apparent guarantee really a guarantee against? Just what would have to happen not merely (morally and wrongly) to tempt but also (logically and rightly) to entitle us to say "God does not love us" or even "God does not exist"? I therefore put to the succeeding symposiasts the simple central questions, "What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or the existence of, God?"
But the Times is not interested in citing Flew or understanding the nuances of his arguments.

Their writer just wants to know if a bunch of Christian wingnuts are taking advantage of an old man. Are they claiming that a leading atheist has recanted and become a Christian when in fact that is not the case?

Bottom line - the article leaves us skeptical about that claim. Hmm, ironic isn't it?
The Turning of an Atheist By MARK OPPENHEIMER

The British philosopher Antony Flew was one of the West’s most influential nonbelievers. Then came news — from conservative Christians — that he had recanted. But his change of heart may not be what it seems.

There is quite a bit of confusion out there on this subject. In 2001 Flew was still lucidly claiming to be an atheist in "Sorry to Disappoint, but I'm Still an Atheist!"

But since then Flew has most likely deliberately muddied the waters, see this summary of sorts.

1 comment:

Bryce said...

The Xian wingnuts are not claiming Flew as one of their own. They're just claiming him as a weapon against atheists. The guy is clearly just a deist. (Couldn't the Times have figured that out?)
Here he is, on video:
http://www.tothesource.org/10_30_2007/10_30_2007.htm